Source: Canadian Union of Public Employees

CUPE Ontario president Fred Hahn claims he did not discriminate against his Jewish members when he posted on X the day after the brutal atrocities of Oct. 7 that he was grateful for the “power of resistance around the globe.”

In his long-awaited response — some 93 pages — to a human rights complaint by more than 80 Jewish members against the long-time union boss, Hahn says he just has a “different view” than the Jewish complainants do.

Those complainants were also disturbed by Hahn’s Instagram post on Oct. 8 in which he included the chant, “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free.”

That chant has long been considered a call to eradicate the Jewish state.

Hahn “welcomes, supports, accommodates and celebrates” their Jewish members, the defence states, and maintains that expressing criticism of Israel as a state is “not discriminatory.”

CUPE’s response comes four months after dozens of Jewish CUPE union members signed on to a series of human rights complaints claiming antisemitism from CUPE Ontario, its president Fred Hahn and union local 3906, which oversees bargaining for teaching assistants, research assistants, sessional faculty and postdoctoral fellows at McMaster University.

Hahn issued a half-hearted apology on Oct. 21 in which he stated his social media posts became a “giant lightning rod for legitimate anger and bad faith actors with a divisive agenda.”

He indicated in the apology that, while he condemns the Hamas attack on Israel, the retribution by the Jewish state was “disproportionate.”

Even before the IDF assault on Gaza really began, Hahn called for an immediate ceasefire and expressed grave concern about the “humanitarian crisis unfolding in Gaza.”

His anti-Israel tweets have continued unabated since then, suggesting he has doubled down.

Lawyer Kathryn Marshall, who is leading the human rights complaint, said last fall her clients are also demanding accountability from a union they say has been engaged in antisemitism for many years.

But in his response Hahn claims the union’s positions on Israel and Palestine were “developed over years through democratic processes” — resolutions brought forward, debated and voted on through a democratic process by delegates at CUPE conventions.

The response also says that CUPE is a “democratically run organization” which has other avenues to address disagreement regarding issues of social, political or academic debate.”

What the response doesn’t say, of course, is that all opposition has either been ignored or cancelled outright. It does say that Hahn has been re-elected president seven times since 2010 and posts about “many social justice issues.”

In fact, the response says the Oct. 8 tweet was not about “Palestine and Israel” or the (horrific) violence, but rather a general comment about “injustice and oppression.”

”(It) was one of the many tweets by Hahn about the power of workers, fighting for justice and resistance to or rising up against injustice and oppression,” Hahn’s response says, contending that he’d tweeted at least 36 times about the “power” of workers, resistance, and the need to “rise up” in the six months prior to Oct. 7.

As for the “River to the Sea,” CUPE’s response claims that phrase is also not antisemitic—that it is a “protest slogan with use rooted in Palestinian expressions for “liberation, freedom and equality” and in the “struggle to challenge Israel’s colonisation and military occupation.”

He insists it is not a “call for death or violence to Israelis or Jewish people.”

Not only are these claims insulting, but Hahn must think we’re all really really stupid.

Hahn’s response also maintains that expressing support for the Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment movement against Israel is “not rooted in anti-Semitism.

”It is a non-violent movement that aims to apply international pressure for Israel to comply with international law,” the response says. “It is a non-violent protest against states.”

The response does not say against which other states CUPE also engages in BDS actions.

Hahn’s response also says calling for a “just peace” is not discriminatory.

Marshall says the defence illustrates how “deeply ingrained” anti-Semitism is in CUPE.

”It’s a disturbing, long-winded manifesto of CUPE’s discrimination towards its Jewish members,” she says.

”There is no acknowledgement of the pain and trauma they have inflicted on their members.. instead they are doubling down.”

She says they’re prepared to fight all the way.

What the response and the human rights claim also proves is how far CUPE Ontario has deviated from its real mission to ensure members are well represented in bargaining and in grievances with the employer.

Instead this has taken a back seat to social justice and fighting battles that have nothing to do with its members in Ontario.


  • Sue-Ann Levy

    A two-time investigative reporting award winner and nine-time winner of the Toronto Sun’s Readers Choice award for news writer, Sue-Ann Levy made her name for advocating the poor, the homeless, the elderly in long-term care and others without a voice and for fighting against the striking rise in anti-Semitism and the BDS movement across Canada.