CAPS Statement on Gaza, McGill Strike, and Congress 2024

Students for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) McGill have urged a boycott of Congress at McGill this year. CAPS is working diligently on the possibility of holding its conference offsite, as well as expanded options for virtual participation. Part of our decision, as we have communicated to our members, is derived from our solidarity with McGill Law faculty currently on strike, but it is also an effort to emphasize our dissatisfaction with McGill’s treatment of student protesters. We note that we are responding as best as we can as the event approaches. We thank our members for their patience as we revise our plans at this late hour, and wish to communicate the following in solidarity with the students:

The Canadian Association for Postcolonial Studies denounces the actions taken by McGill University on May 13, 2024 in response to the student encampment on its campus. After one injunction seeking the removal of students had already been rejected, McGill sought a similar injunction from the Quebec Superior Court that would see the Montreal Police (SVPM) remove students. We breathe a collective sigh of relief that McGill’s efforts failed, because we have seen the consequences of these actions at Columbia University, the University of Calgary, and the University of Alberta. Those of us who remember the police violence against students in Montreal in 2012 and 2015 know that requesting the involvement of the SVPM to remove peaceful demonstrations is a decisive endorsement of violence that we cannot support.

The students in the encampment have collectively demanded that their institutions: 

  1. Disclose “all investments in companies complicit in the genocide of the Palestinian people.”
  2. Divest “from all complicit companies and cut all academic ties with Israeli institutions.”
  3. Defend student’ right to protest by guaranteeing “No repercussions or disciplinary charges for any actions taken by students of McGill and Concordia university in support of Palestine” as well as dropping “Pending disciplinary charges.”
  4. Declare their condemnation of “the ongoing genocide against the Palestinian people and [call] on the Canadian government to cease all military contracts with the Zionist state.”

The encampment’s members add their voices to a long line of critics of Israel’s actions in Palestine at this urgent time. We recognize that the language of genocide has been divisive, but we also note that this term has long faced opposition when what it describes is presently occurring, often only being acknowledged in retrospect. It is not a term that can be explained away in this case, being “plausible” even in the cautious rhetoric of the International Court of Justice. Regardless of divergent opinions on terminology, we emphasize that students’ demands use the terms voiced by several widely recognized scholars of genocide, as well as international and human rights organizations. We emphasize that, whatever terminology we use, the unbridled massacre being committed against Palestinian people by the Israeli military is a war crime, deserves unequivocal condemnation, and must be stopped now; the fact that contestations of terminology are being used to distract from the processes taking place only speaks to the widespread devaluation of Palestinian lives in our discourse. In this light, CAPS supports students’ efforts to make visible our higher education institutions’ complicity in the violence currently taking place.

We oppose the war crimes currently being committed against Gazans, and join the students in calling our institutions of higher education to account. We also add the following statement declaring our position on the current conflict, which we will edit in consultation with our members in the coming weeks.


Over the past few decades, the field of postcolonial studies has actively engaged in analyses of the Israel-Palestine conflict. This substantial body of research has highlighted the political, ethical, and cultural complexities of ongoing tensions in the region, in particular documenting the Israeli state’s occupation of the Palestinian Occupied Territories (POT). For our members, many of whose research is informed by decolonial perspectives, this situation demands ethical responses that extend the discourse of decolonization and resistance from theoretical discussions to tangible, material realities.

As the elected executive of the Canadian Association for Postcolonial Studies (CAPS), we are vehemently opposed to the massacre and displacement being perpetrated on Gazans by the Israeli state.  Several have called this a genocide; whatever our association members’ differences are regarding this terminology (and we will update this statement following consultation at our AGM), the facts are clear: we write this as an unpredictable situation unfolds, so information will no-doubt change in the coming days, weeks, and months, but current estimates report 35,000 Palestinians slain and over 78,000 missing, with most of these being civilians. There is no way to describe this as a war of self-defense, as if that would excuse the death toll. While we denounce any attacks on civilians whether they be Palestinian or Israeli, call for the return of Israeli hostages by Hamas, and denounce responses to the current conflict grounded in antisemitism, we also acknowledge the longstanding violence committed by the Israeli state, from the ongoing Nakba, to the occupation of Palestinian lands, to its institutionalized racial segregation. We also affirm that criticizing the Israeli state is not a form of antisemitism, and our institutions of higher education need to keep this in mind when making allegations of antisemitism against scholars and students opposing the war. 

While affirming that criticism of the Israeli state’s violence is not a form of antisemitism, we condemn antisemitic responses to the current conflict that have targeted Jewish or Israeli civilians across the globe. We oppose the forms of discrimination converging during this conflict, whether antisemitism, anti-Palestinian racism, or Islamophobia. We fully recognize the worsening conditions faced by many civilians in the region and believe that these grave circumstances must be addressed with urgency and empathy. Nonetheless, we join many critical voices stressing that it is possible and necessary to condemn Hamas’s killing of more than 1,400 civilians while also noting Israel’s longstanding occupation of Palestinian territories and violence toward its citizens; Hamas’s violent attack cannot and does not justify the current massacre of Gazan civilians, nor the long history of Israel’s violence against Palestinian peoples. 

As an executive committee representing researchers in anticolonial, decolonial, and postcolonial studies, we also affirm that our field demands vigilant attention to this situation, and that many researchers in our association are uniquely positioned to offer critical and vital commentary amid the urgency the current violence involves.

We oppose incitements to the violent harm of civilians while also recognizing the often-unacknowledged violence of settler colonialism that has long been a facet of the Israel-Palestine conflict. This history is well established, with multiple human rights organizations from Human Rights Watch, to Amnesty International, to B’tselem, as well as several UN reports, citing war crimes, dispossession of Palestinian land, strict control over access to vital resources, and racial segregation perpetuated by the state of Israel and opposed by many within Israel, Palestine, and the rest of the world. We believe that as full a picture as possible of this history is necessary if we are to adequately respond to the current violence.

And yet we note that informed commentary on this conflict has been met with fierce opposition and silencing by governments and university administrations across what many call Canada, as well as many influential voices in the national media landscape. CAPS acknowledges the crucial intersectionality between academic research, activism, and humanitarian response, and the importance of scholarly contributions in illuminating the intricacies of the Israel-Palestine conflict. As the conflict has seen 105 journalists (100 Palestinian) and 254 aid workers in Gaza killed, compromising accurate and immediate reportage on the conflict, informed and ethical responses are necessary. With this and the current landscape of higher education’s treatment of Palestinian voices and issues, we also denounce the inadequacy of our institutions’ handling of conversation on this conflict, their refusal to acknowledge the value of Palestinian lives, their refusal to acknowledge the gravity of the violence being directed at Gazan civilians, and their criminalization of student protesters rallying in support of Gaza across North American campuses. These are egregious failures and a chilling reminder of the stifling of academic freedom in our institutions of higher education.

We insist on the importance of teaching and research on the history of this region (as well as the Canadian state’s implication in it) in offering empathetic and informed responses. We note that understanding the current violence must also reckon with the history of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory, as well as European powers’ destructive role in the region. 

We affirm the efforts of those peacefully gathering in our communities, campuses, classrooms, and streets to shed light on the current violence and its history. We are heartened by the efforts of our colleagues, students, and community members who—even in disagreement—are dedicated to engaging rather than silencing accurate research, discussion, and calls to end the current violence. We note that our students especially have had to undertake this labour with little support—and in some cases with outright violence and coercion—from their university administrations. We wholeheartedly condemn university administrations’ recent incitements to violence when they have asked police to remove student protests.

As an association, CAPS stands firm in its commitment to freedom of speech and academic freedom, supporting faculty, researchers, activists, and students in their pursuit of truth and advocacy for human rights and social justice. We firmly reject any attempts to censor voices that speak out against the violations of international laws occurring in the POT and Gaza. Our conviction is that scholarship and activism are integral to the global fight for a more equitable and just world, and to bringing an end to the violence currently taking place.