Protesters set up pro-Palestine camps at UVic, VIU

Protesters set up pro-Palestine camps at UVic, VIU
Pro-Palestine protesters are pictured at the Vancouver Island University campus in Nanaimo on May 1, 2024.

Students at the University of Victoria and Vancouver Island University campus in Nanaimo have set up pro-Palestine encampments at the two schools Wednesday, following a wave of similar protests across Canada and the U.S.

Protestors from both camps are calling on their respective schools to demand an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, and to divest away from companies that are funding Israel’s military.

Both camps are also calling on UVic and VIU to publicly condemn Israel’s ongoing attacks and voice support for “Palestinians’ right to resist and right of return.”

Protesters are also asking both schools to confirm that they will not take disciplinary action against any students that are planning to join the protest, with the UVic group specifically calling for no police to be allowed on campus.

In a statement Wednesday morning, VIU said that it “respects the right of everyone to peaceful protest and freedom of expression,” though it stressed that everyone from students to staff to visitors must abide by its student code of conduct.

The school added that it was in contact with local RCMP and that it takes any safety issues “very seriously,” as well as any action that disrupts learning, research or work.

The University of Victoria released a similar statement, saying that it supports “peaceful demonstrations and the right to freedom of expression.”

It adds that it’s taking a “calm and thoughtful approach” to the demonstration and that safety is top of mind for the school.

UVic says that it expects all discussions to be free of discrimination, harassment, and hate speech, and that campus security may be monitoring the area “out of an abundance of caution.”

“Campus Security is liaising with Saanich and Oak Bay police to support a safe and inclusive environment,” said the university Wednesday.

“We also remind everyone that hate speech and intolerance have no place at VIU,” said the school. “Universities must be safe spaces that support debate where conflicting views can peacefully co-exist.”

The encampments come after McGill University asked Montreal police to dismantle a protest camp at the campus that was set up over the weekend, after protesters refused to leave.

Police vehicles could be seen in the area, but no police were on the campus.

On Monday, Montreal police said they were still considering how to respond.

Meanwhile, at the University of British Columbia, dozens of tents and makeshift barricades have been set up at the campus.

On Monday, B.C. Premier David Eby said he trusted that both the school and students would “find that balance between ensuring students are safe and making sure that atmosphere of free exchange of ideas can continue to take place on campus,” while condemning any form of hate speech.

SEE ALSO: Hate-crime probe: Vancouver woman arrested over speech that praised Hamas attack

With files from The Canadian Press

Adam ChanAdam Chan

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