Issues

Osgoode Hall Faculty Association
  • Cromwell Report and Related Matter Involving Prof. Bhabha

    Posted 8 July 2020

    The following message is from the OHFA Executive:

    On November 20, 2019, a student-sponsored event in Vari Hall featuring speakers from the Israeli military led to confrontations involving a number of (internal and external) groups seeking to have their views heard on the Israel-Palestine conflict. In the wake of this event, the administration commissioned an inquiry by former Supreme Court Justice Thomas A. Cromwell who was asked to address several issues of security and expression related to campus events.

    One part of the Cromwell mandate was to examine “the University’s policies governing freedom of speech on campus.” This part of his report is of particular interest to OHFA, given that academic freedom is protected by Article 11 of the OHFA Collective Agreement.

    As part of his general recommendation that “the University should develop a clear policy framework defining what constitutes racism, harassment and discrimination, particularly in relation to extra-curricular activities and conduct by student groups,” Mr. Cromwell noted that several organizations had urged the adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Association’s (IHRA) working definition of anti-Semitism. At p. 46 he observed that draft legislation was before the Ontario legislature that, if enacted, would add this definition to the province’s Legislation Act; and further, that the University “should monitor the progress of this legislation and also consider the IHRA’s Working Definition as it develops its own statement on racism and discrimination.”

    The IHRA working definition has been linked to a lobbying effort calling on governments, universities and other bodies to condemn and even to prohibit criticisms of the state of Israel as dangerous expressions of anti-Semitism. The OHFA Executive opposes anti-Semitism and all forms of racism and hatred. We view the adoption of the IHRA definition as a potential threat to academic freedom in that it could be used to restrict the academic freedom of teachers and scholars who have developed critical perspectives on the policies and practices of the state of Israel.

    No university in Canada has adopted the IHRA working definition, and a number of problems associated with it in the Canadian context are reviewed in a recent opinion piece in University Affairs (https://www.universityaffairs.ca/opinion/in-my-opinion/canadas-new-definition-of-anti-semitism-is-a-threat-to-campus-free-speech).

    We therefore call on President Lenton to decline to promote the adoption of any definition of anti-Semitism or racism, including this one, that can be used to suppress academic freedom. Moreover, prior to adopting any statement on racism and discrimination that could have implications for academic freedom and expression, OHFA calls on the York administration to ensure that OHFA and other groups potentially affected be given the opportunity to participate in meaningful consultations.

    We also wish to draw attention to a related matter involving our colleague Faisal Bhabha. On June 10, 2020. Prof. Bhabha participated in an online event organized by the Centre for Free Expression at Ryerson University, co- sponsored by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, at which the IHRA definition was debated; the video is available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=2964&v=YzfpmSe8R8M&feature=emb_title. On June 23, the Israel advocacy organization B’nai Brith wrote to President Rhonda Lenton demanding that Prof. Bhabha be prohibited from teaching courses in human rights as a result of the views expressed during the Ryerson event. The letter and petition can be found at https://www.bnaibrith.ca/petition_bar_faisal_bhabha. On the grounds of both university autonomy and academic freedom, such interference by outside bodies must be resisted in no uncertain terms. We call upon President Lenton to reply to this attack on our colleague in the strongest possible terms, and to release her reply publicly. This episode is a reminder of the perils associated with the adoption of the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism.

    Prof. Bhabha is a member of the OHFA executive, but this statement is made with respect to his rights as an OHFA member and a member of the York University community.

  • Donation to CUPE 3903

    Posted 21 March 2018

    As a gesture of support for CUPE 3903, which went on strike on 5 March, OHFA has provided a financial contribution. We hope for a fair, equitable, and speedy resolution.

  • Donation to OPSEU

    Posted 18 January 2018

    College faculty in Ontario face difficult working conditions. As a gesture of support for the college faculty which went on strike in the fall of 2017, OHFA provided a financial contribution to Toronto local OPSEU-CAAT Academic.

  • OHFA Bursary (2017)

    Posted 30 June 2017

    The costs of law school put a major financial burden on Osgoode students. To settle a grievance against the Osgoode Administration for a lack of notice and meaningful consultation with OHFA, the Association proposed and the Employer agreed to contribute $50,000 to a new bursary that will be disbursed annually by the Administration to support Osgoode students in financial need.

    For information, click here.

  • Bargaining

    Posted 28 December 2016

    OHFA bargains on behalf of Osgoode faculty with our employer, York University. We obtained our first formal collective agreement with York University in 2012 and our second collective agreement, after 17 months of bargaining, in 2016.

    Our most-recent negotiating mandate, approved by members in 2015, emphasized these priorities:

    • defending the role of academic faculty at Osgoode as an academic institution;
    • ensuring there are enough academic faculty to maintain Osgoode’s teaching and research mission;
    • enabling academic faculty to invest sufficient time in teaching and research;
    • insisting on transparency and equity in the distribution of research, teaching, and administrative activities;
    • calling for parity with teaching and research conditions at the University of Toronto law faculty (though not with salary levels out of respect for Osgoode faculty’s historical and ongoing commitment to support lower tuition and greater accessibility);
    • addressing the troubling anomalies and inequities that appear to have arisen due to the flat-lining of the minimum starting salary for junior faculty and from the Dean’s discretion in the setting of starting salaries.

    In bargaining and otherwise, OHFA is deeply committed to protecting Osgoode as an academic institution. We think that this objective serves our members but also students, the legal community, and the public.