Protesters Rally Across Canada Amidst Escalating Israel-Hamas Conflict

Protesters block a road during a march for Gaza rally in support of Palestine in Toronto, on Saturday, Nov. 4, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Arlyn McAdorey

Cities including Toronto, Montreal, and Calgary witness demonstrations for peace and solidarity

Across Canada, demonstrators took to the streets on Sunday, voicing their concerns and showing solidarity amidst the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict. In a significant display of public opinion, people from various cities, including Toronto, Montreal, and Calgary, participated in these rallies.

In Toronto, the group “Ceasefire Now” organized a protest in front of the city hall at 1 p.m., focusing on expressing solidarity with the residents of the Gaza Strip. This sentiment was mirrored in Montreal and other cities, where similar demonstrations were seen. Many attendees, embodying the Pan-Arab colours of red and green, chanted “End the siege of Gaza” and held signs with messages like “Ceasefire now, stop genocide.”

Calgary also witnessed dual demonstrations with a pro-Israel rally at Olympic Plaza and a pro-Palestine rally at the Municipal Building. These events follow the recent arrest and bail release of Wesam Cooley, also known as Wesam Khalid, an organizer for the Calgary group Justice for Palestinians. Cooley faced charges related to causing a disturbance, with a hate motivation applied to the charge, for chanting “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”

People rally in support of Palestine and Israel in front of the Municipal building and by Olympic Plaza in downtown Calgary on Sunday, Oct. 22, 2023. (Alejandro Melgar, CityNews image).

In a poignant counterpoint, a rally supporting Israelis was held at Toronto’s Christie Pits Park, organized by the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto and the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights. The park, historically significant for Jewish Canadians, marks the site of the 1933 Christie Pits Riot, a violent clash triggered by a swastika flag displayed by Nazi-inspired youth.

These demonstrations come at a critical time, with growing calls for a ceasefire as the death toll climbs in the Gaza Strip. The region, facing power and fuel shortages, is struggling with its overwhelmed health centres, even as fierce clashes continue between Israeli troops and Hamas militants.

Adding to the complexity of the situation, there has been a series of hateful acts targeting both Jews and Muslims in Montreal since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war. This alarming trend underscores the deep divisions and heightened emotions tied to the conflict.