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Pro-Palestinian activists at their encampment on the McGill University campus, in Montreal on May 1.Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

A Quebec judge rejected a request for an injunction at McGill University on Wednesday that would have cleared an encampment on the downtown Montreal campus, as the school’s administration continued to demand the pro-Palestinian protesters leave.

The McGill protest is among a growing number of encampments at U.S. and Canadian universities where students and faculty have been insisting in recent weeks that their schools cut ties with Israel over the war in Gaza.

Superior Court Justice Chantal Masse ruled that the students who sought the injunction failed to prove that the protests endangered their physical safety or prevented them from attending class.

The students, Gabriel Medvedovsky and Raihaana Adira, were seeking to prevent protests within 100 metres of any McGill building entrance or exit, which would have covered 154 buildings spread across the city’s core.

“The intervention of the courts is sometimes susceptible to being a worse cure than the harm we seek to remedy,” Justice Masse wrote in her decision.

Daniel Schwartz, an assistant professor of German and Russian cinema at McGill who has been involved in pro-Palestinian organizing at the university, said the injunction request was “absurd” and would have barred all protests from downtown Montreal.

A statement from McGill, which did not seek the injunction but was named as an interested party, saluted the judge’s finding that protesters are “illegally occupying” the campus by camping there.

The university has taken the rare step of requesting police help in clearing the encampment. McGill president Deep Saini called on protesters to dismantle their camp immediately in a statement to the university community on Wednesday, promising a forum on their demands if they do.

Montreal police said on X that they were aware the injunction had been rejected and would “carefully analyze the content of the decision.”

Protests began to pop up on other campuses across Canada Wednesday.

At the University of Victoria a group of students launched an encampment and issued the demand that has become common to these protests: that the university divest from companies connected to the Israeli war effort and cut ties with Israeli academic institutions.

They also demanded that protesting students not be subject to any penalties from the university, that police be kept off campus and that UVic president Kevin Hall issue a call for an immediate ceasefire and condemn what they called the genocide of Palestinians.

The UVic administration said that it is taking a “calm and thoughtful” approach to the protest, adding that universities have always been a place for free speech and debate.

At Western University in London, Ont., the administration said Wednesday that a group of protesters had put up tents outside the University Community Centre.

John Doerksen, Western’s vice-provost for students, said the university had initiated a dialogue with protesters, whom he described as “proceeding peacefully,” and informed them that erecting tents on campus is not permitted.

“While dialogue and debate are welcome and encouraged – even on the most difficult topics – Western will not tolerate hate speech,” Dr. Doerksen said.

At the University of Toronto, the faculty association on Wednesday expressed “deep concern” that the administration, in a message to campus from vice-provost students Sandy Welsh over the weekend, is asserting a blanket ban on encampments and building occupations.

The faculty association said in a letter to U of T president Meric Gertler that the university’s position is an “unreasonable, disproportionate, and entirely premature attempt to inhibit the lawful and peaceful exercise of freedom of expression on campus.” It disputes the assertion that university policies contain an unqualified restriction on protests that take the form of encampments or building occupations and called on the university administration to retract its message.

“We want to be clear: one need not have a particular position on Palestine or Israel to find this incursion on the freedom to peacefully protest on campus offensive,” the letter states. “As scholars and educators, we are responsible for creating, rather than foreclosing, spaces for dialogue and change. This is part and parcel of what it means to be a University.”

At the McGill encampment on Wednesday, protesters had laid down wooden pallets to serve as sidewalks over the muddy ground as signs reading “Free Palestine” and “You are funding genocide” hung from the fences surrounding a cluster of a few dozen tents.

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