On February 26, during the University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union’s (UTGSU) Special General Meeting, members voted to establish the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Committee as a permanent committee within the organization.
The committee, inspired by the wider 2005 BDS movement, was created in 2012 with the mandate of advocating for the university to “refrain from investing in all companies complicit in violation of international law,” including companies that profit “from the illegal occupation of Palestinian land […] and from the collective punishment of Palestinians.”
The wider BDS movement has worked to urge corporations, universities, and local governments to boycott Israel for its treatment of Palestinians and the occupation of Palestinian territory. Although some people have labeled the BDS movement as anti-Semitic, the movement rejects this claim.
BDS Committee Chair Robert Prazeres told The Varsity, “The BDS campaign advocates for severing ties with companies and institutions complicit in human rights abuses against Palestinian civilians, on the basis of their complicity in those human rights abuses only. Advocating for this sort of action is a tried-and-true strategy of many human rights movements and, needless to say, is a protected form of political expression in every free democracy.”
During the SGM, discussion on the motion was cut short when a motion was put forth to “call the question,” which automatically ends debate and moves the motion to a vote.
The call to question caused around two dozen members to walk out of the meeting in an attempt to make the meeting lose quorum. Quorum, which was set at 150 members, was maintained by a small margin after the walkout. The motion ultimately passed.