The union representing Carleton University teaching assistants is facing criticism for a statement defending Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre as “retaliatory escalation” against “settler-colonial systemic violence and oppression.”

The statement from CUPE 4600, which represents teaching assistants, internally-funded research assistants, and contract instructors is being condemned as “heartless and reprehensible” by the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, which says the remarks are just the latest in “a worrying pattern of pro-Hamas views” from CUPE unions.

“CUPE 4600 stands firmly in solidarity with the Palestinian people in their ongoing struggle for liberation,” reads the statement published by the union on Jan. 31. “We reject any conflation of the support for Palestinian life with the condoning of violence against civilians or antisemitism.”

The union then goes on to rationalize the Oct. 7 terrorist attack that killed over 1100 people, including children, and perpetrated sexual violence against women. 

“We recognize that the events of Oct. 7 are a retaliatory escalation against the current and long history of settler-colonial systemic violence and oppression in historic Palestine against the Palestinian people,” the union said.

“CUPE 4600 understands that in order to cease the continuous and tragic loss of life, the root cause of violent Israeli settler-colonialism must be addressed. We recognize that decolonization is not a metaphor and must be enacted through the repatriation of Indigenous land and life.”

In a statement to True North, CIJA vice-president for external affairs Richard Marceau said “there is no justification for the kidnapping, raping, and burning alive of innocent children, women, and men.”

Marceau accused CUPE 4600 of being “willfully ignorant” and called on Carleton University to denounce the union.  

“Hamas represents the exact opposite of Canadian values, and we’re disgusted by CUPE 4600’s heartless and reprehensible statement,” he said. “Jewish students, faculty, and staff can’t possibly feel safe in institutions whose unions are publicly siding with a terror group with a stated mission to annihilate all Jews.”

The union claimed that “humanitarian justice” requires the “liberation of Palestine.”

“The workers’ struggle and the struggle for liberation are inseparable,” its statement said. “Like all peoples of the world, Palestinians have fundamental rights to freedom, justice, and equality. As trade unionists, we are compelled to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for liberation, just as unions and workers did in the struggle for liberation from apartheid in South Africa.”

CUPE 4600 also accused Canada of having attempted genocide against Indigenous peoples. 

“We recognize that the genocide of Indigenous peoples on Turtle Island and in historic Palestine is inextricable. Canada is complicit in both as a colonial power embedded in the histories and development of settler-colonialism and as a current source of financial, political, and material support for Israel’s crimes.”

Marceau added that “it’s long past time for universities and CUPE themselves to publicly denounce and condemn these abhorrent views and get back to providing a safe and inclusive learning space for all students.”

Several CUPE unions, as well as CUPE leadership, have been under fire for anti-Zionist activities since the Oct. 7 attack.

As previously reported by True North, York University’s CUPE 3902 union released an anti-Israel “toolkit” that suggested members join the campus-wide teach-ins on Palestine and develop teaching materials, based on the resources provided, to indoctrinate students.

McMaster’s CUPE Local 3906 sparked controversy after it praised Hamas’ so-called “resistance” against Israel shortly after the Oct. 7 massacre. 

CUPE Ontario president Fred Hahn, meanwhile, expressed support for a Palestinian phrase commonly acknowledged as calling for the destruction of Israel and said on Thanksgiving saying he was “grateful” for “resistance.” He later apologized for that post. 

Twenty-five CUPE Ontario members filed a human rights complaint against the union and Hahn last November, alleging that their actions promoted “violence and discrimination against Jewish people.”
Neither CUPE 4600 nor Carleton University responded to True North’s request for comment.