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Special Report and Comment By Rhonda Spivak

The Winnipeg Jewish Review asks Engler at U of M to explain his suspension on the record

Special Report and Comment By Rhonda Spivak

Yves Engler, who has written an anti-Israel book entitled “Canada and Israel: Building Apartheid” spoke in Winnipeg on April 7 at University College at the University of Manitoba, to an audience of about 20 students/supporters.

His talk at the U of M was sponsored by Canada-Palestine Support Network, Independent Jewish Voices, U of M’s Labour Studies Program, and Canadian Dimension Magazine. His talk followed his talk the night before at the Rudolf Rocker Cultural Centre on 91 Albert Street.

Alan Yusim, Director of B’nai Brith, Mid-West Region, was present to hear Engler’s talk at the U of M.

Those who introduced Engler and put on the program made no mention of the fact that Engler had been suspended from Concordia University, and Engler himself didn’t mention this either.

Engler served as Vice President of the Concordia Student Union prior to being removed from office. A student tribunal found Engler guilty of "vexatious conduct" in the aftermath of a riot on Sept. 9, 2002, when Israeli politician Benjamin Netanyahu's speech was aborted by demonstrators. Engler later tried to overturn his suspension; however, he was denied by a student hearing panel and Board of Governors. The university's decision was upheld by a Quebec tribunal.

The day that Netanyahu was supposed to speak, some protesters harassed the predominantly Jewish audience that had arrived for the speech, and there were reports of  Holocaust survivors being assaulted. Journalist Lysiane Gagnon accused the university's pro-Palestinian students union of "refusing to blame those who broke windows, threw chairs around, spat at and shoved the Jewish students who wanted to hear Mr. Netanyahu. (Lysiane Gagnon, "Here's to you, Mr. Robinson", Globe and Mail, 2 December 2002, A19).

An article in Concordia’s Thursday Report on March 3, 2005 ( states:

“A student tribunal found Engler guilty of assault and vandalism in the aftermath of a riot on Sept. 9, 2002, when Israeli politician Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech was aborted by demonstrators. Engler was fined $500 and expelled for one term.

“However, when he defied the ban by appearing on campus, President Frederick Lowy added another term to his suspension. Once again he breached the sanction, this time committing vandalism. On Dec. 15, on the recommendation of then Dean of Students Charles Bertrand, Lowy extended the suspension to five years.

“Engler took this decision to an appeals panel, which, like the student hearings panel, is part of the university’s Code of Rights and Responsibilities. His appeal was denied. He asked the Board of Governors to exercise their discretionary powers on his behalf, and this, too, was denied.

“In her judgment, rendered Feb. 1, Justice Sylviane Borenstein of Quebec Superior Court said the decisions taken by the university conformed to its own regulations and followed the rules of natural justice.”

Engler’s talk at U of M was being taped by two different parties, including University of Winnipeg radio.

I asked several times during question period for Engler to talk about his suspension, something which he was  reluctant to do. At first he offered to talk to me afterward (where he would not be recorded). Just before the event ended, after persistent questioning he finally did answer the question.

As readers review Engler’s  “side of the story” below, note how in his answer he makes great effort to downplay any responsibility the protesters had for  breaking windows and vandalizing. Note also how Engler essentially tries to turn the story on its head by saying that  Arab protesters broke windows in a good faith attempt to help a left-wing Jewish victim of police brutality. Other reports essentially say the opposite- that police officers were attacked, and that windows were broken by Arab protesters to cause a riot and attempt to prevent Netanyahu from speaking. It’s also worth noting that in the end, Engler tells us that when the University suspended him for five years, it was the maximum punishment allowed.

Here is Yves Engler’s side of the story ( as recorded in his talk at the U of M on April 7)


ENGLER: Benjamin Netanyahu on Sept 9 2002 …was planned to speak at Concordia. Most people in this room are probably aware that he didn’t end up speaking, and there was a big protest outside...because the police were beating up a Jewish student  who was protesting Netanyahu’s speaking engagement, a Jewish student who was a member of the Concordia Student Union, because of that some Arab students outside busted a window to come to the defense of the Jewish student.. which is not part of the large narrative that we hear about  the anti-Semitism of the day…  but the windows that have been cited in  the  Globe and Mail as the day of broken glass.. the windows were busted because some Arab students outside were disgusted by what the police were doing to a Jewish student inside…Part of the story that I’m sure you’re not familiar with...  What happened with Netanyahu was that Netanyahu and the Montreal police cancelled the talk  because the Concordia security messed up…

The Montreal police who were not initially inside the building once the window was broken. They had people coming down from the mezzanine …and they had people coming from  outside after the window was busted...they freaked out… released pepper spray, some say tear gas within the university. It got caught in the university’s ventiliation system so  people on the tenth or twelfth floor of the university had to come out of their classes… cuz they couldn’t breathe….that’s what shut down Netanyahu’s talk. That’s what happened

SPIVAK: But then why were you suspended?

ENGLER: ...If you want to hear my personal element to it...Everyone agrees that I was not  there, including the university administration, agrees that I was not on the mezzanine when the stuff went down per se...I was there earlier on….

I was kicked out of the university, because two months after the  Netanyahu protest-I wasn’t suspended I was expelled from the university-two months after the Netanyahu protest, a  student came forward and claimed…this was after I had been arrested for handing out leaflets for the Free Trade Area of the  Americas,six weeks after the Netanyahu protest a student came forward and said I assaulted his girlfriend during the Netanyahu protest.. The girlfriend of course  didn’t exist of course and they decided not to bring this to the police of course where they would have had to provide some evidence.. .There was a student tribunal… and.. they tried to throw me out of university for putting up stickers about the Free trade Area of the Americas and handing out leaflets about the Free Trade Area of the Americas  and for two things related to the Netanyahu protest.

Spivak:  What were those two things?

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.