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CSA-SCS Official Statement

Feb 10, 2024
CSA Announcements
Preview of CSA-SCS Official Statement

January 23, 2024

Dr. Lisa Philipps, Provost, York University
Dr. Rhonda Lenton, President, York University
Dr. Paul Tsaparis, Chair, Board of Governors
Dr. JJ McMurtry, Dean, Faculty of LAPS, York University
CC: Dr. Mark Thomas, Chair, Department of Sociology, York University

Statement Regarding the Reinstatement of Professor Lesley Wood

The Canadian Sociological Association demands the immediate and full reinstatement of Professor Lesley Wood, from the Department of Sociology at York University, who was indefinitely suspended by the York University administration on November 23, 2023. Professor Wood is a prominent and highly respected member of the Canadian sociological community, whose career has been devoted to social justice research and whose work has been recognized through awards from both the Canadian Sociological Association and York University.

We note that Professor Wood’s book, Direct Action, Deliberation, and Diffusion: Collective Action After the WTO Protests in Seattle (Cambridge University Press, 2012) was awarded the 2013 John Porter Tradition of Excellence Book Award from the Canadian Sociological Association. Professor Wood also received the York University LA&PS Faculty Award for Distinction in Research, Emerging Researcher Category (2014) and the York University “Research Leader” Recognition (2013-14).

This suspension was a response to charges brought forward by the Toronto Police Service against Professor Wood, who is accused of taking part in a protest action supporting a longstanding campaign against the HESEG Foundation for Lone Soldiers and, more urgently and broadly, opposing the Israel Defence Forces’ ongoing military campaign in Gaza.

We are concerned that a selective, expansive, and vague notion of “community safety” was evoked to justify Professor Wood’s suspension. We note that this suspension has been implemented and maintained despite vigorous opposition from the Department of Sociology at York, as well as from many other groups and individuals both inside and beyond York University — and this, despite the demands of these groups and individuals that Professor Wood be immediately and fully reinstated.

We believe that this suspension is unjustified and damages the sociological profession and academic community in Canada and internationally. Indeed, we would like to remind the York University administration that the CAUT policy on Academic Staff and Criminal Conviction indicates that being charged with or accused of a crime is not grounds for suspension, except in the most exceptional cases. The suspension threatens academic freedom at York University and well beyond it, undermining the fundamental right and, indeed the core responsibility of academics to freely speak out about public matters as citizens and members of the academic community without fear of reprisal.

We expect that York University, like all other universities in Canada and internationally, will uphold and strongly defend the principles of academic freedom and freedom of expression. In that respect, we would like to remind the York University administration that extra-curricular activities, including political protest and other means of free expression, are protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We further expect that York University will respect due process, including the core judicial principle of the presumption of innocence, a protected right under section 11(d) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

For all the reasons stated here, we ask that Professor Wood immediately and fully be reinstated.

Sherry Fox, Executive Director
on behalf of the Canadian Sociological Association / Société canadienne de sociologie