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Prof Darcy MacPherson

U of M Faculty Association Elects New President Darcy Macpherson Who is on Record Opposing the Motion Attacking the IHRA Definition of Antisemitism

by Rhonda Spivak, April 22, 2021

The University of Manitoba Faculty Association [UMFA] has just elected a new President, Darcy Macpherson, who is a law professor who teaches commercial subjects, who takes the reigns on June 1, 2021 for a one year term after  he beat out the incumbent UMFA President Michael Shaw.  Macpherson is on record opposing to the one sided motion put forth by the outgoing UMFA executive under Shaw’s leadership, which attacked the use of  the  International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Definition of Antisemitism at the University of Manitoba and elsewhere. Proponents of the  anti-IHRA motion claimed that the IHRA definition of antisemitism infringed on academic freedom and freedom of expression. On March 25, UMFA’s Board of Representatives refused to pass the agenda put forth by the UMFA Executive such that the anti-IHRA motion was not voted on, and the meeting was adjourned, which was a setback for those putting forth the motion. MacPherson communicated his opposition to the anti-IHRA motion to the Board of Representatives prior to the March 25th meeting.

The incoming President MacPherson told the Winnipeg Jewish Review that he does not intend to continue pushing for the anti-IHRA motion of the outgoing administration.  He believes the  proposed anti-IHRA motion put forth was very divisive for UMFA and stresses the need for inclusivity . "Hopefully we’ll avoid divisive issues like this in the future. My job as Union President will be to make the Union a place where everyone can find a place,” Macpherson said. 
MacPherson also noted that he agreed with the argument made by his colleague Prof. Bryan Schwartz that there are a number of initiatives to prevent hate and discrimination and  UMFA has not to the best of his knowledge proposed the sweeping suppression of an initiative aimed at protecting any other groups, aside from the Jews. "Why did we pick this issue-that targets Jewish people-to take a stand on ? " MacPherson stated.
MacPherson, who is not Jewish, said  that “I would agree that anti-Semitism is a very serious problem, and is felt both on the campuses of the University of Manitoba and elsewhere. People who are Jewish must not stand alone in confronting this serious concern. Anti-Semitism should concern us all.”


Macpherson told the Winnipeg Jewish Review that he objected to the the anti-IHRA motion because the motion itself was “ contrary to academic freedom" in that “ if someone wanted to use the IHRA definition in their academic work, we  as a union would have been saying that they should not use it."


MacPherson also said that in his view it would be  “contrary to the Union's mission to take on this divisive issue.”

Prof Bryan Schwartz , who opposed the anti-IHRA motion wrote to the Winnipeg Jewish Review that "Darcy MacPherson's election is the latest inspirational chapter in an extraordinary life story.   Darcy was born with cerebral palsy and lived his adult life in a wheelchair.   He has addressed these challenges with extraordinary personal determination and courage.  He was a top law student, practised law, and has become a long-serving and distinguished teacher and scholar. He has come through it all as an individual known for his honesty, kindheartedness, seeing the good in people, and looking for ways to serve and unite a community, rather than divide it.  I hope everyone in my union will appreciate his willingness to serve and give him all the support he needs to succeed in being a thoughtful and effective advocate for our economic interests and for the professional values we should all share, including freedom of expression and non-discrimination.”
Prof. Haskel Greenfield, who also opposed the  anti-IHRA motion said "I look to forward to the incoming administration of UMFA with its renewed focus on the needs of the professoriate in its upcoming negotiations with the university administration and one that welcomes the concept of inclusivity and unity, not divisiveness.” 
Prof Michael Eskin stated “I am pleased that Darcy MacPherson has gone on record opposing the motion to reject the IHRA definition of antisemitism. I am also pleased that when he takes over as President of UMFA, he does not intend to put forth such a motion in the future, but rather will focus on the core mission of UMFA, which is to represent the professoriate in negotiations with the  U of M administration.”
The election for UMFA President and Vice President took place the same week as the motion to reject the IHRA definition of antisemitism was scheduled to be heard by the UMFA Board of Representatives. That was because the UMFA Executive wanted the motion to be heard on an urgent basis, and that happened to be while the vote was taking place.
Macpherson received 293 votes from UMFA members as opposed to Shaw who received 269 votes, such that Macpherson won by 24 votes.Additionally, Brendon Trask, also a law professor, beat out the incumbent Prof. O. Dingwall to become the new Vice President of UMFA. 
The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Definition of Antisemitism  has a  39-word definition,  which describes antisemitism as expressions of hatred toward Jews, and it has an appended list of examples that contextualize it. One example used in the the IHRA definition indicates that "Denying the Jewish people the right to self determination", by saying the very existence of Israel is a "racist endeavour" is an example of antisemitic speech. Another example given of antisemitic speech is "Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis." Another example is applying double standards by requiring of Israel  "a behaviour not expected or demanded of any other nation.” 
The IHRA definition has an important qualifier that says "criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.” Proponents of the IHRA definition point to this qualifier to say that freedom of speech is not unduly limited by the IHRA definition of antisemitism.
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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.