Student protesters in Concordia will have to wait before being reunited with one of the university’s most radical activists.
Yves Engler, former Concordia Student Union (CSU) Vice-President, has been denied an appeal to overturn his five-year expulsion for protesting on campus. The Supreme Court refused to hear the bid.
Engler violated a university moratorium against tabling when he set up an anti-globalization booth in the downtown Hall building in October 2002, earning a semester suspension. Engler broke the terms of the punishment by entering the campus, thus extending the initial sentence. Later, the terms of this extended suspension were also broken when he attended a CSU meeting on campus, prompting him to be expulsed.
The moratorium against tabling was instated after the September 9th protest against former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu got out of hand and ended in a riot. Engler’s participation in the protest earned him two official complaints, just one month before his first suspension. The tabling ban was designed to give supporters on both sides of the Israel/Palestine conflict a period to cool off. Engler disregarded this and said that if people felt stifled, tensions would only rise.
The student body seemed to support the protester, gathering to escort him to a Middle East politics exam the day after the suspension. The incidents caused a rift between the CSU and university officials, with officials regarding the student organization as “anarchists,” while the university had been called “tyrannical.”
Many students believed that since Engler had trespassed, the police had every right to arrest him. Others, like former CSU President Natalie Pomerleau, said they “believed he has the right to be here [the CSU meeting].”
Nonetheless, the decision to block Engler stuck.
Outside of school, Engler hasn’t been keeping his political opinions quiet. This June he was charged with disrupting the peace when he dumped a bucket of red paint on Foreign Affairs Minister Peter Pettigrew in protest of Canada’s involvement in Haiti. A court-issued restraining order now prohibits Engler from coming within 200 metres of Pettigrew.
Activism has defined Engler, earning him the title of “one of Canada’s most well-known student radicals.” Aside from physical protesting, Engler has also written for many presses, both alternative and mainstream, on his views of everything from foreign affairs to health care. He has also co-written two novels with Anthony Fenton on Canada’s Haitian involvement and on student activism.