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Lawsuit: Maryland’s anti-BDS law ‘chills’ free speech | Israel News

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Maryland’s ban on contracting with businesses that boycott Israel tramples on the First Amendment rights of a software engineer who advocates for Palestinians, a Muslim civil rights group claims in a lawsuit. 

The Council on American-Islamic Relations’ (CAIR) federal lawsuit, filed on Wednesday, seeks to block the state from enforcing an executive order that Maryland Governor Larry Hogan signed in October 2017.

“Maryland’s ban on contracting with anyone who participates in such boycotts constitutes viewpoint discrimination that chills constitutionally-protected political advocacy in support of Palestine,” the lawsuit states. 

The order requires contractors to certify in writing that they don’t boycott Israel. The group’s suit claims the order has an unconstitutional chilling effect on First Amendment-protected political advocacy supporting the Palestinians.

CAIR says 25 other states have enacted measures similar to Maryland’s, through legislation or executive orders.

CAIR attorney Gadeir Abbas said other federal lawsuits have challenged measures in Arizona, Arkansas, Kansas and Texas.

The group sued Hogan and state Attorney General Brian Frosh on behalf of software engineer Syed Saqib Ali, a former state legislator.

Ali’s lawsuit says the order bars him from bidding for government software program contracts because he supports boycotts of businesses and organisations that “contribute to the oppression of Palestinians”. 

“Speech and advocacy related to the Israel-Palestine conflict is core political speech on a matter of public concern entitled to the highest levels of constitutional protection,” the suit says.

Raquel Coombs, a spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office, said the attorney general hadn’t seen the suit and doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

A spokeswoman for Hogan’s office said, “We are confident that our executive order is completely consistent with the First Amendment and will be upheld in court.”

‘End around’ 

Ali, a resident of Gaithersburg, served as a member of the Maryland House of Delegates from 2007 to 2011 and represented Montgomery County as a Democrat.

He accused Hogan, a Republican, of making an “end around” the legislature by signing the executive order after lawmakers repeatedly rejected several anti-BDS bills targeting the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

“This is unacceptable, and Larry Hogan should know that our rights will not be stricken by him,” Ali said at a news conference in Baltimore.

The executive order says a boycott based on religion, national origin or ethnicity is discriminatory. A business boycott of Israel and its territories “is not a commercial decision made for business or economic reasons,” it adds.

“Contracting with business entities that discriminate make the State a passive participant in private-sector commercial discrimination,” the order says.

In December, the Arkansas Times weekly newspaper sued to block a similar measure.

That state law, which took effect in August 2017, requires contractors to reduce their fees by 20 percent if they don’t sign a pledge not to boycott Israel.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge’s office argued that boycotting Israel is not activity protected by the First Amendment.

“It is neither speech, nor is it conduct that is inherently expressive, nor associational activity that is afforded constitutional protection,” wrote attorneys representing Rutledge’s office.

In December, CAIR filed a motion on behalf of a Texas speech pathologist who was fired after she refused to sign a statement pledging that she does not and will not boycott Israel or its settlements in occupied Palestinian territory. 

This week, the US Senate blocked a bill aimed at the BDS movement from moving forward due to the partial government shutdown. Politicians have vowed to bring the bill up again when the shutdown ends. 


SOURCE:
Al Jazeera and news agencies

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Driver in satisfactory condition following head-on Gatineau collision

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One person was in hospital in satisfactory condition following a head-on collision between two vehicles in Gatineau on Saturday.

According to Gatineau police, the crash occurred around 1:30 p.m. on Montée Paiement, between Saint-Thomas and Saint-Columban roads.

Each of the vehicles had only one occupant at the time of the incident.

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Ottawa military family alleges bad faith eviction by Saudi Arabia’s top diplomat in Canada

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An Ottawa military family alleges their former landlord — Saudi Arabia’s top diplomat in Canada — acted in bad faith when he gave them a notice of eviction, claiming he intended to move into their Vanier rental home with his own family.

The home is now listed for sale for $950,000, two months after Vivian and Tim Funk moved out with their two young children.

In documents filed with the Landlord and Tenant Board, the Funks detailed how their landlord, Sulaiman AlAqeel, acted to end their tenancy by allegedly pretending he was moving in himself. This was preceded by an attempt to market the house to new tenants for significantly more money when the Funks had not given notice indicating they would be leaving, the documents alleged. “The landlord’s representative,” according to the documents, allegedly told the Funks they needed to accept a $500 monthly rent increase and a new lease if they wanted to continue living in the rental property, which wouldn’t be legal under the Residential Tenancies Act.

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Ottawa COVID-19 hospitalization data showing half of cases coming from community, not just long-term care

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With local data showing 50 per cent of COVID-19 hospitalizations coming from the community, long-term care residents aren’t the only one vulnerable to severe illness from the virus, Ottawa’s Board of Health reports.

Despite the majority of deaths having happened in older adult age groups in long-term care homes, residents shouldn’t think institutions are the only settings that are vulnerable to outbreaks that lead to serious illness from the virus.

“[Ottawa Public Health] continues to expand our understanding of the types of settings and situations that have the most impact on COVID-19 transmission in our community and is seeking academic partners to better explore exposure risks as well as a broader assessment of the harms from different public health measures,” OPH outlined in its document, to be present at the Board of Health on Monday.

At the same time, however, OPH says it is working closely with partners on “processes to strengthen and streamline responses.” This includes weekly meetings across agencies to address issues and concerns to ensure a strong collaboration, ongoing communications with facilities, preventative visits and phone calls to review infection prevention and control.

In situations where OPH identified failings at an LTCH or concerns of compliance have been raised, OPH has been quick to issue letters of expectation that outline the deficiencies and timelines fo compliance.

It is unclear how many letters have been issued through both waves of the virus.

And while outbreaks in LTCH during wave two have recorded a higher number of LTCH outbreaks than in wave one, the overall morbidity and mortality has been lower. This means fewer cases, fewer deaths and a lower average duration of outbreaks.

OPH contributed this to building on lessons learned from early COVID-19 outbreaks in LTCH in Ottawa.

https://www.ottawamatters.com/local-news/ottawa-covid-19-hospitalization-data-of-severe-illness-shows-half-of-cases-coming-from-community-not-just-long-term-care-homes-3136152

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