TSSU MMC deeply concerned by criminalization of dissent in Toronto

We, the TSSU Membership Mobilization Committee (MMC), are deeply concerned about the violent arrests of Toronto-based organizers on the 22nd of November, as well as the serious nature of the charges against them. These charges represent a blatant attempt to criminalize dissent and protect Canada’s billionaire class from political criticism.

Seven people were violently arrested from their homes before dawn on Wednesday, November 22nd and four others were arrested on other days. The group included one faculty member and several teaching assistants at York University. The Breach reported that this operation likely cost the police nearly a million dollars. The crime that demanded this aggressive response? Allegedly putting up posters outside an Indigo Books franchise that highlighted the CEO’s funding of a non-profit that supports the Israeli military.

Indigo is Canada’s largest bookstore chain. Heather Reisman, the CEO, is a billionaire who co-founded and continues to support the non-profit HESEG Foundation, which “offers scholarships to foreigners to encourage them to join the Israeli army and continue their studies in Israel.” In general terms, it recruits Canadian mercenaries to fight for the Israeli military, tax-free.

These arrests are a blatant attempt to silence criticism not just of Israel, but of Canada’s capitalist class. The criminalization of this kind of political speech represents a drastic overreach and signals a huge threat to our rights as workers to challenge the country’s wealthiest business owners. As a union, we cannot stand by as the state tilts the balance even further away from us.

It is especially concerning to us that the arrests resulted in the suspension of workers at York University, denying them due process. Freedom of speech and academic freedom are values TSSU holds in highest regard and need to be protected. Universities have a responsibility to speak up against the atrocities committed by Israel. Even more so after the murder of Professor Sufyan Tayeh, head of the Islamic University of Gaza, by the Israeli occupation forces on Saturday, December 2nd.

The Palestinian liberation movement represents one of the strongest challenges to imperialist and capitalist hegemony in recent decades. It is uniting oppressed people around the world in their shared struggle for freedom. It comes as no surprise that the state is responding with political repression at a scale not seen since the height of the “red scare.” The red scare in Canada culminated in Quebec’s Padlock Act in the 1930s and saw scores of innocent people arrested, lose their jobs, and be socially ostracized for their social justice work.

We stand in solidarity with our comrades in Toronto. We call for the charges to be dropped immediately. We call for an investigation to be launched into how a violent raid against non-violent activists accused only of postering got approved in the first place. And we call for York University to reverse the suspensions of the teaching assistants and faculty facing these allegations. We continue to stand with the Palestinian liberation movement and call on all unions to join in calling for a free Palestine and immediate an end to the targeting of Gaza’s civilian population.

Since 1978

The Teaching Support Staff Union (TSSU)