Canada’s McGill University ends talks with pro-Palestinian protesters

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McGill University, one of Canada’s top schools, has given up on negotiating a resolution with pro-Palestinian protesters who’ve been camped on its south lawn for more than 50 days, and plans to pursue court action against them instead.

President Deep Saini said the university’s latest bid to end the encampment peacefully was rejected by protest organizers. The Montreal-based institution had offered “limited disciplinary amnesty” to students and staff who have participated in the encampment, which began on the last weekend in April.

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In an email, Saini said it has become clear that “no fruitful outcome” will result from talks with the protesters.

“The university will pursue disciplinary processes against individuals participating in the encampment to the full extent outlined in our policies,” he wrote, without giving specifics.

McGill may also pursue legal action for damages, he added.

The university tried and failed to get a court injunction against the encampment last month, and is scheduled to try again in July.

Encampment organizers have adopted a strategy of escalation in recent weeks.

On May 31, protesters targeted a building donated by Israeli-Canadian philanthropist Sylvan Adams. The planned sports science institute, which is still under construction, was briefly occupied, and organizers called on their supporters to “dismantle this site by any means necessary.”

On June 6, protesters entered an administration building and took over a third-floor office, leading to a confrontation with police outside and multiple arrests. In his letter, Saini references other “unacceptable incidents,” such as the targeting of staff at their homes and the hanging of an effigy of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

McGill will voluntarily take some actions that protesters want, including exploring whether it should divest from weapons manufacturers and increasing its disclosure of smaller investments. The university already reveals any direct equity and fixed-income holdings above C$500,000 ($364,000), Saini wrote.

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