TORONTO – B’nai Brith Canada is relieved by a failed attempt tonight to censure a Jewish trustee of the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) for speaking out against antisemitism.
During a May controversy over materials distributed by a TDSB equity advisor, Trustee Alexandra Lulka, who represents Ward 5 – York Centre, which has the largest Jewish population of any TDSB ward, took to social media to express concern about the materials and call for an investigation. The TDSB’s Human Rights Office found that the materials “could reasonably be considered to contain antisemitic material, references, or allusions” and that “materials contained in the links support the use of violence and terrorism against Israeli Jews.”
Nonetheless, Lulka was subjected to a complaint before the TDSB Integrity Commissioner. The Commissioner cleared Lulka of allegations of harassment, improperly influencing a TDSB investigation, and maliciously or falsely defaming the reputation of a TDSB employee.
However, the Commissioner went on to accuse Lulka of discriminating against Muslims and Palestinians, recommending that the Board censure her for this. Bizarrely, the Commissioner reached this conclusion even though Lulka never referenced Muslims or Palestinians in her comments, and the person whose actions she was criticizing is neither Muslim nor Palestinian.
In the run-up to Wednesday’s vote, B’nai Brith highlighted serious legal errors in the report, including its failure to conduct an analysis under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, its attempt to dictate a position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to a Jewish trustee, and the apparent bias of one of the two lawyers retained by the TDSB to investigate the matter.
The lawyer in question, Morgan Sim, has repeatedly referred to Jews as “white,” downplayed the threat posed by Hamas and other “Palestinian resistance” groups to Israeli civilians, and liked a tweet falsely accusing the Jewish State of “committing genocide against the Palestinians.”
“TDSB trustees have listened to reason and made the only justifiable decision tonight,” said Michael Mostyn, Chief Executive Officer of B’nai Brith Canada. “There was never any basis for censuring Trustee Lulka, and the ‘investigation’ into her actions appears to have been nothing but a contrived witch-hunt.
“However, this saga is far from over. The TDSB needs to come clean about its initial handling of this issue in May, as well as its deeply flawed investigation. B’nai Brith will not rest until the entire truth is revealed and systemic antisemitism is defeated at the TDSB.”
The persecution of Lulka fulfilled a prescient warning that B’nai Brith made back in 2017, when it chided the TDSB for adopting an overly broad definition of Islamophobia that could muzzle criticism of Palestinian terrorism against Israelis. Though the TDSB formally withdrew that definition after B’nai Brith’s exposé, it appears that the Commissioner and/or investigators still misused the concept of Islamophobia as a cudgel to punish those who speak out against antisemitism.
In October of 2020, the Province of Ontario officially adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism. However, evidence has emerged that the Definition has not been implemented by many provincially-funded institutions, including school boards. In B’nai Brith’s view, the wasteful and unjust persecution of Lulka could have been avoided had the TDSB simply applied the IHRA definition as it was obligated to do.