Vigil held in honour of Gaza health workers

Montreal medical students stand in solidarity with Palestinian health professionals

A candle-lit vigil sits in Dorchester Square on Nov. 15. Photo Sarah-Maria Khoueiry

On the night of Nov. 15, Dorchester Square lit up with candles held by those mourning the loss of over 200 medical staff in Gaza. The vigil, organized by a group of medical students in Montreal, attracted over a hundred people.

As of Nov. 5, 39 health facilities have been targeted in Gaza, according to the World Health Organization, including the Turkish-Palestinian Friendship Hospital, which is the only hospital for cancer treatment in the Gaza Strip.

“Being a human should be enough to be outraged and condemn the indiscriminate killing of civilians in Gaza, and beyond,” Montreal-based physician Dr. Sarah Hanafi said in her speech. “I would be remiss if, as a psychiatrist, I failed to highlight the searing impact on the collective mental health of Palestinians. […] There is no medication, no therapy, that can treat this if we fail to address the root cause—the ongoing Israeli assault on Palestinian life and the deprivation of the basic materials for health.”

The Israeli government has been justifying these attacks by alleging that Hamas terrorists are using the city’s hospitals as military bases, and are hiding in interconnected tunnels under them. The Israeli military has released a video on X, formerly known as Twitter, showing an alleged tunnel shaft. The video pictures what the hole looks like from above-ground and does not show what the tunnel looks like. An older photograph allegedly depicting another entrance to the tunnels under the Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani Hospital for Rehabilitation and Prosthetic Hospital has been disproved by an investigation by Al-Jazeera.

“Healthcare has to stand with the oppressed and those who are underprivileged in order to fulfill its Hippocratic oath,” said an organizer, who wished to remain anonymous to highlight the fact that he was speaking for the entire group and not as an individual. As medical students, they recognize the importance of “[standing] up against the Western point of view.”

“Regardless of who is being targeted, that collateral damage is a crime against humanity that has to be spoken out against,” they added.
Most of the other speakers touched on Canadian complicity in the ongoing genocide, and touched on the relief of being far away from the bombs, that is balanced out with the shame of being complicit.

In her speech, Hanafi called on “all people of conscience—regardless of ethnicity, citizenship, and faith” to stand together.
Hind El-Samra, a protestor who has started a petition asking the National Assembly to call for an immediate ceasefire, echoed this sentiment. She added that, as a Lebanese person, she sympathizes with the Palestinian struggle.

“It’s something very close to my heart,” said El-Samra. “My brother, my sister, and I have lived through war, my parents fled the war, I have lost family members to the war. We’ll give everything we have to get to see a free Palestine.”

She said the petition currently has around 800 signatures.

“Getting a ceasefire is primordial. Of course we would like more, but this is a first step in the right direction, El-Samra said.