In a show of solidarity and compassion, thousands of Montreal residents took to the streets to rally for the people of Gaza. The massive demonstration, which occurred on a Saturday, sought to draw attention to the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza and call upon Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to demand a ceasefire. The ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas has led to widespread devastation, with innocent civilians paying a heavy price.
The rally was marked by heartfelt pleas from protestors who asked a vital question, “At what point is it enough? How many civilians, how many children need to die before Justin Trudeau grows a spine and condemns the horrific actions of Israel?” The call for immediate action and a ceasefire resonated among the demonstrators, who demanded an end to the violence that has plagued Gaza for far too long.
The rally, organized by the Palestinian Youth Movement, remained peaceful throughout, and no arrests were reported. It is a testament to the determination of the participants, who channeled their energy into advocating for a humanitarian resolution to the ongoing conflict.
Montreal was not alone in this show of support for Gaza. More than two dozen Canadian cities, including Ottawa and Toronto, held similar rallies on the same day. The unity displayed by Canadians across the nation sends a strong message about the urgency of the situation in Gaza.
The Palestinian Youth Movement, the organizers of the march, called for humanitarian aid to be allowed into Gaza. They also emphasized the need for Canada to reconsider its support for Israel’s military actions against Hamas, which has been designated a terrorist organization by the Canadian government since 2002.
In a significant development, Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly announced that Canadians in Gaza will be allowed to leave in the coming days. This announcement comes as Israel continues its military operations in Gaza following a deadly attack by the militant group Hamas a month ago. Global Affairs Canada has reported that 516 Canadians and their family members are currently in Gaza and have requested assistance to evacuate. Minister Joly’s statement included assurances from her Israeli counterpart, Foreign Affairs Minister Eli Cohen, that Canadians and their families will be permitted to leave Gaza beginning in the coming days. Federal officials have indicated that this could happen as early as Sunday.
Gaza, under the control of Hamas, has faced a grim reality since the October 7 militant incursion. The casualties have been devastating, with over 9,440 Palestinians losing their lives, according to Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry. Israel claims that the attack killed over 1,400 people in southern Israel and led to more than 200 hostages being taken into Gaza.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to the situation by declaring war, launching daily attacks, intensifying bombardments, and causing widespread concern about the scarcity of food, fuel, and other basic supplies for Gaza’s approximately 2.3 million residents.
As the world watches this ongoing crisis, diverse opinions on the path to a solution have emerged. Several demonstrations in Montreal, including those in support of Israel, have been held over the past few weeks, with a common goal of ensuring the safe return of hostages. Some of these demonstrators have expressed their support for a ceasefire, emphasizing their concerns for the safety of those held captive in Gaza.
Consul General of Israel Paul Hirschson acknowledged these concerns, stating, “It’s a very legitimate concern, and we hold Hamas accountable for their safety.” However, others have rejected the idea of a ceasefire, emphasizing that previous ceasefires have only resulted in Hamas strengthening its military capabilities. Irwin Cotler, former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, pointed out, “We’ve had ceasefires before, and they have only resulted in Hamas arming themselves.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been under increasing pressure to take a firm stance in response to the Gaza crisis. During a summit in the U.S., he appeared to call for a ceasefire, which drew significant attention on social media. Trudeau stated, “We need to see a cease-, we need to see a humanitarian pause so we can flow, we need ceasing of the levels of violence that we’re seeing… These are the things that the people around the world are looking for.”
A petition signed by over 120,000 Canadians and dozens of Members of Parliament has urged Trudeau to call for a ceasefire and the establishment of a humanitarian corridor.
The demographic makeup of Montreal adds depth to the context of this rally. The 2021 Census profile of the City of Montreal reported that 159,435 of its 1,762,949 population identified themselves as of Middle Eastern origin. The 2021 Census data further revealed that 690,000 Canadians (1.9% of the population) claimed Arab ancestry, including Israel. In 2016, the Census reported that 44,820 Canadians identified Palestinian ancestry.
Montreal’s Jewish population, according to the CJA Federation, stands at more than 90,000. The 2021 Census showed that nearly half of Canada’s Jewish population resides in Toronto, while roughly a quarter call Montreal home.
The massive rally in Montreal, along with similar gatherings across Canada, reflects the urgent need for peace in Gaza. The humanitarian crisis and the suffering of innocent civilians in the region cannot be ignored any longer. As Canadians stand together, they send a powerful message that transcends political boundaries and emphasizes the value of human life and the importance of resolving conflicts through dialogue and diplomacy.
The forthcoming evacuation of Canadians from Gaza provides a glimmer of hope amidst the ongoing turmoil. However, the journey towards peace and stability remains arduous. The diverse opinions on the path to a resolution underscore the complexity of the situation and the need for thoughtful consideration of the way forward.
As the world watches and waits for a solution, the rallying cry for peace in Gaza echoes across the hearts and minds of Canadians. The unity displayed in Montreal and cities across the country highlights the enduring belief that a brighter and more peaceful future is possible for all those affected by this conflict.