100,000 people took to the streets in Canada’s capital of Ottawa on November 25 in a massive show of solidarity with the Palestinian people.
Organized by groups including the Palestinian Youth Movement, Labor for Palestine, the Association of Palestinian Arab Canadians, and the International League of People’s Struggle (ILPS) in Canada, the historic march to Parliament Hill raised the call for an end to “Canadian complicity in the ongoing genocide in Gaza and colonization of Palestine”.
The mobilization was held on the second day of a four-day ceasefire in Gaza, bringing to a halt seven weeks of relentless Israeli bombardment that has killed over 16,000 Palestinian people.
Not only did Israel shoot at displaced Palestinians who were trying to return to their homes in Northern Gaza after the truce came into effect, it continued its rampage in the Occupied Territories, killing eight Palestinians, including four children, in the West Bank between Saturday and Sunday.
Even as the fragile ceasefire took hold in Gaza, it was clear that a mere pause was not enough, and that what was needed was a permanent ceasefire—and an end to the occupation.
Saturday’s march on Ottawa raised clear demands: an immediate ceasefire, an end to all Canadian complicity with Israel, the liberation of all Palestinian political prisoners, the lifting of the siege on Gaza, and an end to the zionist occupation. Canada has witnessed major protests in recent weeks against the ongoing genocide in Gaza while Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has refused to call for a ceasefire, instead calling on Israel to exercise “maximum restraint”.
— Labour for Palestine (@PalestineLabour) November 26, 2023
“November 25 will go down in history as the day where the people of Canada have refused to be complicit in this genocide,” declared Sarah Shamy, a member of PYM at Saturday’s protest.
Justice belongs to the people… to the righteous… to the brave… to Palestine… to you!
We no longer believe the lies of the political class. Canada which pretends to champion democracy and human rights is now facing us, the people, who can see right through this hypocrisy.
Addressing the Canadian parliament, Shamy asserted,
This is not just a protest… it is a prosecution trial. We, the people, prosecute you with genocide!
Speaking at a news conference last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said,
We’ve been calling for weeks for a significant humanitarian pause. It is progress that we have that right now. But there are many more steps we’re going to have to take on together.
Just days before, MPs from Trudeau’s Liberal Party were part of a bipartisan delegation that traveled to Israel in a show of support to the Occupation and to “participate in repair and rebuilding activities” (while Israel has damaged or destroyed more than half of the homes in Gaza).
Canada has designated Hamas as a terrorist organization. In October, Defense Minister Bill Blair called for the elimination of Hamas “as a threat, not just to Israel, but to the world”.
During a hearing on the situation in Gaza in the Canadian Senate last week, Joseph Belliveau, the executive director of Doctors Without Borders (MSF)-Canada, while describing the catastrophe unfolding in Gaza, said,
Doctors cannot stop bombs. The pattern of IHL [international humanitarian law] violations is so repetitive and the disregard for human life so evident, that MSF has taken the unusual stance of calling for a ceasefire.
Canada should do the same. Now is not the time to equivocate, pauses may be a hopeful start, but we need a sustained ceasefire… We are asking Canada for nothing less than to defend humanity.
Speaking at the protest in Ottawa, Dr. Tariq Loubani described the horrific conditions in Gaza as a result of the Israeli bombing,
Ceasefire is not my only demand. That might have been enough at one point but I will not go back to sewing children’s heads without anesthesia, I will not go back to treating patients without tools, I will not go back to making up for the failures of the whole world to treat our Palestinian brothers, sisters, and siblings.
Israeli Occupation Forces had shot Loubani in both his legs during the Great March of Return protests in Gaza in 2018.
Meanwhile, a petition started by an MP from the New Democratic Party (NDP) calling upon Trudeau to demand an immediate ceasefire had garnered over 280,000 signatures by November 23. The government will now have 45 days to respond.
While Canada continues to enable Israel’s barbaric violence, Trudeau, in that very same press conference called for a “two state solution”. This speaks to the sheer racist arrogance of Western imperialist powers as they call for two states—a “solution” Israel has long rendered impossible through the expansion of its colonial project in Palestine—while handing the zionist Occupation weapons to use against the Palestinian people.
In 2022, Canadian manufacturers exported over USD 21 million in military goods to Israel, the third largest shipment on record. However, little is known about the specific equipment being transported.
Under an existing law, Canada can suspend arms exports to a country if there is doubt that the weapons could be used to commit or even facilitate an IHL violation. The Canadian government has so far refused to confirm if it has suspended the issuance of export licenses to Israel.
Addressing the protest on Saturday, ILPS-Canada chairperson, Ahana, said,
We must recognize that the zionist crimes for the last 70 years have been made possible by the U.S., with the full support of Western powers like Canada… [these countries] are not interested in peace… democracy or the security of civilians. They are only interested in profit and in the military control of the region by any means necessary.
“The ruling class in Canada with the help of its politicians has made sure that we, the people who are living and working here, are implicated in the colonial and imperialist project which is carried out in our names,” she added, emphasizing the millions of dollars invested by Canadian companies and institutions in the weapons industry.
This includes Scotiabank, which is the largest foreign investor in Israeli weapons manufacturer, Elbit Systems. It also includes the Canada Pension Plan (CPP), whose Investment Board which has taken over USD 10 billion in public pension funds and invested them in seven companies identified by the UN as being complicit in violating international law, and another at least 44 that have been proven to be complicit in Israeli occupation activities.
“[W]e, who are being lied to by our politicians and the media, we know that it is our labor that runs this economy and we are too many to silence. We are building a working class struggle within Canada that recognizes that our struggles are not isolated but in fact connected against a common enemy- imperialism,” Ahana said.
We also face exploitation by the same ruling class that wages war against the people of Palestine, and when we experience the increasing economic crisis we have seen the working class militancy grow… these struggles seemingly so far away from Gaza are… against the same oppressive systems.
As chants of “Free Palestine” reverberate across the world, it is clear, as Shamy said, that “This is the era of liberation, this is the era where all the walls will fall… History has taught us that the brave will be imprisoned, that the outspoken will be silenced, but history has also taught us that when we are organized and when we fight we can bring even the most powerful of empires to its knees and we will do just that!”
We have something that no bomb, no tank, no gun, no law can kill—we have something to fight for! Everyday our people in Palestine… in the refugee camps… in the prisons show us that liberation cannot be besieged, it cannot be imprisoned and it cannot be destroyed…