VANCOUVER — University of British Columbia students who attended a May 4 conference held by the Social Justice Centre, a campus club sponsored by the school’s Alma Mater Society, listened to the voice of a convicted terrorist when Leila Khaled addressed the conference via Skype.
Khaled, 68, was convicted of terrorism for carrying out hijackings in 1969 and 1970 for the Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). She has been called the “poster girl of Palestinian militancy.”
Frank Dimant, CEO of B’nai Brith Canada, said UBC abdicated its responsibility to stop Khaled from having the opportunity to “poison the minds of Canadian students.”
He added: “Her presence, even if only by video, adds to the real risk of students being influenced by radical ideologies, especially at a time when home-grown Canadian terrorism is a major concern.”
The Social Justice Centre is a resource group of the AMS and completely independent from the university, said Lucie McNeill, director of public affairs at UBC.
“The university does recognize its responsibility in creating a safe and respectful environment for all on our campuses. The AMS does not represent the University of British Columbia,” she said.
“It should be clear that UBC as an institution does not in any way sponsor or support the views expressed at events like this one. UBC is merely providing a safe environment for free speech and respectful debate.”
But Dimant said that giving Khaled a platform at a UBC affiliated event is “absurd. Given recent events such as the arrest of two individuals in connection to a plot to bomb a Via Rail train, the horrific Boston Marathon attacks and the continuing investigation into the radicalization of youths from London, it is the responsibility of the university, as well as every Canadian, to speak out when it comes to security and safety.”
Neither the AMS nor the Social Justice Centre responded to calls for comment before The CJN ’s deadline.