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U of A fires Sexual Assault Centre director for signing letter questioning claims of sexual violence against Israelis


The University of Alberta has fired the director of its Sexual Assault Centre over a pro-Palestinian open letter, which calls into question reports of sexual violence against Israeli citizens.

The University's President and Vice-chancellor Bill Flanagan said in a statement Saturday that the centre's director was "no longer employed by the university."

The termination comes after the centre was included as a signatory on an open letter that includes a statement condemning NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh for repeating "the unverified accusation that Palestinians were guilty of sexual violence."

The Jewish Federation of Edmonton posted on social media Friday about the endorsement of the letter. It said the petition alleges that Hamas terrorists did not rape or sexually assault Israelis during the Oct. 7 terrorist attack.

"Shouldn’t a sexual assault centre believe all victims, and not just the non-Jewish ones?" The federation wrote in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Saturday evening, the Jewish Federation of Edmonton responded to the firing.

"We didn't ask or tell the university how they should address that specific issue," said the federation's director Ellery Lew. "But having said that, I think it was necessary under the circumstances for the university to send a strong message that they did not condone, and rather they condemn, this kind of behaviour," said Ellery Lew, director of the federation.

The Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton (SACE) posted to X on Saturday, thanking the university for taking action.

"All survivors of sexual violence deserve to be believed and supported. Full stop," wrote SACE CEO Mary Jane James.

Flanagan said the former director improperly used the University of Alberta's Sexual Assault Centre's name in endorsing the letter and was not authorized to do so.

"I want to be clear that the former employee’s personal views and opinions do not in any way represent those of the University of Alberta," Flanagan's statement read.

"I understand that this event has been profoundly hurtful and may have compromised the trust of individuals in our community," he continued. "I also recognize the significant potential negative impact given the critical nature of the centre’s work.

"On behalf of the university, I apologize for the hurt and distress this issue has caused members of our community and beyond."

Lew said it's rare for institutions like universities to respond so quickly and decisively, and the dismissal is a positive step. However, he said it doesn't resolve other issues around antisemitism on campus. 

"There are others who signed this letter that are troubling, including four lecturers at the University of Alberta," he said, adding it's worrying to see other academics and Canadian politicians having also endorsed the letter. 

The university has appointed a new interim director of the Sexual Assault Centre, but has not released any other details.

The press release from the University of Alberta did not mention any of the other staff whose names and affiliations with the university appear on the open letter. Top Stories

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