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Manifestation à Concordia à l'occasion du passage de Benjamin Nétanyahou

B'nai brith calls for campus probe

Jewish students afraid to return to studies in 'a situation left to fester,' lawyer says

CATHERINE SOLYOM
The Gazette Saturday, September 21, 2002

B'nai Brith is calling on the Quebec government to conduct an official inquiry into the Sept. 9 riot at Concordia University.

Citing numerous complaints from Jewish students afraid to go back to school since a protest two weeks ago turned violent, the lobby group's legal counsel Steven Slimovitch said only a commissioner with the power to subpoena can properly examine the role police, the university administration and student groups played in the event.

Five people, including a Concordia Student Union vice-president, were arrested and organizers were forced to cancel a lecture by former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"All citizens of Quebec have the right to study in peace and right now they can't," Slimovitch said yesterday.

"We are not trying to lay blame but we have to examine what happened, not just on Sept. 9 but before that too, so we can avoid it in the future."

The riot, he said, is "the result of a situation left to fester."

A spokesman for Bernard Landry said the premier will look into the request and see what can be done.

In the meantime, B'nai Brith, though not wanting to "pre-judge" a commissioner's conclusions, denounced the university administration for a "laissez-faire" attitude to student associations "who were allowed to do - and publish - almost whatever they wanted."

Last year the CSU distributed an agenda that was "anti-semitic" and "advocated criminal activities," Slimovitch said. This year, they may have been active participants in the violence surrounding Netanyahu's speech.

"That's one of the questions we want a commissioner to answer. Who's controlling and overseeing these groups? It seems no one is," Slimovitch said.

"But the student association is like a union and should be accountable to the minister of education or of labour."

The CSU did not return calls yesterday.

Dennis Murphy, a spokesman for the university administration, said the university would work with whoever the government might appoint to investigate the situation.

But Concordia will be conducting its own investigations once the "cooling-down period" is over, he said.

This week a moratorium on Middle East activities imposed by Rector Frederick Lowy was extended for three months.

csolyom@thegazette.southam.ca