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Demonstrators show support for Palestinians at 4 Toronto rallies

A pro-Palestinian demonstrator uses a megaphone to address a crowd in Toronto. There were four pro-Palestinian rallies in the city on Friday. (Prasanjeet Choudhury/CBC - image credit)
A pro-Palestinian demonstrator uses a megaphone to address a crowd in Toronto. There were four pro-Palestinian rallies in the city on Friday. (Prasanjeet Choudhury/CBC - image credit)

Demonstrators gathered at four pro-Palestinian rallies in Toronto on Friday to show their support for people in the Gaza Strip as the Israel-Hamas war continues.

One rally is ongoing at Queen's Park and has drawn more than 500 people. The other three were held outside the office of Deputy Premier Chrystia Freeland, at Toronto Metropolitan University and at the University of Toronto.

At Queen's Park, the demonstrators called on the Ontario government to reconsider a motion that passed 78-0 in the legislature on Thursday. The motion condemned Hamas and affirmed Israel's right to defend itself. All Progressive Conservative and Liberal MPPs voted in favour of the motion tabled on Monday, while the NDP abstained from the vote.

Dalia Awwad, a demonstrator at the Queen's Park rally, said the motion failed to call for an end to the bombing of Gaza by Israel and for the entry of humanitarian aid into Gaza. The motion lacked balance, she said.

"We're calling on the provincial government to reconsider the vote that it took yesterday. It was a vote whereby the government refused to include anything that had to do with breaking the siege on Gaza, with allowing humanitarian aid in. It was one that was continuing this trend of erasing Palestinians really across the board," she said.

Awwad said demonstrators would also like to see an arms embargo by the Canadian government against Israel. Canada should take a clear stand against the bombing of Gaza and demand that humanitarian aid should be allowed into Gaza, she said.

"Canada needs to end its complicity. If Canada really does stand for human rights, this should be a no brainer," she said.

At least 4,137 Palestinians have been killed in the war to date, including more than 1,500 children, Palestinian officials say. Israel says more than 1,400 of its citizens have been killed. Several Canadians have also died in the conflict.

The motion was passed after more than two days of lengthy debate that included impassioned addresses from many MPPs.

The NDP had tried to amend the motion to include calls for an immediate ceasefire, for Hamas to release all of the hostages it took during its surprise Oct. 7 attack on Israel, and for Canada to send humanitarian aid to Gaza.

Protesters opposed to government support for Israel rally at the intersection of Bloor Street and Spadina Avenue, in Toronto, on Oct. 20, 2023. See man yelling into megaphone.
Protesters opposed to government support for Israel rally at the intersection of Bloor Street and Spadina Avenue, in Toronto, on Oct. 20, 2023. See man yelling into megaphone.

A protester speaks at a rally at the intersection of Bloor Street West and Spadina Avenue, in Toronto on Oct. 20, 2023. Rally-goers said they were opposed to provincial and federal government support for Israel. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Earlier on Friday, pro-Palestinian demonstrators gathered outside Freeland's office, near the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre, at Bloor Street West and Spadina Avenue to protest.

"We're really calling on the Canadian government to stop arming Israel, to stop supporting Israel and to actually acknowledge that this is an apartheid state that is actually killing thousands of Palestinians," demonstrator Anna Malla said.

Amid chants of "Free Palestine" from the amassed crowd, demonstrator Jill Glessing called for an stop to the violence, and for meaningful, peaceful negotiations.

"[Palestinians] live in a very impoverished situation, and it's just untenable," she said.

At one point during the protest a man walked through yelling, "Shame on you" at the group, but was quickly led away by police officers.