Pro-Palestinian protesters continue demanding for a ceasefire

Hundreds of protesters gathered at Dorchester Square on Saturday to rally for Gaza

Speakers commence the demonstration at Dorchester Square on March 24, 2024 Photo by Ellie Wand

On March 23, hundreds of protesters gathered in Dorchester Square to protest in support of Palestinians in Gaza.

The demonstration was the first protest organized by la Coalition du Québec URGENCE Palestine, a newly formed coalition of pro-Palestinian organizations from Quebec. The coalition was supported by 228 organizations, including The Confédération des syndicats nationaux and the FTQ, as well as political parties such as Québec Solidaire and the Communist Party of Québec.

“We thought that it was important that we do something to express our ideas, to express our solidarity with the Palestinian people, and to protest against the action or inaction of our government,” said Diane Lamoureux, an administration committee member of the Ligue des droits et libertés, one of the member organizations of the coalition.

According to Gaza’s health ministry, over 32,000 Palestinians have been killed since Oct. 7, 2023. Humanitarian aid is still facing blockades and is unable to reach many Palestinians, despite funding from countries around the world, including Turkey, the U.A.E, and Egypt. Canada pledged $40 million in aid for Gaza in January 2024, shortly after pausing funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, known as UNRWA. In February, the United Nations (UN) warned that a quarter of Gaza’s population is at risk of imminent famine.

The coalition’s focus at the protest was to call for an immediate ceasefire and the safe passage of humanitarian aid into Gaza.

Ellen Gabriel, a Mohawk activist, spoke at the demonstration to urge Quebecers to stand for Palestine in the same way they should stand for Indigenous people. 

“As Indigenous people, we have always known there exists double standards,” said Gabriel. “We see the cracks that Gaza has revealed. When we see something as horrific as is happening in Gaza—the murder, the psychopaths with weapons killing innocent people and children and maiming them—to me, there are no more words to describe the evil that they have been unleashing against the Palestinians.”

Gabriel also spoke about the illegality of the situation in Gaza. “It’s really important for people to show up and call out the hypocrisy of Western states,” she Gabriel. “What they’re doing is not only against the Geneva Convention, but international human rights law, and I think they should be held to account not just by the people who are here.”

On March 23, the secretary-general of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, visited Cairo, Egypt, where he restated the UN’s support for a ceasefire in Palestine. Despite international pressure, Israel rejected ceasefire terms proposed by Hamas in February.

On March 25, the UN Security Council voted in favour of a ceasefire in Gaza during Ramadan. 14 votes were cast in support, including Canada. The United States abstained. 

According to The Associated Press, around 80 per cent of people in Gaza have had to leave their homes since Oct. 7, 2023. Following military operations in the northern part of Gaza, people have fled south towards Egypt. 

Ghida, a spokesperson for the Palestinian Youth Movement, who did not wish to reveal her last name for safety reasons, has been organizing weekly protests in Montreal since October. She said that sustained pressure—in any form—is essential for change. “We should always be demanding more,” she said. “I would never underestimate any form of action. Everything is important because a movement needs different action to be a movement.”

Just two weeks ago, on March 9, protestors gathered on Parliament Hill in Ottawa for the National March for Gaza, which was said to have been one of the largest pro-Palestinian demonstrations in the city.

“You shouldn’t be an activist by yourself,” said Ghida. “Join a movement, join your local neighbourhood organization, because we can only put pressure as a collective.”

Hélène Denoncourt, who has been active in different forms of protests since she was a teenager, attended the demonstration with her friend, Johanne Laplante. While they both believe protests help to show solidarity and build community, they think politicians have the real power to affect change. 

“It’s to be together,” said Denocourt when asked why she was attending the protest. “It’s to feel that you’re not alone.”