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uOttawa staff to meet with pro-Palestinian encampment organizers this week


Organizers for a pro-Palestinian encampment at the University of Ottawa say the school's administrators, including the chief investment officer, have agreed to meet with them as the demonstration enters its second week.

On May 1, a group of students launched a demonstration in front of uOttawa's Tabaret Hall, calling on the institution to cut financial ties with Israel. Organizers had been seeking a meeting with the administration, but after those calls fell flat, students decided to set up tents on the lawn in protest.

The encampment is part of a wider wave of similar protests seen across university campuses denouncing Israel's offensive in Gaza that followed the Oct. 7 Hamas attack. Hundreds of uOttawa students and about 70 tents remain on the lawn where organized speeches, chants and marches have been taking place.

A list of demands imposed on University of Ottawa hangs outside the encampment. May 13, 2024 (Sam Houpt/CTV News)

The university has not commented on the encampment since the protests began, but said in a statement on May 1 that it was "committed to protecting the freedom of expression from all members."

On Sunday, the student group Integrity Not Spite Against Falastin (INSAF) said in a social media post that the university had agreed to speak with the group in organized sessions scheduled for this week.

"On Friday, May 10, we received an email from the uOttawa administration accepting our repeated calls for a meeting," the Instagram post read. "We will be meeting with the secretary general, Annick Bergeron and the chief investment officer, Francois Dionne."

An email by the university sent to organizers says a pre-discussion meeting with four INSAF representative will take place on Monday, while a formal structured meeting is scheduled for Wednesday.

"As we have continuously reiterated, our focus will remain on the genocide in Gaza and we expect that the university responds to our demands for divestment promptly," INSAF wrote on Instagram.

CTV News has reached out to uOttawa for more details, but has not heard back.

Pro-Palestinian messaging is power-washed off Tabaret Hall on May 13, 2024 (Sam Houpt/CTV News)

"Monday, we will talk about the structure of our meeting and Wednesday we will talk about the demands again," INSAF president Sumayya Kheireddine told CTV News Ottawa's Jackie Perez on Sunday.

"We're going to be listening very carefully to what they say at the meeting and we are going to be reacting appropriately and it means we're going to stay until we are satisfied with the outcome of the meetings."

"Honestly, my hopes aren't too high, but I think we can make something work."

INSAF representative Alex Beyrouti said Monday that people are still very motivated. 

"It feels kind of like a stalling meeting from the university to see if they can negotiate down from what we wanted in our demands," she said. "The university did commit to the second meeting, so I'm optimistic that INSAF will stay strong. We plan to stay here all summer if we have to."

A social media post by INSAF lists various companies it claims are part of the intuition's investments in Israel, including Airbus, Scotiabank, Blackrock Inc., Estee Lauder and Cisco Systems Inc.

Israel ordered new evacuations in Gaza's southern city of Rafah over the weekend, forcing tens of thousands more people to leave as it prepared to expand its military operation deeper into what is considered Gaza’s last refuge, in defiance of growing pressure from close ally the United States and others.

Israel’s bombardment and ground offensives have killed more than 34,800 Palestinians, mostly women and children, according to Gaza's Health Ministry, which doesn't distinguish between civilians and combatants in its figures. Israel blames Hamas for civilian casualties, accusing it of embedding in densely populated residential areas.

The Chabad Student Network says Jewish students continue to be intimidated by the anti-Israeli messaging at the encampment.

Jewish students say they continue to be intimidated by the anti-Israeli messaging on display at the encampment. (Sam Houpt/CTV News Ottawa)

"It's a very, very false narrative making Jewish students extremely uncomfortable," said network co-director Rabbi Chaim Boyarsky. "I don't believe they're going to divest from Israel - it would be a slap on the face for the Jewish community.

"While I welcome the dialogue, I always welcome it in a peaceful fashion, not through hate and through intimidation."

With files from The Associated Press and CTV News Ottawa's Jackie Perez and Sam Houpt Top Stories

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