FSWC Calls on Mount Royal University to Publicly Repudiate Peace Prize Awarded to Activist with History of Antisemitism

May 16, 2023

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Toronto (May 16, 2023) – Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC) is calling on Mount Royal University (MRU) to publicly repudiate this year’s Calgary Peace Prize and its recipient, an activist with a history of antisemitism, and clarify its past association with the award after attempting to distance itself from it.

Two weeks after FSWC sent a letter to MRU expressing concern over its Peace Studies Initiative supposedly awarding the 2023 Calgary Peace Prize to Mohammed El-Kurd – an anti-Israel activist with a history of antisemitism, including comparing Israelis to Nazis and playing into the blood libel trope, celebrating terrorism and spreading misinformation about Israel – the university responded with an attempt to disassociate itself from the award.

In a letter sent to FSWC on Thursday, MRU Dean of the Faculty of Arts Jennifer Pettit stated, “The Calgary Peace Prize is not an initiative of Mount Royal University, but rather an independent initiative of a faculty member. In order to make this more clear, Calgary Peace Prize content no longer resides on MRU’s website. MRU did not choose the recipient and academic initiatives and events hosted and led by faculty members are not endorsed by the University simply because the University permits events to occur and views to be expressed.”

Yet, previous announcements of Calgary Peace Prize recipients, in 2022 and in years past, remain on the university’s website, declaring the prize is “awarded by the Peace Studies Initiative at Mount Royal University.” In 2018, a Calgary Peace Prize ceremony for then Justice Rosalie Abella featured Dean Pettit, who said, “the Faculty of Arts is proud to back such an important undertaking.”

A poster shared by MRU Professor Mark Ayyash, who, according to the newly established Calgary Peace Prize website, “independently oversees the prize, lecture and award ceremony,” features the MRU logo.

FSWC Director of Allyship and Community Engagement Dan Panneton issued the following statement:

“Mount Royal University has not been completely transparent in terms of its association with the Calgary Peace Prize, claiming the award is not an initiative of the university despite its long history of supporting the award through its Peace Studies Initiative and participating in award ceremonies. While the university has distanced itself from the award, its past involvement in the award raises questions and requires clarification. If MRU indeed does not have any association with the Calgary Peace Prize, it must make this very clear to its entire community by renouncing the Calgary Peace Prize and assuring to the public that there will be no association in the future.”

FSWC has written to MRU President Tim Rahilly calling for the university to clarify its past relationship with the Calgary Peace Prize and issue a public statement renouncing the Peace Prize and disavowing this year’s recipient.