University of Toronto community calls for an end to military recruitment on campus
Toronto - University of Toronto students and allies braved the weather on Wednesday to protest a recruitment session for the Department of National Defence hosted by the University’s Career Centre. A petition in circulation since last Saturday has attracted over 300 signatures, among them dozens belonging to faculty members. Signatories included former Canadian Senator the Hon. Lois M. Wilson and renowned scholar, author, and peace advocate Ursula Franklin.
The reality of recruitment efforts on campus raises serious concerns for those who see connections between profligate spending on state defence and the privatization and chronic underfunding of post-secondary education. “The Canadian government has made defence into a priority,” says Jacob Nerenberg, one of the demonstration’s organizers. “With funding, the military can then draw in students that are struggling to pay for school. Places of learning become feeding grounds for the military, rather than safe and independent spaces where the critical exchange of ideas can take place.”
The dozens that attended the demonstration were also concerned about the role that Canadian Forces have played in violations of human rights. “Thousands of civilians are being killed in Afghanistan every year as a result of the war and Afghan MP Malalai Joya has stated that the Karzai government is just a photocopy of the Taliban. Yet, Canadian soldiers are purportedly there in the name of security and democracy. At the same time, Canada’s military is responsible for the increased militarization that Haiti has experienced since last year’s earthquake,” says Daniel Vandervoort, External Commissioner at the Graduate Students’ Union at the University of Toronto. Vandervoort adds that the University’s decision to put resources into recruiting students to become military personnel betrays its stated commitment to the “vigilant protection of human rights,” embedded in the University’s Statement of Institutional Purpose.
Organizers of Wednesday’s demonstration have called for the University of Toronto administration to declare the campus a military-free zone. They are encouraging the community at large to join them in opposing the planned talk by Brigadier-General Jonathan Vance that the University’s Munk Centre will host on February 15th. The University of Toronto Career Centre has agreed to develop a set of guidelines against which invitations to potential employers can be measured.