We Refuse to be Intimidated, We will Continue to Defend Palestine

by Canada Palestine Association

Anti-Palestinian repression in Canada has intensified in recent months, and we face the specter of not just politicians, but also municipal police forces, publicly flaunting their racism.  Most major cities have recorded ramped up police harassment of pro-Palestine events, from Vancouver to Ottawa, Calgary, Toronto and beyond. 

This repression is being challenged by activists who have pledged to continue their struggle against Israel’s genocide. And all this is happening while a Canadian university campus, UBC, is allowing Israeli soldiers, people who have been part of the daily murder of Palestinians, to offer their “insights from the ground”. 

In Vancouver, the city council elected in late 2022 was, and is, blatantly pro-Israel; it rushed to endorse the infamous IHRA definition as one of its first acts of business. The Vancouver Police Department VPD had taken the unprecedented step of endorsing this slate of candidates, so it was not a quantum leap to imagine that they would be hostile to Palestinian solidarity organizing.  

And the VPD came out in full force after October 7 at local rallies and demos, bringing their canine unit with them and aggressively following people and photographing them. Veteran activists commented that these were some of “the most heavily policed Palestine rallies in Vancouver history.” Several people were arrested and charged in October, 2023, including a minor.  

As early as October 9, Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim was vocal about his support for Israel and was smearing Palestinian supporters as “terrorists”. He issued an official statement saying that in response to “anti-Israel rallies”, he had asked the Vancouver Police Department to “investigate”. And indeed, on October 12th, the VPD Chief issued his own statement, announcing they had activated their “Operations Centre” incorporating “specialized resources and a senior command structure”. All this, while reiterating multiple times that there was “no specific threat identified”. 

And more recently, on January 16 of this year, the VPD doubled down on its anti-Palestinian racism in a new statement, which alleged: “Tensions from the Israel-Hamas war have fueled increases in protest activity and hate crimes in Vancouver, resulting in rising anti-Semitism and more than $2.5 million in overtime costs to the Vancouver Police Department since October 7 alone.” Note the dominant Zionist and western narrative here, categorizing the Israeli genocide as the Israel-Hamas war, and seamlessly and erroneously transitioning into how this has fueled “hate crimes” and “anti-Semitism”. Local activists were quick to point out that the overtime costs were a result of the extreme over-policing for pro-Palestine events, and challenged the focus on “rising anti-Semitism”, especially at a time when our communities are facing daily harassment.

VPD in a recent press conference claimed that their statistics did “not highlight increases in Islamophobia”, but also admitted that “there may be incidents of underreporting…”. Given the messages emanating from both City Hall and the police, we would question why any Palestinian, Arab or Muslim community member would, or should, feel safe or comfortable approaching them. 

The Vancouver Palestine Action Coalition stated in an instagram post: “We view this statement as an effort to set the stage to characterize Palestinian solidarity protests as hateful in order to justify police repression targeting actions in support of the Palestinian struggle and to frame up people and organizations in solidarity with Palestine.”

Ottawa and Toronto have faced similar repression. In Ottawa, it reached the point of the ridiculous, when the city started passing out $490 fines for using megaphones. (The city of Edmonton is now considering a similar megaphone ban). And in Toronto, protestors have been targeted in multiple ways, including bans on protesting (or even walking with keffiyehs) in a certain area of town, and an outrageous charge of “public incitement of hatred” for flying the PFLP flag during a rally. A Calgary activist was initially charged with “hate motivation” for saying “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be Free”, although the charge was later stayed. 

The Zionist lobby and its friends and backers are genuinely astounded by the massive support for Palestine and its longevity. They cannot fathom how so many diverse communities (including our indigenous sisters and brothers) are joining together, in so many different types of activities, to call for an end to the genocide and a Free Palestine. One commentator went as far as to assert pro-Palestine protestors were paid to participate after a local Victoria BC collective offered funds for rally expenses, and even quoted a municipal councillor who questioned if “offshore money” was involved. 

The Zionist narrative has been allowed to dominate for so long in Canada, they have assumed everything they do will be considered justifiable. And anyone who does not agree is simply labelled anti-Semitic. But those days are over, there is no going back to the old “status quo”. Israel and its imperial backers, the US and other Western countries, should realize there is a new world dawning, and there is no place in it for such brutal and regressive states. 

Coverage of statement on AlMayadeen English: Canada Palestine Assoc.: Repressive practices surge amid Gaza genocide | Al Mayadeen English

Update on involvement of RCMP unit in anti-Palestinian repression:
The RCMP Sent Its Pipeline Protest Unit to Pro-Palestinian Rallies | The Tyee