Dear Richard Filion,
My name is Sid and I am a student at Dawson College in the Law, Society & Justice program. I am writing this letter to you as a concerned student, but also as a Canadian citizen aware of his rights and freedoms, and who fervently cherishes the values of a democratic society in which the people enjoy their full rights, as protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as well as the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.
In an effort to shine a light on a recent political announcement, and to mobilize youth and support from Dawson’s Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights, an active club on campus, a contingent for Dawson students was organized to partake in the peaceful protest outside the U.S. Consulate General Montreal on the 8th of December 2017. The protest was originally organized by our counterpart at McGill University: McGill Students in Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights. This protest was a response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel. A press release from Oxfam, a reputable non-governmental organization, expresses its concerns regarding this announcement from the Trump administration, claiming it gives Israel the green light to escalate its crimes, seeing that it is already responsible for grave violations of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and International Human Rights Law (IHRL).
To bring visibility to the event, posters approved by both the Dawson Student Union (DSU) and the Campus Life & Leadership (CLL) were posted around the school.
The response to these posters by both the students and administration at Dawson has been inappropriate for an institution whose mission statement is to “Engage learners and empower them to become active, responsible citizens,” and to “Enrich society by offering life-long learning opportunities, cultivating partnerships and contributing to a peaceful and sustainable future.” Some of my fellow students have taken it upon themselves to tear our posters down, an intolerant act of vandalism that has no place on the campus. However, what I am most upset about, and the reason I am contacting you, sir, is the response from the Director of Student Services, Raymond Boucher. After an alleged complaint, Director Boucher ordered for all the posters to be taken down. After a meeting with him – to which a consensual recording is available – he backed his decision by saying that “they never should have been approved,” and “we don’t put up political posters in the college, we never have.”
This, however, is not the case; Dawson College regularly approves political posters. To note a recent example, I would like to bring to your attention posters approved by the DSU and CLL earlier this semester that openly criticized the Trump government, on which the words “Fuck Trump” appeared. The very fact that many Canadians oppose Trump does not make the sentiment of the poster any less political.
Without giving in to the appeal to hypocrisy, I urge you to consider the context in which the youth of today lives. Everything is political. Being gay is political. Being black is political. Being Muslim, Jewish, or Christian is political. Being trans or gender non-conforming is political. When the fabrics of our identities are politicized, our very name, melanin level, faith, hair, and even genitals become politics. After presenting the same argument to M. Boucher, his answer was to “not play semantics.” Dawson College students want their voices to be heard, and for our rights as Canadians to be respected. Specifically, sections 2(b) and 2(c) of our Charter rights, protecting our Freedom of expression and Freedom of peaceful assembly, but more importantly, our inalienable rights as humans.
The racialized, unfounded, and unconstitutional bias demonstrated by M. Boucher in deeming the Palestinian cause “political” and others not, is nothing short of outrageous for the CEGEP with the largest student body across Quebec. In line with Canada’s restorative and accountable approach to justice, and because putting posters back up would be inconsequential at this point, I am requesting a formal statement of apology from the Dawson Administration for the recent incident and the way it was handled. And it all starts by condemning the vandalizing of our posters and holding the people responsible accountable. If the administration fails to do so, it will pave way for more students to think it’s okay to damage a poster when it doesn’t align with their opinion, thus undermining the collective spirit of the college.
I welcome any constructive dialogue that allows us to put an end to this matter. Nonetheless, if that end is not met, I find myself obliged to find platforms that would offer me the voice I am asking for. The Gazette and La Presse, two Montreal based newspapers have found great interest in my story, especially concerning the response made by M. Boucher. In addition to that, I have contacted Mr Amir Khadir from the Québec Solidaire political party, as well as numerous student organizations in and out of Dawson College who all granted us their support.
Edmund Burke said, “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” By evoking this quote, I do not ask you to partake in the Palestine-Israel conflict, but to consider, in good conscience, if depriving students of their voice is something you endorse.
Mister the Director General, I ask you this; how can we expect and wish for Dawson students to take part in the changes of the world tomorrow if we won’t allow them to do it on campus today? In the hopes that this letter finds its way to a fair and just recipient, I would like to express my best wishes for this holiday season.
Sid Ahmed Oussama Djahlat