At the November 2018 National General Meeting, members of the Canadian Federation of Students voted to endorse the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement in solidarity with Palestinian Human Rights advocates. In passing this motion, the Federation reaffirms its support of the Palestinian cause and peoples, and pledges to support Palestine solidarity organizations on a case-by-case basis. It will also support member locals in launching weapons divestment campaigns and exploring and implementing existing BDS campaigns and organizing resources.

The BDS movement is a call from Palestinian Civil Society which non-violently targets institutional and economic complicity with occupation and human rights abuses. In adopting BDS, the CFS joins the ranks of other Canadian civil society bodies including the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW), the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)-Ontario, the United Church, the Mennonite Church of Canada, and the Association pour une Solidarité Syndicale Étudiante (ASSÉ), who have adopted similar resolutions.

The Federation’s decision to support the BDS movement comes after decades of Israeli violations of international human rights law and daily violence again the Palestinian people. Palestinian children are routinely denied access to a quality education as a result of this violence. Israel’s blatant violations of basic human rights have long been condemned by international human rights organizations including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the International Federation for Human Rights, and yet the atrocities committed in Gaza and other parts of Palestine continue to worsen with no end in sight. In the absence of meaningful action by the international community to protect the rights of the Palestinian people, the BDS movement utilizes non-violent tactics in an attempt to pressure the Israeli government to rightfully recognise Palestinians’ right to live free from forced displacement and violence.

The Federation wishes to state in no uncertain terms that our stance against the atrocities committed against the Palestinian people by the Israeli state should not be conflated with anti-Semitism. The Federation continues to oppose anti-Semitism on our campuses and communities in the strongest possible terms and will prioritize the voice of Jewish student groups like Independent Jewish Voices and its campus chapters on the issues that affect them. The rise of white supremacist and anti-Semitic activity on our campuses and in our communities is real and distressing. At this general meeting, members also voted to revitalize our long-running No Anti-Semitism campaign with new materials and campus implementation strategies.

It has long been our mandate as an organization to take a principled stance against human rights abuses. In the 1960s, the Federation’s precursor organization, the Canadian Union of Students, was one of the first Canadian student groups to promote a divestment campaign against the apartheid government of South Africa. The Federation was also a member of a coalition of organizations which vehemently opposed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Thus, the Federation’s support of the BDS movement simply demonstrates that Canada’s oldest and largest student organization remains committed to its anti-war, pro-human rights principles.