Mcgill University Denies Anti-jewish Bias; Has 2,414 Jewish Students
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Mcgill University Denies Anti-jewish Bias; Has 2,414 Jewish Students

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The Canadian Jewish Congress and Chancellor P.E. Powell of McGill University were engaged in a dispute today over the Chancellor’s public statement that he opposed legislation “to force integration and the elimination of discrimination and other forms of prejudice.”

Chancellor Powell made his statement as the guest speaker at an anniversary banquet of the Canadian Council of Christians and Jews. In the course of his address, the Chancellor also dealt with charges that a Jewish student was discriminated against at the university to the extent that he had to receive marks of 80 per cent or more on his high school final examinations before he was admitted to the university.

Describing the report as “nothing more than a rumor,” Mr. Powell told the banquet that “the percentage of McGill students who have declared themselves to be Jewish has increased steadily during the last five years–from 22 to 25.3 per cent.” He added that the figures for 1962-63 had not yet been analyzed but that during the year, the university had 2,414 Jewish students, the majority of whom had an average of less than 80 per cent on their high school examinations when their applications were accepted.

“I therefore consider myself to be able to state that there had been no discrimination against Jewish candidates for admission to McGill during the five years to which the investigation was limited,” he said. He then discussed his personal philosophy about anti-bias legislation.


Asserting that such legislation “may even generate sufficient resentment to make a bad situation worse,” Chancellor Powell expressed the view that “man’s conduct may be influenced or even regulated by law but is it reasonable to expect that man’s mind can be so influenced or regulated?”

He said that what was sometimes called “discrimination” might really be “merely a manifestation of a natural desire of compatible persons to work together. In business, as well as religion, education and other human activities, there is a justifiable urge for compatible persons to work together, ” he pointed out.

The Canadian Jewish Congress disputed Mr. Powell’s stand in letters to the editors of Montreal dailies, asserting that the governments of six Canadian provinces had passed Fair Employment and Fair Accommodation Practices legislation “in recognition of a widely accepted truth that legislation can and does act as a potent educational agent. Similarly, the Federal authority passed legislation some years ago establishing a Fair Employment Practices Act.”

The CJC added that the very enactment of such legislation “proclaims that henceforth public policy shall be one of employment on merit, to the exclusion of such criteria as race, creed, color, etc.” and similarly with Fair Accommodation legislation. The CJC stressed that “for most law-abiding citizens–and Canadians are on the whole, such–the very declaration of this policy determines their behavior pattern.”


“Legislation attacks discrimination as such, not the underlying prejudices,” the CJC statement added. “By doing so, it corrects injustices and at the same time, it weakens chances for a further growth of prejudice.” The CJC noted that “not only does discrimination result from existing prejudice, but also more prejudice is bred from the observed fact of discrimination.”

“This is not one man’s opinion,” the CJC statement emphasized. “It is a belief firmly held by eminent psychologists, sociologists, political scientists and lawyers, on the basis of many years of experience with ‘equal opportunity legislation’ both in Canada and the United States.”

The CJC stressed that a number of “outstanding citizens” of Quebec had petitioned the Premier of the Province to join the six other provinces “in the enactment of this type of ‘educational’ legislation” at the next session of the Quebec Legislature. Both the Chancellor’s speech and the CJC reply were widely reported in the local daily press.

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