B’nai Brith Canada and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Afffairs (CIJA) are praising the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board for suspending a teacher they say glorified terrorists and called for violence against Israelis in a speech last month at Queen’s Park.
The school board released a statement Aug. 9 announcing that Nadia Shoufani, a teacher at St. Catherine of Siena Separate School in Mississauga, has been suspended with pay pending further investigation into remarks she made at the Toronto Al-Quds Day rally July 2, and that the incident has been referred to the Ontario College of Teachers for “investigation and review.”
A spokesperson for the Ontario College of Teachers told said the college is “aware of the matter” but couldn’t comment further at this time.
Following the rally, to which both organizations sent a representative, each group filed separate complaints with Toronto police and the school board.
A Toronto police spokesperson said the matter of whether Shoufani’s comments constitute a hate crime is under “active investigation.”
“It is heartening to see the [board] do the right thing… There is no room for the glorification of terrorists and terrorism in Canadian classrooms,” Amanda Hohmann, national director of B’nai Brith Canada’s League for Human Rights, said in a press release.
Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies also issued a statement commending the school board for suspending a teacher for “anti-Israel rhetoric, including her encouragement for Palestinians to liberate ‘all Palestine’ in ‘any form possible.’”
Last month, B’nai Brith outlined some of what the Mississauga teacher said in her speech, which the group recorded and posted on YouTube, such as Shoufani praising Ghassan Kanafani and Georges Ibrahim Abdallah, two men with ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a group the government of Canada has classified as a terrorist entity.
Shoufani, who called Kanafani a martyr, also urged the audience to “break the silence of the international community and the complicit media,” raise awareness of Israel’s “crimes” against the Palestinians, support the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign and “urge our governments to condemn Israel’s illegal policies of administrative detention [of Palestinian prisoners].”
After B’nai Brith filed a complaint with Toronto police last month, a police spokesperson told The CJN the incident was being investigated.
After the rally, CIJA requested that Toronto Police add concerns about Shoufani to a complaint the organization had filed regarding another speaker at Al-Quds Day.
It also sent letters of complaint about Shoufani’s speech to Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie, as well as the chair and vice-chair of the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board, the principal of St. Catherine of Siena Separate School, the school’s superintendent, a local school board trustee, provincial Education Minster Mitzie Hunter and Archbishop of Toronto Thomas Cardinal Collins.
“We heard back from the mayor’s office right away. They said they were very concerned and would be looking into the incident,” said Sara Lefton, CIJA’s Greater Toronto Area vice-president.
Crombie’s office could not immediately be reached for comment.
Lefton said CIJA is pleased that the school board is taking the issue seriously.
“I think it’s not over. We would like to see it resolved so that [Shoufani] will not be able to transmit her toxic opinions to students,” Lefton said.
She wouldn’t comment on whether she or CIJA would like to see Shoufani fired.
B’nai Brith and other Jewish groups have unsuccessfully tried in past to have the Al-Quds Day rally banned from Queen’s Park.
International Al-Quds Day, typically celebrated after the fast month of Ramadan, was started in 1979 by former Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. The day is held in across the world in solidarity with the Palestinians and in opposition to the existence of Israel as a Jewish state.