B’nai Brith Canada is calling on the Canadian government to investigate a “troubling hiring process” at the University of Toronto (U of T) involving an international academic accused of ties to extremist groups.
“Last year, the university’s law school sought to hire Valentina Azarova, a controversial academic based in Germany, to lead the prestigious International Human Rights Program (IHRP),” said B’nai Brith in a statement. “B’nai Brith strongly objected to the hiring after reports emerged of Azarova’s disturbing connections to organizations affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a designated terrorist entity by the Government of Canada.”
B’nai Brith noted that there were numerous objections from individuals and groups due to “the academic’s unsavoury connections.” However, the University of Toronto continued the hiring process for Azarova, despite what the advocacy group said was potential violations of immigration law – “notably the Immigration and Refugee Protections Act and Regulations.”
Saying they were concerned that “the most recent search process [by U of T] played fast and loose with Canadian immigration requirements,” B’nai Brith Senior Legal Counsel David Matas issued a letter addressed to Canada’s minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship.
“This was not an attempt to comply with Canadian law; it was rather an attempt to circumvent it,” Matas said.
B’nai Brith has called upon the government to “express concern” about the way the hiring process took place.
Matas wrote in the letter: “In particular, we suggest that the Ministry state that it was inappropriate” for the Faculty of Law to “indicate publicly that they had reached out to Ms. Azarova to let her know that the application for the position had been reopened but stated nothing similar about reaching out to the Canadians who had applied previously for the position”; for the Canadian Association of University Teachers to censure U of T for rejecting the recommendation to hire Azarova when there were qualified Canadians and to continue to maintain the censure; for U of T when re-advertising the position to “indicate that the qualifications of Canadian candidates would be assessed, without a similar indication for foreign candidates, implying that the qualifications of Ms. Azarova”; and for U of T to “change the job requirements from the original advertisement by removing a requirement that Ms. Azarova did not meet, that the applicant be qualified to practice law in Ontario or, at least, another jurisdiction.”
Matas called upon the minister to conduct an investigation to confirm the statements made in the letter and in a previous letter.
“The government of Canada should be concerned not only when an attempt to circumvent federal law is presented to the government for approval,” Matas said. “The Government should be concerned even before the attempt gets that far, once the effort to circumvent the law is undertaken and becomes public. We ask the Government to make clear to U of T, its Faculty of Law and CAUT that what did happen should not have happened.”
In March, U of T’s law school was cleared of allegations that it acted inappropriately in not hiring Azarova in the first instance. The report concluded she was not hired due to the fact that she was not a Canadian citizen or resident.