By John Ivison, National Post

Lawyer Kathryn Marshall is intent on showing there are consequences by going after CUPE Ontario president Fred Hahn personally

One of the most troubling aspects of the anti-Israel protests taking place across North America is the sense of impunity exhibited by the protesters: they know there will be no consequences for their actions.

Happily, that may not be the case in the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal application filed by 70 Jewish members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees against CUPE Ontario and its president Fred Hahn.

As I wrote last month in a previous column about the case, the applicants claim they were made to feel “isolated, unwelcome, scared, silenced, discriminated against, threatened and harassed” by the union’s reaction to the October 7 attacks by Hamas. On the day of the attacks, CUPE Local 3906 tweeted: “Palestine is rising, long live the resistance.” The following day, Hahn praised “the power of resistance” on social media.

The union’s statement of defence, filed last month, said CUPE was merely engaged in disagreements over politics, putting it beyond the jurisdiction of the human rights code. In any case, the union said Section 6 of the code, which grants the right of equal treatment to members, does not apply because CUPE Ontario is not a trade union — even though it describes itself on its website as “Ontario’s Community Union” — but the political arm of CUPE National.

Furthermore, it made the claim that Section 46.3 of the code, which holds unions and employers vicariously liable for the behaviour of their officials, protects Hahn from personal liability.

The good news is that the applicants’ lawyer, Kathryn Marshall, is intent on showing there are legal and financial consequences to actions by going after Hahn personally.

The reply to the statement of defence has just been filed and it says that Section 46.3 should not be used to shield Hahn. It says the tribunal and the Ontario Superior Court of Justice have previously held in numerous decisions that Section 46.3 was not intended to shield officers, officials or employees from individual liability. The applicants are seeking $500,000 in damages from CUPE and Hahn.

Two weeks after he first tweeted the message at issue, and posted an image on Instagram saying “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” Hahn issued an apology of sorts. He said the October 8 tweet was “an error” and acknowledged that it caused pain among CUPE’s membership.

Yet, the applicants’ reply makes clear that Hahn has “doubled down” on his position, standing side by side at rallies with individuals who have been calling for the death of the Jewish people.

“As recently as the week of April 24th, Mr. Hahn shouted into a microphone at a rally: ‘We will live to see the end of apartheid Israel’,” the reply states.

The reply seeks to establish that CUPE’s elected officials, including Hahn, have failed in their duty to ensure the minority members of their organization were not discriminated against by the majority.

But more broadly, it raises questions about why public sector unions are so obsessed with Israel’s destruction. If I were a senior-level youth worker in Ontario, earning $70,000 before taxes, I would be asking questions about where my nearly $1,000 in annual union dues were being spent.

As the reply by the applicants states, nothing in CUPE Ontario’s statement of defence provides an explanation as to what the union’s singular focus on Israel has to do with labour relations in Ontario.

“There is no nexus between what is happening in the Middle East and labour relations in Ontario. The only explanation is that the respondents’ obsessive focus on Israel is indeed founded in anti-Semitism,” the applicants’ reply says.

The union was back in the news this week, pledging unwavering support for the anti-Israel encampment established at the University of Toronto. Hahn was front and centre, wearing a keffiyeh, a Palestinian scarf, as his union rejected the university administration’s right to eject protesters from its private property on the basis that the U of T campus is “stolen land.”

Keffiyehs are now the cultural appropriation of choice for leftists, including CUPE Local 905 president Katherine Grzejszczak, who wore one during a video meeting with members to discuss remote-working policies, as National Post recently reported. One fellow union member who raised objections to the keffiyeh was told participants were not allowed to talk about anything political. When the Post reporter called Grzejszczak for comment, she said that “intimidating and harassing individuals for wearing traditional cultural clothing is a form of racism.”

At least CUPE is not yet on record as threatening its critics with violence. But a communications officer with the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, Vic Wojciechowski, recently warned U of T professor Kevin Bryan to watch his back after Bryan penned a thread saying the majority of protesters he talked to on his campus were neither students nor affiliated with the university. “There need to be street-brd consequences for clumsy buffoons like Kevin,” Wojciechowski tweeted.

This kind of thuggery seems to be where we are heading.

The CUPE-supported rally at the U of T sported a huge banner that bore the legend: “Long live legal armed resistance.” This wording is a variation of the aforementioned tweet on October 7 by CUPE Local 3906, which represents academic workers at McMaster University. That tweet was later taken down because the union said it was not aware of the full scope of the situation on the ground.

The reality was that the massive expression of revulsion across the country shocked even the ivory tower revolutionaries into rethinking their support for slaughter.

But we seem to be inured to such outrages. Students and their public sector union allies can now parade across campuses inciting and glorifying violence without fear of repercussions or even censure.