An Ontario student association has apologized to a pro-Israel advocacy organization that was barred from a campus event last year.
In a statement posted this week on its website, the student association of Durham College and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) said it regretted its decision to block the participation of Hasbara Fellowships Canada.
Robert Walker, Hasbara Fellowships' director for Canada, was turned away when he tried to participate in an information fair to which various other community groups had been invited during the school's Social Justice Week in the spring of 2016.
"The SA sincerely apologizes to Mr. Walker and Hasbara," the statement said. "The SA aims to promote healthy debate on campus and rejects discrimination of any kind, including against Israeli students or community members."
The student association also said it would welcome the group at a future campus multicultural event.
The apology was part of a negotiated settlement after Hasbara Fellowships complained to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.
"Hasbara Fellowships is very pleased with the results ... what a difference a year makes," Mr. Walker said in an interview on Thursday, adding that he welcomed the change of tone from the student association.
He would not say whether the $50,000 in compensation his complaint requested was part of the settlement.
The student association is in the midst of a major restructuring. It has been placed in receivership as it splits into two separate organizations to represent the diverging needs of different student bodies at UOIT and Durham College.
The human-rights complaint was significant enough to be mentioned in a note in the student association's audited financial statements as having a potential impact.
Contacted by The Globe and Mail, the student association's general manager referred inquiries to the court-appointed receiver, Bill Aziz, who was not immediately available for comment.
In its apology, the student association said the planning committee of the Social Justice Week wrongly thought the association had ratified a boycott campaign against Israel.
When Mr. Walker initially sought to participate in the fair, he was told in a March 3, 2016, e-mail that a recent student assembly had passed a motion endorsing the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement and "your organization seems closely tied to the state of Israel."
A week later, a student association statement released in response to media reports about the controversy denied that the rejection was related to the BDS motion. It said Hasbara Fellowships was denied a table at the event because the association "does not support policies of any government or state actors that violate international law."
Association president Jesse Cullen told the Durham Region News last March that "We would not have the KKK out at the same event as Black Lives Matter."
Hasbara Fellowships was launched with seed money from the Israeli Foreign Ministry, but does not report to the Israeli government, Mr. Walker said in an interview.
In the human-rights complaint, he described the fellowships as an offshoot of the Aish HaTorah movement founded by the late Orthodox Rabbi Noah Weinberg.
Hasbara Fellowships says it brings students to visit Israel and trains them to become better advocates to counter anti-Israel sentiment on college campuses.
The organization is headquartered in New York but has a Canadian office. It is registered as a tax-deductible charity with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service.
According to its annual reports and filings with the IRS, the bulk of its funding comes from donations.