Content warning: This article discusses antisemitism and mentions sexual violence, anti-Indigenous violence, and anti-Palestinian racism.

On April 18, Vyshnavi Kanagarajamuthaly resigned from her role as the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) vice-president (VP) equity due to “moral incompatibilities.” 

This came after she made a speech about anti-Palestinian racism from U of T admin at an SCSU town hall on April 1, which included a remark the union clipped and posted on its Instagram. In the clip, Kanagarajamuthaly compared U of T administrators’ concerns for “Jewish students on campus” around statements on Palestine to being concerned for the feelings of “nuns who raped and abused… Indigenous children.” 

Kanagarajamuthaly claims that this part of the speech was taken out of context, and intended to refer to “supporters of the State of Israel,” not Jewish students in general. Still, two Jewish students on campus who reached out to the SCSU with concerns about antisemitism in the speech told The Varsity that the union’s response has been discouraging. 

This marks the second VP equity resignation the union has seen in the span of a single term, after Denise Nmashie resigned in December due to changing academic goals

Kanagarajamuthaly’s speech and antisemitism allegations

On April 1, the SCSU held a UTSC Town Hall discussing the impacts of anti-Palestinian racism and Islamophobia at UTSC. The event featured members of UTSC Faculty for Palestine — a group of UTSC faculty committed to education, advocacy, and action for Palestinian liberation — as well as members the Muslim Student Association and the Palestinian Culture Club. 

“Constantly, I see this university coddling the feelings of Zionists. If [the union] were to release a statement about Palestine, ‘How are the Jewish students on campus going to feel?’ Can you imagine if when we were talking about residential schools, they said, ‘Imagine how the nuns who raped and abused those Indigenous children would feel?’ … Can you imagine if we were decrying South African apartheid, they’d say, ‘Imagine how the Dutch people feel — this is anti-Dutch sentiment,’” said Kanagarajamuthaly in the video the SCSU posted on its Instagram story.

Two Jewish UTSC students, who we’ll refer to as S and N — as they both requested to stay anonymous because they’ve received threats to their safety — reached out to The Varsity about the speech. In an interview, S said that when they saw the speech in a group chat for Jewish students at UTSC, they were “a little horrified, but honestly, not entirely surprised.” 

“It’s [the SCSU’s] right to protest. It’s their right to do whatever they think is correct morally, as long as it’s peaceful and lawful. But as an organization, they do have a responsibility to represent all of their student body and take care and not to actively hurt a minority group on campus,” said N. “And they’ve been really actively hurting us.”

Before the SCSU removed the post, it was linked to a non-U of T subreddit where multiple users, including some who claimed a connection to U of T, shared concerns about the video. 

The union’s lack of response

Kanagarajamuthaly wrote in an email to The Varsity that the clip was “taken out of context.” She wrote that her intention was to criticize “supporters of the State of Israel,” in light of the International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) preliminary decision that found it plausible that the Israeli government’s actions in its ongoing retaliatory invasion of Gaza constitute genocide.

“I was explaining how the administration speaks to the SCSU executives, and the administration tends to use the word ‘Jewish’ when they are referring to ‘supporters of the State of Israel,’” she added. “I would never hold Jewish students responsible for the actions of the State of Israel – that is antisemitic. I believe that antisemitism is incompatible with any movement for collective liberation and has no place on our campus.”

Kanagarajamuthaly told The Varsity that she wanted to apologize but “only for the reason that [her] words were misinterpreted and taken out of context.”

The two students who spoke with The Varsity felt that Kanagarajamuthaly didn’t take the issue seriously when they brought up concerns about her speech over email, and that the union as a whole did not sufficiently address it either.

“It felt like a lack of care. It felt that they were not taking the issue particularly seriously… There was no apology in [their response] email,” S said.

The SCSU made attempts to organize a meeting between the students, Kanagarajamuthaly, and other executives on April 10, although later canceled it due to “scheduling conflicts.” In an email the students shared with The Varsity, SCSU Executive Director and previous union president Sarah Abdillahi said the union would “respond to [the students’] concerns soon.”

“The harm is, I think, similar to any minority that hears racist comments from their elected representatives. We felt ostracized both by the remarks themselves and by their later reaction to our attempt at reconciliation,” N said.

“It almost feels as if they think … we are trying to catch them out on their activism — are trying to get them to stop engaging in activism — which is not the case. We are trying to get them to be mindful of Jewish students and in the Jewish community in general when they are speaking and when they are doing their activism,” S added. 

“The fact that we are dismissed for that… to me says that they’ve sort of lost sight of the humanity of Jewish students and the Jewish people that are interacting with them.”

Faculty comments 

Renan Levine, an associate professor in the Department of Political Science and a longtime faculty advisor to Jewish Student Life (JSL) at UTSC, told The Varsity that he found the SCSU’s decision to post that part of the speech baffling. “Of course we would take offense… Of all of the snippets of all that went on during the town hall, that’s what the SCSU decided to promote,” he said. 

“[The speech is] equating perpetrators of real crimes and abuse to students at UTSC who — this year, what have they done? They’ve gone to class? They are in no way, shape, or form directly responsible for harm done to others the way that, literally, the comments drew an analogy to,” said Levine.

Alejandro Paz, an associate professor in the Department of Anthropology and member of the Jewish Faculty Network attended the event, wrote to The Varsity that although “[Kanagarajamuthaly’s] wording, when quoted out of context, caused understandable offense,” he thought it was clear that her intentions were clearly not antisemitic. He argued that she had been trying to make a “valid point” about double standards for recognizing “violent acts against colonized people [by] settler colonial state[s].”

“When she mentioned ‘Jewish students,’ she was using the terms of the administration when it speaks to the SCSU exec,” he said. “That is, administrators often tell the SCSU exec to think about the feelings of “Jewish students,” when they (administrators) are really talking about students (either Jewish or not) who identify strongly with the State of Israel. That inability to recognize the diversity of Jewish positions is wrong and can lead to antisemitism.”

Weeks after the speech was posted on social media, the union has made no public statement or acknowledgement of its contents. It confirmed in a statement to The Varsity that it was not planning to issue a formal statement, as “[it] believed it was more appropriate to address the gravity of the situation through internal channels.” 

The two students who reached out to The Varsity said they would like the SCSU to publicly acknowledge the harm caused by the remarks and apologize publicly, and to have the incoming SCSU executives participate in antisemitism training.

“I don’t think they believe the remarks are anti semitic, [but that] doesn’t change the fact that they are,” said N. “One of the principles of equity studies is that marginalized groups should be able to describe and to define what constitutes discrimination against them.” 

“I don’t think either of us are hopeful…. because the SCSU has taken no steps that would give us any sense of hope,” they added. 


The union confirmed that Kanagarajamuthaly resigned on April 18 citing personal reasons and a “misalignment of personal values or beliefs with the responsibilities of the role.” The union has removed Kanagarajamuthaly’s profile from the SCSU website executive page. 

“Despite our efforts to address the situation and clarify any misunderstandings, the VP Equity maintained that their remarks were misconstrued. Ultimately, they believed resignation was the most appropriate course of action,” wrote the union. 

The union added that it agreed the clip was taken out of context, and wrote that this had led to “understandable concerns.” It plans to review its content moderation measures following the incident and train team members to prevent similar problems in the future.

In the wake of two VP equity resignations in the span of a single year, the union wrote that it is confident in incoming VP Equity Lalise Shifara and “committed to providing comprehensive training and support to empower them and the rest of our team in fulfilling the duties of the position.”

“Moving forward, the Union remains committed to combating both anti-Semitism and anti-Palestinian racism,” wrote the union. “We are dedicated to amplifying the voices of all students we represent. We will continue to advocate for justice in response to ongoing conflicts globally as it relates to our diverse membership here at UTSC.”