Court petition fails, referendum on BDS to go forward next week

The BC Supreme Court has ruled against a petition filed by UBC student Logan Presch, and is allowing the BDS referendum question to be put forward on Monday.

“The final ruling was that the AMS was in the correct jurisdiction in ruling that the question was answerable in a yes-or-no fashion and acted in line with our bylaws and code of procedures,” said AMS President Ava Nasiri.

In a written statement, Presch’s lawyer, Howard Mickelson, noted that “the intention of a yes vote may be unclear and may be problematic for the AMS to act on, [but] the Bylaws do not require that a question be fair as long as it can be answered yes or no.”

“The court recognized that ... the question was loaded or intended to lead to a certain answer,” he wrote. “The standard for a qualifying question is a low one.”

The referendum question being put forward is as follows: “Do you support your student union (AMS) in boycotting products and divesting from companies that support Israeli war crimes, illegal occupation and the oppression of Palestinians?”

The petition put forward by Presch argued that the question is “divisive, creates a toxic atmosphere for students supportive of the state of Israel and is destructive of open and respectful debate on an important issue.”

According to Mickelson, the court “recognized the concerns for student safety.”

“[The court acknowledged] that it [is] the responsibility of the AMS and UBC to ensure student safety and respectful debate by all means necessary,” he wrote.

The referendum is a part of the global BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement, which calls for an end to Israeli occupation in West Bank and Gaza, and support for the rights of Palestinian refugees and Palestinians currently living in Israel. 

Voting will be happening between April 3 and 7 of next week. The question was originally supposed to be posed to UBC students earlier — either during AMS Elections or the weeks following — but was postponed due to this petition as it awaited a ruling.

This article has been updated to include comment from Howard Mickelson.