A demonstration began shortly after 1 p.m. where Edmontonians gathered at Churchill Square on Sunday to protest the Canadian government’s backing of Israel and made calls for a ceasefire and an end to Israeli occupation of Palestine.
A local group called Free Palestine organized the rally and led the march through the downtown core and back to Churchill Square.
Some of the demonstrators’ signs read, “I am Gaza,” “We are all Palestinian,” “Free Palestine,” and “Bombing kids is not self-defence.”
While the march moved through downtown, an individual attempted to disrupt the demonstration. One EPS officer and several organizers wearing yellow vests intercepted the individual from the march shortly before it turned toward Rogers Place.
“There’s no doubt about the fact that Israel is committing genocide. Everyone can see it with their own eyes,”
Peggy Morton, protestor
There was minimal police presence, with only one observed unmarked police truck with flashing lights visibly travelling alongside the protesters.
As the march passed Scotiabank, the protest denounced the bank’s funding of an Israeli military technology company. 1832 Asset Management, a subsidiary company owned by Scotiabank, holds just over 5 per cent of Elbit Systems, one of Israel’s largest defence contractors. The holdings are worth an estimated $619.7 million CAD. Scotiabank holds the largest foreign shares in Elbit Systems and is the largest investor in Canada.
“Everything about this is wrong. It’s inhumane. I don’t understand how our country can watch and do nothing. It’s criminal,” said Carla Costuros, an attendee of Sunday’s demonstration.
Costuros said Canada should be ashamed of not calling for a ceasefire after one of the United Nations’s bodies, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered Israel to prevent genocide in Gaza.
“Everything about this is wrong. It’s inhumane. I don’t understand how our country can watch and do nothing. It’s criminal,”
Carla Costuro, rally attendee
As of Jan. 31, Canada is among 14 other countries to pull funding from the agency after allegations of some UNRWA staff being involved in the Oct. 7, 2023 attack against Israel.
“I’m outraged that Canada has withdrawn funding from UNRWA [United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees],” Costuros said. “In my lifetime, I feel like this is the worst thing I’ve ever seen.”
Peggy Morton attended the Sunday rally at Churchill Square to stand with the Palestinian people. Morton believes Israel is committing genocide and that the Canadian government is actively trying to suppress Palistinians and Palistinian supporters across Canada. “A lot of people are being targeted, you know, people are being fired,” she said. “They’re being silenced, and so, we have a fight on every level, not just against the government.”
“The conscience of Canadians says to this government, ‘You are going to be held responsible. We will hold you accountable,’ All of them.”
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates that there have been 27,365 Palestinian fatalities since Israel escalated its military operations in Gaza after the Hamas attacks against Israel on Oct. 7, 2023.
Photo credit to David Slater. This article was edited on Jan 9, 2024 to clarify that only one EPS vehicle was observed, but not confirmed to be the only EPS vehicle present during the demonstration.