Statement: Labour support for students continues, even as some encampments end | The Ontario Federation of Labour

Statement: Labour support for students continues, even as some encampments end

The Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) will continue to support the right of students to engage in peaceful protest, as some encampments end, and others remain active. On July 3, hundreds of students at the University of Toronto peacefully concluded their 63-day encampment, following the administration’s successful request for an injunction.

“As trade unionists, we are incredibly proud of what these students have accomplished,” said Laura Walton, OFL President. “In just two months, they forced their administration to address an issue it was desperately trying to ignore: the University’s complicity in war and occupation.”

Like students on other campuses, the U of T encampment raised demands for the administration to disclose and divest from any financial holdings related to Israel’s war in Gaza or its occupation of Palestinian land.

Although a deal has yet to be reached, the students made significant progress and will continue to negotiate. On other campuses, such as Ontario Tech and McMaster University, students dismantled their encampments after winning most of their demands.

“The labour movement has a lot to learn from these students,” added Ahmad Gaied, OFL Secretary-Treasurer. “For weeks on end, they stood up for what they believed in and successfully faced down threats and intimidation from opponents.”

“They showed us what real solidarity looks like and, in the process, inspired a movement that shows no signs of stopping.”

In his July 2 ruling, Justice Markus Koehnen acknowledged that the University of Toronto failed to prove its claims that the conduct of the students was hateful or antisemitic. By contrast, he described encampment participants as “young idealists fighting for what they in good faith perceive to be an important human rights issue.”

Justice Koehnen further rejected allegations that slogans and chants in support of Palestinian self-determination are hateful and antisemitic.

While the U of T encampment has concluded, others remain active, including at the University of Waterloo, where the administration has taken the unprecedented step of launching a $1.5 million lawsuit against their own students.

“We condemn such irresponsible acts of intimidation,” said Jackie Taylor, OFL Executive Vice-President. “It’s a disgrace that University of Waterloo administrators would use public funds to target individual students who are engaged in Charter-protected activity.

“As long as students face these shameful acts of repression, labour will continue to defend their rights. An attack on students anywhere is an attack on all of us everywhere.”

OFL President Laura Walton is the author of “Students are making history. All of us should join them,” which appeared on on May 17, the one-month anniversary of the student encampment movement.

On May 25, the OFL issued this open letter to the U of T administration, in defence of the students’ right to peaceful protest.