Protesters gathering in more than two dozen Canadian cities today are voicing support for residents of the Gaza Strip, calling for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas conflict after war broke out last month.
The protests follow a call by the Palestinian Youth Movement for a national day of demonstrations in cities across Canada including Toronto, Montreal, Halifax, Fredericton, Winnipeg, Calgary and Edmonton.
The group is calling for a ceasefire in the region and the end of restrictions on humanitarian aid allowed into the enclave. It’s also demanding Canada end its support for Israel’s military action against Hamas, which the federal government has designated as a terrorist organization since 2002.
The Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza reports more than 9,440 Palestinians have died in the war with Israel, which was triggered by the group’s incursion into that country on Oct. 7 that killed more than 1,400 people and saw more than 200 taken back into Gaza as hostages.
Israel immediately declared war in response and has launched daily attacks since then, stepping up bombardments over the past week and triggering growing global alarm about the lack of food, fuel and basic supplies for Gaza’s roughly 2.3 million residents.
- ‘Everybody deserves peace’: Rally at B.C. legislature calls for Israel and Palestine ceasefire
- The Palestine-Israel conflict: A look at history of what led to the situation today
Thousands filled the streets for the rally in downtown Toronto, while in Fredericton a few hundred people carrying the green, re+++d and black Palestinian flags and shouting slogans gathered outside the city’s historic City Hall building.
Demonstrators said they were there to protest what they called a 75-year-old occupation by Israeli forces, a characterization Israel has consistently rejected. Slogans on display included “bombing kids is not self-defence,” “free Gaza” and “cease fire now,” among others.
Amer Marwan El-Samman, a spokesman for the Fredericton rally, said the main message of the protest was to call for a ceasefire and stop what he called the “indiscriminate killing” of civilians.
El-Samman says he is hopeful about the future despite the long and complex history of the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians, which have been ongoing since at least Israel’s establishment in 1948.
“It might be next year, it might be two years. You never know how things can change,” El-Samman said. “The next generation, the youth shows me a little bit more promise. … So we’ll see.”
In Toronto, thousands gathered outside the U.S. consulate downtown to protest, chanting “ceasefire now.”
Protester Bandar Darwazeh, who is Palestinian and lives in Canada, says he feels the pain of his relatives who live in the West Bank, where violence has also been on the rise amid the past month’s bloodshed in and around Gaza.
Darwazeh says the Canadian and American governments should be doing more.
“We are here to push the Canadian government to request a ceasefire and bring peace,” he said.
Jane Story, another protester at the Toronto rally, says she is “particularly traumatized and heartbroken by what’s happening in Gaza.”
“I’ve been involved marching for Palestinians for 40 years,” said Story, who was waving a Palestinian flag at the protest. “It’s an ongoing conflict that’s gotten worse and worse and worse, and the scenes out of Gaza are beyond belief.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 4, 2023.
— With files from Hina Alam in Fredericton, Sammy Hudes in Toronto and The Associated Press