Concordia University Rector Frederick Lowy can be reached at e-mail:
- Phone: 848-
4868 // Fax: (514) 848-4546
Repression of Pro-Palestinian Activism Continues: Concordia's Head of
Security suspends SPHR events
From: SPHR-Concordia University, Montreal: pal@...
Date: Saturday Feb 28, 2004
We ask you to take the time to read this email and to show your
support by attending the event.
Things have been rather hectic as usual with Concordia administration
continuing their attempts to sensor Palestinian Solidarity organizers.
Does this sound familiar? Well it was the case in previous years and
yet again it continues. The Concordia Security department is blocking
Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) from booking the H-110
auditorium for the lecture by Dr. Mustafa Barghouti on March 2nd
2004. The director of Security at Concordia, Mr. Jean Brisebois
clearly stated that SPHR cannot hold any events until they pay their
previous dues to the Security office.
The money in question is the security fee charged to SPHR for the
Norman Finkelstein lecture held on Feb. 11th 2004. The amount in
question is $160. It was pointed out to Mr. Brisebois by SPHR
representative Shadi Hajjara that other student clubs who have not
paid their security dues in years have accumulated up to 4 or 5 digit
expenses owed to the Security office. Their events have not been
blocked, and a demand for their payment has not been made, while SPHR
who owes only $160 is being forced to pay and is required to pay
upfront another $160 for Barghoutis lecture (no club has been asked
to pay upfront in the past). Mr. Brisebois claimed that he will block
any club that has not paid their expenses from having events until
they pay up, but that claim did not materialize.
SPHR believes this to be a clear-cut case of discrimination.
The problems started around the time where SPHR was getting a security
approval for the Norman Finkelstein lecture. The security office
needed an unusually long time, 3 weeks, to approve the event. The
result was that two guards were assigned which SPHR had to pay for.
Two days before the event, SPHR receives a call from the security
office saying that the security threat against Dr. Finkelstein has
increased and 6 more guards had to be assigned to the event, their
payment has to take place upfront or else the event will be
cancelled. SPHR refused to comply, and insisted that this type of
blackmail will not go by unnoticed. The security office finally
backed down and let the event happen without any problems and the
bill for the extra security guards was charged to vice-rector
After Finkelsteins lecture, things took a turn to the worse. The
security office continuously refused to give SPHR an approval for Dr.
Barghoutis lecture. The approval form for Dr. Barghoutis lecture was
handed in on Jan. 21st, three weeks prior to Finkelsteins lecture,
but even one week after the Finkelstein lectured, an approval was not
Security personnel had a variety of answers to SPHR representatives
on why the approval is taking time to be processed. Once it is the
big load of approval forms that a few can only process. Another time,
it was a new committee formed specifically to look at all Middle East
related events, and the committee needed time to meet and review the
events (a claim that we realized to be false later on). And most of
the time, there was no one there to answer the questions.
Up until Wednesday Feb. 18th, there was no clear answer to why the
request has not been processed. On that day, when the security desk
was asked again about the request, we were told that no decision will
be made until SPHR pays up their bill. This was an unprecedented move
by the Security office, not once before has a student association or
club been held hostage to a security bill.
We went to the Security office to meet with Mr. Brisebois hoping he
would explain why SPHR was being treated as such. Mr. Brisebois at
first refused to come down the stairs from his office to talk our
representative (Shadi). Instead he started screaming at Shadi from
the top of the stairs and speaking to him in a very unprofessional
manner (Shadi filed a security report of the incident claiming
We just want to remind you all that Brisebois had no reason to
justify his ludicrous actions. The security bill for SPHRs lecture by
Eric Ben-Artzi, Netanyahu's nephew ($320), in Fall 2003 has already
been paid by a special project grant for the lecture from the CCSL.
And Briseboiss presumptions that SPHR will not pay a bill of $160
just because payment has been received in a week demonstrate his
prejudices towards Palestinian Solidarity organizers.
Having stated that, it doesnt mean that SPHR is willing to continue
paying those security bills. But SPHR was working on a motion in CSU
council to put the responsibility of paying those bills on other
bodies. The motion was successfully passed on Wednesday Feb. 18th,
but still, the end result hoped for from the motion needs a while to
materialize since the newly assigned committee would need time to
draw strategies and call for meetings with the administration.
Back to the story... On Feb. 18th, SPHR tried once more to reason
with Mr. Brisebois, but to no use. This time Mr. Brisebois chose to
come down the stairs to talk to the SPHR representatives! But his
unprofessionalism took over the conversation. Among the things Mr.
Brisebois stated during this conversation (remember that he was
acting as an official representing Concordia):
-- "In my opinion, there should not be any political activism on
campus, the university is a place to study and I dont like people who
come to university to do politics."
-- He took the opportunity to bash Samer Elatrash, this time he
claimed that Samer instigated the demonstration held by Hillel
members outside the Norman Finkelsteins lecture. He said, "if Samer
wasnt outside, there would not have been a demonstration." We found
this absurd, especially since the demonstrators were protesting
against Finkelstein and they came with their placards and slogans
ready. What does Samer have to do with this?!
-- When asked to give us a copy of the official regulations with
regards to billing, he said that we "do not have a right for a copy
because [we] didnt pay yet.. pay first then get a copy!" Later that
day, we asked the CSU to ask him for a copy of the regulations, his
answer to them was "no such thing exists."
Of course, Brisebois was reminded again and again of the student clubs
that have not paid up their bills.. but he was not concerned with the
$20,000 that Hillel owed for Netanyahu, or the MSA's accumulation of
bills, it was the one week old $160 bill for SPHR that hes after.
Brisebois was concerned because he felt that the security offices
budget cannot handle all the growing bills that students clubs
acquire, so he wanted to act upon it, but he had to show his true
colors in the process, his cowardice since he would only dare pick on
SPHR but not MSA or Hillel and his prejudice towards SPHR have become
SPHR contacted the Vice-rector, Mr. Michel Di Grappa, the following
day, but his position was the same as that of Brisebois, "pay first,
then we'll talk."
So SPHR decided to pay the bill for the time being since the event is
lurking round the corner, and a lot of resources have been put into
getting that event to happen. The payment was made on Monday Feb.
23rd. An approval was received only on Tuesday Feb. 24th, almost 5
weeks after putting in the form. Again remember, when handing in that
form to the security desk, the person behind the desk says, "this
will take up to 5 working days to be processed."
With the approval came a condition. Specifically, the condition stated
that conference services cannot book SPHR the space unless payment is
received upfront for the two security guards for Barghouti's lecture.
Mr. Brisebois knows that the CSU was off for the whole week because
its reading week, and he knows that SPHR cannot get a signing officer
from the CSU to sign on the bill (all club transactions need CSU
approval) since the CSU is closed during reading week, but he still
insisted that SPHR pays first. Brisebois promised to get in contact
with the CSU executives in order to facilitate that transaction, but
SPHR has not heard from him or the CSU executive since. And as we
write this email today, Saturday Feb. 28th, 3 days prior to the
event, we have yet to receive a booking confirmation for lecture hall
Again we stress that no club, before this incident, has got their
events suspended by the security office because they have not paid
their outstanding balances. And no club has ever been asked to pay a
bill in advance. SPHR, out of all the clubs, is asked to do so even
though SPHR is the only student association that paid ALL their
security bills this academic year.
We kindly ask you to spread the word and forward this. Your
attendance Dr. Barghoutis lecture would be appreciated and it would
put much needed pressure on the Security office.
The event is Tuesday March 2nd at 7pm
Concordia University, Hall Building H-110
1455 De Maisonneuve W. Montreal Quebec
Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights
Address:- 2020 Mackay, suite #307
Phone :- (514) 848-7418
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