Judge sets dates to hear University of Toronto’s injunction bid against encampment

The University of Toronto’s request for a court order to clear a pro-Palestinian encampment on its downtown campus is expected to be heard in three weeks.

Ontario Superior Court Justice Markus Koehnen has set a timetable that lists June 19 and 20 as the injunction hearing dates.

The judge acknowledges in a court filing that those dates “do not accommodate” the university’s interest in resolving the issue before convocation ceremonies begin in early June but he says a fair opportunity must be given to the respondents to make their case.

The university wants to end the encampment that was set up on May 2 and is asking the courts to authorize police action to remove protesters who refuse orders to leave.

The university is arguing that the encampment prevents others from accessing and enjoying school property, poses health and safety risks and has prompted numerous reports of harassment, hateful speech and violence – claims denied by protest organizers.

The protesters are challenging the injunction request and have refused to leave the site, ignoring a trespass notice issued last week.

In a court document filed Wednesday, the judge said there is an urgency to the university’s injunction request because the encampment on a grassy area known as King’s College Circle is adjacent to Convocation Hall, where graduation ceremonies are held.

But he said it’s his view that June 19 and 20 is the earliest an injunction hearing can be held “in order to afford the respondents a fair opportunity to answer the application.”

The university has scheduled convocations from June 3 to 21.

Protesters have said that they don’t see how their presence at King’s College Circle would disrupt convocations at the downtown campus. University president Meric Gertler has stressed that graduation ceremonies would proceed “no matter what.”

A number of groups are seeking intervener status in the injunction hearing and they have until end of the day Thursday to make their written submissions, the judge said.

Since filing its motion, U of T has submitted affidavits to the court from its assistant director of campus safety, students, faculty members “and the wider community about their experiences with the encampment.”

The school says the injunction is necessary “to restore the university’s ability to preserve the space as an open, free and public atmosphere for respectful discourse and debate.”

Demonstrators have said they will stay put until the university meets their demands, which include disclosing investments in companies profiting from Israel’s offensive in Gaza.

Similar encampments on university campuses have cropped up across Canada in recent months, with several schools considering or taking legal action against the protesters.