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Trudeau says universities must be trusted to manage campus as encampments crop up

Written by on May 3, 2024

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says universities have to be trusted to manage their campuses as pro-Palestine student protesters set up encampments at several institutions across Canada.

Trudeau was asked about the encampments today while making a housing announcement in Hamilton.

He says universities are places of learning where ideas can be exchanged and debated, but at the same time, everyone must feel safe on campus.

His comments come as an encampment at the University of Toronto’s downtown campus enters its second day.

Protesters were working this morning to secure their tents and a fence around an area on campus known as King’s College Circle in light of the windy weather.

The encampment — one of several established at Canadian university campuses in recent days — went up early Thursday morning after students said they breached the fence.

The university has said the tents, banners and flags are a safety concern, and had asked the students to leave by 10 p.m. Thursday. 

However, as the deadline approached, the university went on to say that it didn’t intend to remove protesters if their activities remained peaceful.

Erin Mackey, one of the protest organizers, has said demonstrators were joining students at other universities in Canada and the United States in setting up encampments to call on their schools to disclose ties with the Israeli government and divest from Israeli companies.

“We are all standing together in solidarity, demanding that our university, that we all attend, that we are all part of it, is no longer complicit in this genocide,” she said. 

The International Court of Justice is investigating whether Israel has committed acts of genocide in the ongoing war in Gaza, with a ruling expected to take years. Israel has rejected allegations of wrongdoing and accused the court of bias.

Israel’s campaign in Gaza was launched after Hamas-led militants stormed into southern Israel, killing some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking around 250 men women and children hostage. The Israeli offensive has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians, according to local health officials.

The war has wreaked vast destruction and brought a humanitarian disaster with several thousand Palestinians in northern Gaza facing imminent famine, according to the United Nations.

Pro-Palestinian activists have also set up tents at McGill University in Montreal, the University of Ottawa and the University of British Columbia campus in Vancouver.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 3, 2024.

The Canadian Press