Skip to main content

Ontario court to hear U of T application to clear pro-Palestinian encampment today

A Palestinian flag flies over the pro-Palestinian encampment set up in front of Convocation Hall at the University of Toronto campus, in Toronto, Sunday, May 26, 2024. Toronto police say they will only take action to clear the encampment at the University of Toronto in case of emergency or to carry out a court order.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
A Palestinian flag flies over the pro-Palestinian encampment set up in front of Convocation Hall at the University of Toronto campus, in Toronto, Sunday, May 26, 2024. Toronto police say they will only take action to clear the encampment at the University of Toronto in case of emergency or to carry out a court order.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Share

Lawyers for the University of Toronto are telling an Ontario court that protesters took control of its property when they set up a pro-Palestinian encampment last month and are preventing others from using it.

Monique Jilesen has begun laying out the university's arguments in seeking an injunction to clear the encampment in the area known as King's College Circle.

She says protesters have set up a gate to enter and are screening people before allowing them inside, meaning those who don't agree with the protest or its guidelines aren't able to access the area as they could before.

The university turned to the court late last month after protesters ignored its deadline to dismantle the encampment

The encampment was set up on May 2 and participants have said they won't leave until the school agrees to disclose investments in companies profiting from Israel's offensive in Gaza and cut ties with Israeli academic institutions.

The school is asking the court to authorize police action to remove protesters who refuse to leave, arguing the encampment is causing irreparable harm to the institution.

It is also seeking to prevent protesters from blocking access to university property or setting up fences, tents or other structures on campus.

In their court filings, the protesters say the school's claims of irreparable harm are "grounded in troubling mischaracterizations" of the encampment as violent and antisemitic.

While the university has included examples of antisemitic incidents in its filings, the students say the evidence regarding these incidents is hearsay and cannot be put to the test, nor has the school proven any connection to the encampment or its participants.

They also argue that clearing the encampment would violate their protected rights to free expression and peaceful assembly.

"Inconveniences to the university and discomfort by those who disagree do not outweigh these vital rights," they argue in the documents.

Representatives of the encampment are expected to make their arguments before the court Thursday.

A number of groups — including the Canadian Association of University Teachers, the Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario and a number of Jewish advocacy groups — have been granted intervener status in the case.

The university had sought the injunction on an urgent basis because the encampment is near Convocation Hall, where more than 30 graduation ceremonies were scheduled to take place from early this month to Friday. The court hearings are taking take place after most of the ceremonies have happened, with no major disruptions.

Outside the court process, the two sides have been meeting to negotiate a possible agreement, but the talks appeared to reach an impasse last week when the university said the protesters had rejected its latest offer. The university said it was open to continuing the negotiations "when there are productive reasons for doing so."

Representatives of the encampment, meanwhile, said the university had not been negotiating in good faith, noting the school's president had yet to participate or meet any of the protesters.

On Wednesday, a spokesperson for the encampment said the group presented an offer to the school on Tuesday but it was rejected.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 19, 2024. 

CTVNews.ca Top Stories

Who is Usha Vance, the wife of Trump's running mate?

JD Vance has had several introductions to the American people: as the author of a memoir on what ails the White working class, as a newly elected Republican senator in his home state of Ohio and, on Monday, as his party’s nominee for vice president. His wife, Usha, has been by his side through it all.

Stay Connected