Association of Palestinian Arab Canadians Responds to Prime Minister's Speech at Pro-Israel Rally in Ottawa

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre, Jewish Federation of Ottawa president Andrea Freedman, and Ottawa Mayor Mark Sutcliffe were among those who participated in a solidarity gathering in support of Israel in Ottawa on October 9. The Association of Palestinian Arab Canadians (APAC) issued a statement following the rally in which it said it is "closely following the events taking place out of the Gaza Strip, Palestine. The APAC is equally carefully reviewing statements made by Canadian leaders in response to these events. As expected, the majority of statements are overwhelmingly pro-Israel and effectively give the Israeli government 'carte blanche' in their military response in Gaza. However, the language and remarks used by our Prime Minister in a speech he delivered at a pro-Israel rally last night is even more concerning." Its response follows:

The APAC strongly opposes some of the sentiments expressed by the Prime Minister yesterday evening and wishes to respond.

It should first be noted that while the Prime Minister was quick to mourn the Israeli lives lost over the weekend, he has failed to do so for the hundreds of Palestinian civilians already killed by the Israeli response. Moreover, according to Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem,[1] Israeli forces killed 4,868 Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), including 1,793 children, outside the context of armed conflict. Since taking office in 2015, the APAC does not recall any statements made by the Prime Minister expressing sympathy for the loss of innocent Palestinians' lives. Not only does this contribute to the dehumanization of Palestinians, but it suggests that the Prime Minister is fundamentally biased when it comes to the question of Palestine.

In his speech,[2] the Prime Minister referred to the pro-Palestinian demonstrations which took place over the weekend as 'celebratory.' The Prime Minister is blatantly incorrect. Canadian Palestinians and Canadian Israelis alike, have a right to advocate on behalf of their human rights. Canadian Palestinians have the right to protest in response to the false narratives spread by western media and, unfortunately, our own government. Canada is a democracy. Statements like these are ignorant and dangerous as they have a chilling effect on freedom of expression within our community. This is contrary to important Canadian values and must stop immediately.

In November 2020, the Canadian government voted in favour of the Palestinian right to self-determination at the United Nations General Assembly. Despite this, Canada continues to block all peaceful, legal and diplomatic efforts made by the Palestinians to advocate for their rights. On December 20, 2019, the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court concluded its preliminary examination of the situation in Palestine and found that there is "reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation into the Situation in Palestine." In rendering her conclusion, Prosecutor Bensouda outlines the following position:

1. war crimes have been or are being committed in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip;

2. potential cases arising from the situation would be admissible; and

3. there are no substantial reasons to believe that an investigation would not serve the interests of justice.

In response to this, Canada submitted a letter to the International Criminal Court reiterating its position on Palestine's status. According to an article published by The Canadian Jewish News, Canada conveyed to the International Criminal Court by way of a letter[3] that it does not recognize a Palestinian state and that the ICC has therefore no jurisdiction to hear this matter. If the Canadian government truly believed in Palestinian human rights and the right to self-determination, it would not attempt to block legal avenues to justice.

Our message to the Prime Minister is clear. When commenting on the events taking place in the Gaza Strip, the proper political context must be considered. This is not an Israeli-Palestinian "conflict." Since 1967, the Israeli government has illegally occupied Palestinian territories. Since 2007, the Israeli government has imposed a catastrophic and illegal blockade of the Gaza Strip, where two million Palestinians, the majority of which are under the age of 18, are blocked from the outside world. A 2012 UN Report[4] warned that by 2020, the Gaza Strip would be unliveable.

Important facts like these must be flagged to the public when discussing this topic. The Prime Minister's irresponsible remarks failed to do so and only further validate our view that his government's policies on this issue are one sided and profoundly unfair.


1. "Attacks on Israeli Civilians by Palestinians," B'Tselem, The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, October 11, 2023.

2. "'They're not freedom fighters': Trudeau, Poilievre speak at Jewish community centre after Hamas attack," Tyler Griffin, Canadian Press Staff, October 10, 2023.

3. "Solidarity Gathering for Israel in Ottawa October 9, 2023," video, CPAC.

4. "Gaza in 2020: A liveable place? -- Report by the UN Country Team in the Occupied Palestinian Territory," August 2012.

(October 10, 2023)

This article was published in
Volume 53 Number 13 - October 2023

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