Toronto, Calgary, and Vancouver see a surge in public sentiment and support for both Israeli and Palestinian causes.
Toronto’s Stand for Palestine
More than a thousand individuals gathered at Toronto’s Nathan Phillips Square on Monday afternoon, voicing their solidarity with Palestinians. Many attendees emphasized their intent was not to endorse the violent actions initiated by Hamas against Israelis over the weekend.
Yara Shoufani, a representative of the Toronto chapter of the Palestinian Youth Movement, stated, “It’s not a question of whether we support the attacks. It’s a question of what do we stand against.” The Palestinian Youth Movement describes itself as a grassroots, independent movement on Instagram, striving for “the liberation of our homeland.”
Voices Across Canada
The demonstration in downtown Toronto was a peaceful one, with supporters chanting “Free Palestine” while waving Palestinian flags. But Toronto wasn’t the only city with a voice. Thanksgiving Monday saw several such rallies in Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, and Halifax.
While many showed up in support of the Palestinian cause, pro-Israel rallies echoed the sentiment from the opposite end. Yet, those rallying for Palestine faced criticism. Jewish organizations and certain political figures denounced them, implying that the rallies were glorifying the attacks on Israel.
Leaders Voice Their Stances
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was vocal about his disapproval, tweeting, “The glorification of violence is never acceptable in Canada — by any group or in any situation.” He strongly condemned the demonstrations expressing support for Hamas’s recent attacks on Israel.
Mayor Olivia Chow also made her stance clear, especially regarding the Toronto rally, which she “unequivocally” denounced, citing the “indiscriminate violence including murder and kidnapping” by Hamas as deplorable.
The glorification of violence is never acceptable in Canada – by any group or in any situation. I strongly condemn the demonstrations that have taken place, and are taking place, across the country in support of Hamas’ attacks on Israel. Let’s stand united against acts of terror.
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) October 9, 2023
Omen Sayah, a 49-year-old Palestinian Canadian who attended the Toronto rally, countered this viewpoint. He highlighted that the central issue is the longstanding challenges faced by the Palestinian people, stating, “It’s the Palestinians dying. We are the people who have been dying for many years.”
Calgary’s Dual Demonstrations
Calgary’s city hall was a backdrop to both pro-Israel and pro-Palestine rallies. Zvia Gersten, a resident in Calgary who lived through several wars in Israel, expressed her deep concern for her family and friends back in Israel. “It’s beyond serious. It’s beyond frightening,” she lamented.
Wesam Khaled of Justice for Palestinians Calgary underlined the importance of understanding the historical context, emphasizing the oppression Palestinians have endured for over 70 years.
The Ground Reality
The ongoing conflict has witnessed escalating actions from both sides. Israel recently increased its airstrikes on the Gaza Strip, which, coupled with the decision to block the entry of food, fuel, and other essentials, has intensified tensions. Hamas, in retaliation, has threatened severe actions if civilians are targeted without warnings.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s latest address to the nation was stern, “What we will do to our enemies in the coming days will reverberate with them for generations.”
On the ground, the numbers tell a grim story. Over 900 Israelis have reportedly lost their lives in the recent clashes, while Palestinian officials report nearly 700 casualties in Gaza.
A Nation Divided Yet United
As the world watches the Israel-Hamas conflict unfold, Canada stands divided in its support yet united in its hope for peace. While sentiments run high on both sides, the rallies across the country show a nation deeply involved and concerned with global events. As leaders voice their stances and citizens rally in support of their causes, one thing remains clear: the desire for an end to the violence and a hope for a peaceful resolution.