A proposed class-action lawsuit accuses Concordia University in Montreal and its student union of creating a safe space for antisemitism on campus over decades, leaving students and faculty psychologically scarred.
The lawsuit application seeks $15 million in damages for members of the proposed class, which includes Jewish students, faculty and staff currently at the school or who attended or worked there in the last three years. Two Concordia students and one professor are leading the application, filed in Quebec Superior Court Thursday, and requesting anonymity in legal proceedings because they fear retaliation.
“Concordia University has failed to properly investigate and respond to antisemitic incidents on its premises, which has allowed antisemitism to proliferate across its campuses,” the application says. “By failing to properly discipline students and/or student organizations for antisemitic behaviours … the defendants have effectively created a safe space for antisemitism.”
The lawsuit comes as Concordia and other universities across the country struggle to contain heated tensions on campus that are linked to the Israel-Hamas war. One of the examples of on-campus antisemitism listed in the class-action application is the violent altercation last week at Concordia between pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian students that led to one arrest and injuries to two security guards and one student.
The application lists other examples of incidents that it says demonstrate a decades-long history of antisemitic sentiment on campus.
The students and professor allege “repeated discrimination” has resulted in “significant psychological injury” — including nightmares, flashbacks, fear of being on Concordia campuses and fear of identifying themselves as Jewish — for themselves and members of the class.
In addition to falling short of a duty to investigate antisemitic incidents and penalize perpetrators, the application accuses Concordia of neglecting to offer support to Jewish students targeted by those hateful acts and of failing to educate students on the issue of antisemitism.
None of the accusations has been proven in court, and a judge will need to authorize the class action before it can move forward.
Concordia said Friday it does not comment on pending legal proceedings. The Concordia Student Union did not respond to a request for comment, nor did De Louya Markakis and Eidelmann Law, the two Montreal law firms representing the class-action lawsuit applicants.
Law firm Diamond & Diamond is leading similar legal action against Queen’s University, Toronto Metropolitan University, the University of British Columbia and York University. Diamond & Diamond managing partner Sandra Zisckind confirmed Friday that her firm is partnering with De Louya Markakis and Eidelmann Law on the Concordia lawsuit.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 17, 2023.