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McGill says it will no longer negotiate with pro-Palestinian encampment protesters

McGill University says it is going ahead with much of the latest offer it had made to the pro-Palestinian protesters camping on its downtown campus. But now, academic amnesty is off the table.

University to take disciplinary action, academic amnesty off the table

A masked man stands outside a close grouping of tents.

McGill University says it is going ahead with much of the latest offer it had made to the pro-Palestinian protesters camping on its downtown campus. But now, academic amnesty is off the table.

The student protesters rejected that offer last week and say they're staying put at the encampment that has been standing on the campus's lower field for nearly two months.

On Tuesday, the university said it was done negotiating. In a letter sent to news organizations, McGill president Deep Saini said the university is also planning disciplinary action.

"Despite our ongoing efforts to discuss in good faith, the representatives of the encampment have maintained that their demands are non-negotiable while accusing the university of unwillingness to engage in fair discussions," Saini said in the statement.

"As it has become clear that no fruitful outcome will result from these talks, we are ceasing discussions."

At a news conference Tuesday afternoon, a student representative for the encampment said administration officials had ignored the students' request for a meeting sent June 14.

"They not only refused to respond, they lied about it and smeared students for it and it is shameful that our administration, which is investing millions of dollars in a genocide, are actively refusing to answer the demands of their students," said student Rama Al Malah, speaking for Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) McGill, a group leading the encampment.

Protesters haven't budged: Vice-provost

The rejected offer had proposed to explore divesting from weapons manufacturers, disclose more investments under $500,000 and fund students and scholars affected by the crisis in the Middle East.

The protesters have said they won't leave until the university ends its investments connected to Israel's military and cuts ties with Israeli institutions.

"We're staying until our demands are met," Al Malah said in an interview. "Companies like Lockheed Martin, Safran … the university can directly cease investing in them yet it refuses."

In an interview with CBC News after the students' news conference, Fabrice Labeau, McGill's vice-provost of student life and learning, said the June 14 email from the student protesters had rejected the offer made by the school as well as a proposal for mediation.

"They have stayed completely static and they have stuck to their initial demands," Labeau said of the student activists.

"They're talking about divestments from a lot of companies for very weird reasons. For example, they're saying we should divest from all the major banks in Canada because they're implicated in weapons manufacturing."

WATCH | What's next for the McGill encampment?:

Talks break down between McGill and protesters; no end in sight for encampment

4 hours ago

Duration 1:48

McGill University says it is ceasing negotiations with pro-Palestinian encampment protesters, stating that it's 'become clear that no fruitful outcome will result,' and it will take disciplinary action against those participating. Protesters say their demands are not being met, and Montreal police say they have no grounds to intervene.

Labeau said the offer the university had made resembled offers from other universities that had led to the end of other encampments.

In late May, protesters at the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) encampment agreed to dismantle their camp after the university agreed to most of their demands, including creating a $100,000 fund for Palestinian academics and students, calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and asking the UQAM Foundation to ensure it has no direct investment in weapons companies.

McGill student activists say their university's proposals do not constitute concrete steps toward divestment. Protesters also called the university's request for a mediator an attempt to stall negotiations.

Saini said the university will move ahead with its proposal, despite the failure of the negotiations.

"As our proposal was rejected, the university will pursue disciplinary processes against individuals participating in the encampment to the full extent outlined in our policies," the statement read.

Saini also mentioned a photo of people holding assault rifles that was used to advertise what protesters called a "revolutionary youth summer program" that began this week at the encampment.

"Despite efforts to reach out and hold discussions with the encampment, these behaviours have only escalated, and have continued to result in substantial costs and disruptions, including the relocation of convocation away from lower field," Saini said.

Al Malah said the summer program would include lectures about Palestinian history held by teachers, as well as workshops on kite-making, art projects and sports activities.

"We saw that the community really needed this kind of space," she said. Al Malah defended the use of the image to promote the program, saying it was a historical photograph of Palestinian resistance fighters.

"It's ironic that students who used a symbolic photo are being repressed while our administration is being allowed to invest in real weapons," Al Malah said.

Last month, a Quebec judge denied an injunction request from McGill, saying the university had failed to demonstrate an urgent need to dismantle the camp. The university is now seeking an interlocutory order to evict the protesters, but the case has not yet been heard.

McGill has also requested help from police. But on Monday, Montreal police said the encampment is a civil dispute and they don't yet have a legal basis to intervene.

Al Malah said the rejection of the two injunction requests proves the encampment is peaceful.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Verity is a reporter for CBC in Montreal. She previously worked for the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Telegraph-Journal and the Sherbrooke Record. She's originally from the Eastern Townships and has gone to school both in French and English.

    With files from The Canadian Press's Maura Forrest

    *****
    Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca

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