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Student sues OCADU for $1M over alleged failure to protect Jewish students | CBC News

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A student at Toronto’s Ontario College of Art & Design University (OCADU) is seeking $1 million in damages after alleging she was subjected to ongoing anti-Jewish discrimination at the school. 

The statement of claim, filed by the New York based Lawfare Project on behalf of Samantha Kline in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, claims there is a pattern of antisemitic harassment at the school as a result of OCADU’s alleged failure to protect Jewish students since war broke out between Israel and Hamas.

“Antisemitism has always been a problem at OCADU, and after Oct. 7 it exploded and the school did nothing about it,” Kline said at a news conference outside the school on Tuesday.

“The harassment, intimidation and discrimination targeting Jewish students became unbearable and were made worse by threats of violence directed at me.”

Gerard Filitti, senior counsel at the Lawfare Project, said the firm is speaking with Jewish students on a daily basis who are reporting discrimination at their school, adding that the problem is “systemic” and is being reported across Canadian schools.

In response to a CBC Toronto inquiry about the lawsuit, OCADU said it takes its students’ safety and security seriously.

Student claims she faced death threats

Kline, who identifies as a Zionist, has been targeted for her beliefs, religion and ethnicity, according to the statement of claim.

“The university not being able to guarantee my safety was my main concern. I don’t want any other Jewish student to have to experience this,” she told CBC Toronto in an interview.

Kline claims she was unable to finish studying for her degree in-person due to the harassment she faced, including death threats, according to the statement of claim.

“OCAD has failed to enforce its own rules of conduct and has failed to sufficiently protect Jewish students from hatred, intimidation and harassment,” the statement of claim alleges.

“(The school) has knowingly failed to curb rabid antisemitism, intimidation and harassment in its community (both on its physical campus and in its online community),” it further alleges.

Ontario College of Art and Design University said Tuesday that unlawful threats and harassment are not tolerated at the school, adding that it takes students’ safety and security seriously. (CBC)

In the court documents, Kline claims that OCADU breached the Ontario Human Rights Code. The suit requests the court to order injunctive relief requiring the school to create and enforce “its own rules, policies and codes of conduct” regarding anti-Jewish discrimination, in addition to paying $1 million in punitive damages.

The statement of claim also adds that Kline among other Jewish students were “consistently met with catcalls and written expressions,” such as “F–k you Jew,” “F–k you Zionist” and “Jews deserve everything that is happening to them.”

Unlawful threats, harassment not tolerated: OCADU

In its statement, OCADU said unlawful threats and harassment are not tolerated.

“Discrimination in all forms, including antisemitism, is completely against the values of OCAD University,” said Adam Wiendels, a spokesperson for the school, in the statement.

“We are committed to maintaining an environment that is free from hate, discrimination, and violence, and discouraging any celebrations of violence.”

Karen Pe’er, a student at OCADU and a friend of Kline’s who showed up to support her, said she has experienced similar anti-Jewish discrimination at the school.

“We are all kind of feeling the same hatred,” Pe’er told CBC Toronto in an interview, adding that she would see posters around campus that would make her feel unwelcome.

Filitti said the Lawfare Project is considering filing a potential class action lawsuit against multiple post-secondary institutions across Canada.

TMU facing similar lawsuit

A similar lawsuit was launched against Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) on April 23. The statement of claim filed on behalf of Nicole Szweras, a student at the school, claims TMU’s failure to apply its own policies has led to a “poisoned antisemitic learning and working environment,” since the start of the Israel-Hamas war.

Szweras is also seeking $1 million in punitive damages from the school as a result of  the school’s alleged failure to address antisemitism on campus.

In a statement sent to CBC Toronto, TMU said it cannot comment on the case as it is before the courts. 

“TMU is proudly diverse and intentionally inclusive and the university works hard to promote an equitable and inclusive university community, free from discrimination and harassment,” its statement reads. 

“All TMU community members have a shared responsibility for ensuring a culture of respect and inclusion.”

The school said it encourages community members who have faced discrimination and harassment to reach out to school administration so that it can investigate.

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