Skip to content

U of T says pro-Palestinian protesters rejected latest offer

A Palestinian flag flies over the pro-Palestinian encampment set up at the University of Toronto campus, in Toronto, Sunday, May 26, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

TORONTO — Negotiations between the University of Toronto and protesters behind a pro-Palestinian encampment appeared stalled Monday as the school said its latest offer had been rejected and demonstrators accused administrators of not taking the talks seriously.

In a letter posted online, the university said the proposal sent last Thursday offered expedited processes for considering the protesters' demands around divestment of companies profiting from Israel's offensive in Gaza and greater transparency on investments.

Administrators also confirmed the school doesn't have any direct investments in such companies, including any that produce armaments, U of T president Meric Gertler wrote.

U of T has said it will not, however, cut ties with Israeli universities, as protesters have demanded.

"The proposal we have made is commensurate with or more comprehensive than the agreements that have resolved encampments at peer institutions," he said. "Unfortunately, the encampment participants have rejected this proposal."

Gertler said the university has met with protesters about twice a week over the last month and is open to meeting with representatives of the encampment again "when there are productive reasons for doing so." U of T will also continue to pursue an injunction that would allow police to clear the encampment, he said.

Protest organizers noted that despite regular meetings between the two sides, Gertler himself has not participated nor met with any of the students involved.

Instead, the university president has been "sending proxies with no decision-making power in his place," Erin Mackey said in a news conference Monday.

"How can there be any dialogue when there's no dialogue actually occurring?" she asked.

Mackey suggested negotiations could not happen in good faith given the university's request for an injunction. "These negotiations are severely power imbalanced," she said.

Demonstrators also took issue with Gertler's comments on what he called "escalations in online rhetoric and imagery, vandalism, and other disruptive behaviour" related to the encampment.

Sara Rasikh, another spokesperson for the group, said the university's portrayal of the encampment as hateful and disruptive is untrue.

"Portraying our camp as a source of hate or disruption not only makes us less safe, but it also attracts agitators – the same agitators that U of T claims to oppose," Rasikh said.

Students set up the encampment on May 2 to call on the university to cut its ties with Israel over the ongoing war in Gaza.

Protesters said they were joining students at other universities in Canada and the United States in setting up camps to call on their schools to disclose ties with the Israeli government, divest from Israeli companies and terminate partnerships with Israeli academic institutions that operated under parameters they opposed.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 10, 2024.

The Canadian Press

Looking for Ontario News? viewed on a mobile phone

Check out Village Report - the news that matters most to Canada, updated throughout the day.  Or, subscribe to Village Report's free daily newsletter: a compilation of the news you need to know, sent to your inbox at 6AM.