No Debate

by Jon Thompson

How Israel lobby groups tried to curb free speech at York University.

During 2008-2009, Israel lobby organizations made concerted efforts to block a planned conference on statehood for Israel and Palestine at Toronto's York University. This book is a report of an independent investigation by author Jon Thompson for the Canadian Association of University Teachers, an organization that has been active in the defence of free speech and academic freedoms which have been challenged on Canadian campuses.

Controversy began at York soon after the Israel-Palestine conference was advertised, and intensified over the following months. The event was repeatedly denounced, and university administrators were deluged by irate e-mails and phone calls. York, as the host university, was warned of boycotts and the cessation of donations and was denounced in fullpage newspaper ads. When York and its co-sponsors stood their ground, the Israel lobby persuaded the Harper government to contact SSHRC, an academic funding agency also involved with the event. In response, SSHRC made an unprecedented intervention. The Canadian Association of University Teachers then made a public issue of the government's interference and, in the end, the conference was held as planned.

This book establishes the facts of the case, provides a context for understanding it, and explores the meaning of academic freedom in Canada. Author Jon Thompson proposes measures which universities and university faculty members can take to better safeguard their ability to discuss and debate ideas which some may wish to silence.

About the Author

JON THOMPSON is a professor emeritus in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, University of New Brunswick. He is a former chair of the department and a former president of the faculty union at UNB. He chaired the Academic Freedom and Tenure Committee of the Canadian Association of University Teachers during 1985-1988 and received the James B. Milner Award for contributions to academic freedom in 1993. He chaired the independent committee of inquiry commissioned by CAUT into the dispute involving Dr. Nancy Olivieri, the University of Toronto, the Hospital for Sick Children and Apotex Inc. (19992001). He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Harry Crowe Foundation.


"The recommendations of Thompsons CAUT Inquiry are rightly directed largely at getting faculty associations to organize and build alliances to resist the precedent-setting political interference of the Harper government and the dangerous narrowing of the frame of academic freedom supported in the Iacobucci report. This book is an essential tool in those mobilizing efforts and members should be getting our own associations to purchase and distribute this book, encourage discussions on its contents, and support measures to defend academic freedom."
Alan Sears, Ryerson University, Socialist Studies

Subjects (BISAC)


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