Jewish members of an Ontario public sector are pushing back against what they see as antisemitism and systemic discrimination in the leadership.

Twenty-five Jewish members of CUPE Ontario have filed a human rights complaint against the union and its president, Fred Hahn.

The complaint, filed by lawyer Kathryn Marshall, comes in the wake of remarks Hahn made after Hamas’ October 7 terrorist attack against Israel, seemingly praising it as “resistance.” 

Among the points of contention, union members took issue with Hahn’s post on X (formerly Twitter) in which he expressed gratitude for the “power of resistance around the globe.” 

The complaint also alleges that Hahn posted a picture to Instagram parroting the chant “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” an inflammatory chant calling for the elimination of the state of Israel and its citizens from the Jordan river to the Mediterranean Sea. 

The complaint also addresses CUPE 3906’s now-deleted X post praising Hamas’ attack against Israeli civilians on October 7.

“In posting these comments, the Respondents were celebrating the murder and rape of Jewish children and civilians, calling it justified and promoting violence and discrimination against Jewish people,” reads the complaint.

In a comment to True North, Hahn said he has not seen a copy of the complaint, but affirmed CUPE Ontario’s commitment to human rights.

“CUPE Ontario hasn’t seen the complaint and therefore can’t speak to the allegations made,” said Hahn.

“However, our union understands the fundamental importance of human rights and we take these matters very seriously. We firmly believe there has been no violation of Ontario’s Human Rights Code and in any forum we will be happy to stand on our record of fighting discrimination and oppression in all their forms.”

Beyond CUPE Ontario’s comments expressing solidarity for Hamas’ attack on Israelis, the complaint also alleges a “long pattern” of hostility towards Jewish members of the union.

Hahn is alleged to have told Jewish members that he doesn’t believe Jewish people should live in Israel and that Jews “stole” the land from Palestinians. 

The allegations have not been tested in court or a tribunal.

Meanwhile, CUPE Ontario is alleged to have deliberately excluded any education about Jewish people or antisemitism in policies and documents despite Jewish union members having raised the problem with the union repeatedly. 

Five policy resolutions that CUPE had passed were deemed to be antisemitic, including a resolution accusing Israel of “illegally occupying” Palestinian land, one firmly opposing the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism, and a one supporting the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction movement against Israel.

The complaint also alleges that CUPE Ontario held a seminar titled “Solidarity with Palestinian People and Workers and the BDS Movement” in which Hahn gave remarks in support of the resolution that called on the Canadian government to exert pressure on Israel and support the BDS movement.

Among the other instances of alleged antisemitism, the complaint lists the promotion of misinformation about Israel and Jewish people in an effort to spread antisemitism, a failure to address antisemitism against Jewish union members, and silencing Jewish union members at a CUPE Ontario convention.

The complainants say that the CUPE Ontario has made them feel “isolated, unwelcome, scared,

silenced, discriminated against, threatened and harassed.” These complaints were allegedly expressed to president Hahn on numerous occasions but no reprieve was given.