SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: November 08, 2023

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances

Institution(s):Concordia University

Region & Country:Americas | Canada

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On November 8, 2023, a clash broke out between pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli groups in the Hall building at Concordia University. Three individuals sustained minor injuries, and a student was arrested for injuring a guard.

The incident occurred against the backdrop of a surprise Hamas attack on Israel on October 7 that left over 1,200 Israelis and foreign nationals dead and more than 200 abducted, and the subsequent Israeli military bombardment of the Gaza Strip which, as of the beginning of December, has reportedly killed nearly 15,000 Palestinians. The violence led to heightened tensions around speech on campuses across the world.

There are conflicting reports on what led to the escalation between the two groups, but several videos posted on social media show people shoving and swearing during the violent exchange. The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) said the confrontation started after Jewish students set up a Shabbat table set to honor the hostages and had racial slurs shouted at them. The Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights student group said it was selling keffiyehs, a traditional Palestinian scarf, to raise funds for humanitarian aid in Gaza, when a group of pro-Israel people began screaming anti-Palestinian slogans and slurs at them.

Graham Carr, the president and vice-chancellor of Concordia University said the fighting in the Hall building involved “some students and some individuals external to our community.” He added, “[We] have witnessed a concerning rise in acts of intimidation and intolerant behaviour. Both Jewish and Muslim members of our community have reported provocative comments, insensitive or hostile social media posts, and expressed fears for their security on campus.” Carr said this incident is being investigated, and also noted the university would be investigating an online post that could be construed as inciting violence and swastikas found on campus on the same day.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about reports of violence and/or intimidation on campus, including violence and/or intimidation targeting particular racial, ethnic or religious groups. Students and others on campus must refrain from such actions, and must respect the responsible exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and association, as well as the importance of diversity on campus. In addition to harm to the immediate victims, violence and intimidation on campus undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.