An ac­cused ter­ror­ist should not be teach­ing our chil­dren

National Post (Latest Edition) - - EDITORIALS LETTERS - FRANK DI­MANT

Iwas sur­prised to read the Na­tional Post’s ed­i­to­rial yes­ter­day (“In­no­cent un­til proven guilty”). The ed­i­to­rial cri­tiqued B’nai Brith Canada for chal­leng­ing Car­leton Uni­ver­sity’s de­ci­sion to ask Has­san Diab, who is ac­cused of killing four peo­ple in the 1980 bomb­ing of a Paris syn­a­gogue, to re­turn to ac­tive teach­ing duty.

The uni­ver­sity has since de­cided to re­place Mr. Diab. Mean­while, the Cana­dian As­so­ci­a­tion of Uni­ver­sity Teach­ers is de­cry­ing Car­leton for cav­ing in to “ex­ter­nal pres­sure.” Which leads me to ask: Are the gen­eral pub­lic, par­ents and stu­dents them­selves, who are most di­rectly af­fected, to be dis­missed as merely “ex­ter­nal” play­ers and de­nied a voice?

It is hard to fathom how Mr. Diab’s re­turn to Car­leton’s fac­ulty at this junc­ture could be con­strued as in any way pos­i­tive for the uni­ver­sity or its stu­dents. Cana­dian au­thor­i­ties have made the de­ci­sion that this in­di­vid­ual is a suf­fi­ciently po­ten­tial dan­ger to Cana­di­ans that his move­ments are se­verely re­stricted and closely mon­i­tored.

As long as the in­ves­ti­ga­tion and Mr. Diab’s ex­tra­di­tion hear­ings are on­go­ing, it is un­fath­omable that he should be put in a po­si­tion of in­flu­ence. Were he per­mit­ted to teach, he would be in reg­u­lar, on­go­ing, daily con­tact with stu­dents, some of whom are Jewish and al­ready feel the stigma of be­ing marginal­ized on cam­pus.

The very no­tion that it is busi­ness as usual for those ac­cused of mis­de­meanours, let alone se­ri­ous crimes, is pre­pos­ter­ous. Why are teach­ers taken out of the class­room when un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion for im­proper con­duct? Why are po­lice­men sus­pended from ac­tive duty when un­der sus­pi­cion? Should we not pre­sup­pose their in­no­cence since they ve­he­mently claim it? Why for­bid a hit-and-run sus­pect from driv­ing while the in­ves­ti­ga­tion con­tin­ues? Af­ter all, per­haps he will yet be proven in­no­cent.

What about the strin­gent lim­i­ta­tions im­posed on ac­cused pe­dophiles, child mo­lesters or wife-beat­ers, and all be­fore ei­ther con­vic­tion or ac­quit­tal? It is not un­usual for sus­pected felons to be se­questered from the pub­lic and re­moved from con­tact with those they are sus­pected of harm­ing. Has mur­der sud­denly be­come a lesser evil so that we can coun­te­nance a sus­pect be­ing put in a po­si­tion of power in a teacher-stu­dent re­la­tion­ship be­fore we know the out­come of the pro­ceed­ings against him, sim­ply be­cause he pro­claims his in­no­cence?

This is not, as the Na­tional Post sug­gests, a mat­ter of in­no­cent un­til proven guilty, which is for the courts to de­ter­mine. At its core, it is about ex­er­cis­ing ba­sic com­mon sense. Com­mon sense, af­ter all, would seem to dic­tate a cau­tion­ary route that does not ex­pose the pub­lic, es­pe­cially vul­ner­a­ble and im­pres­sion­able young per­sons, to in­di­vid­u­als fac­ing pos­si­ble con­vic­tion un­less and un­til they are ex­on­er­ated. The stu­dent pop­u­la­tion at Car­leton cer­tainly falls un­der this cat­e­gory.

If con­victed by a French court, Mr. Diab faces pos­si­ble life im­pris­on­ment for mur­der, at­tempted mur­der and will­ful de­struc­tion of prop­erty. Why are we sud­denly so will­ing to ex­pose Cana­dian stu­dents to this man while the al­le­ga­tions against him still stand?

Frank Di­mant is the ex­ec­u­tive vice-pres­i­dent of B’nai Brith Canada, the Jewish com­mu­nity’s fore­most hu­man rights or­ga­ni­za­tion, ac­tive in this coun­try since 1875.

AFP / GETTY IM­AGES

A po­lice sketch re­leased in 1980 by French po­lice shows Has­san Diab.

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