In a manifest display of unity, thousands convened at Mel Lastman Square to stand with Israel, in the wake of a distressing weekend of violence in the Middle East.
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland addressed the crowd maustered by the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, vehemently demanding the immediate release of hostages seized in the chilling attack. “The glorification of terror has no place in Canada. We unequivocally condemn the terrorist attack by Hamas,” she added, underscoring that such actions do not reflect the values of this country.
Security was on high alert as police forces from Toronto, York and Durham regions, along with the OPP, constructed a barrier to separate the primary demonstration from the rush of pro-Palestinian counter-protestors also present on the scene. Despite some arrested, police described the evening’s events as “relatively peaceful.”
Earlier in the day, a pro-Palestinian demonstration organized by the Palestinian Youth movement was held at Nathan Phillips Square. It drew hundreds of people, with the crowd size expanding up to an estimated 1,000 participants by the time they marched towards the Israeli embassy.
The local Jewish community has been understandably unsettled following Hamas’ sudden attack, which disturbingly took place during the Jewish celebration of Sukkot. Militants infiltrated Israel, targeting young people at a music festival and families in their homes, and taking girls and elderly individuals hostage. Since Israel’s counterattacks began, the casualty count sits at approximately 900 Israelis and 500 Palestinians.
Further igniting local discord were online celebrations organized by Palestinian groups following the attacks. Premier Doug Ford condemned these actions as “reprehensible and disgusting,” stating they have no place in Ontario. Likewise, Mayor Olivia Chow fiercely criticized a pro-Palestinian rally in support of Hamas, remarking that “we simply must not tolerate any support of terror, full stop.”
Discord also sparked controversy about demonstrations not having permits with both Mayor Chow and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressing their rejection of violence glorification. Yet, Toronto police emphasized their duty to uphold everyone’s charter rights and freedoms.
The capital ultimately remains on guard as a result of the swaying tides of the Middle East conflict, its impact palpably felt on Canadian streets, and the nation’s leaders lay down a tough line on these events. Amidst this charged atmosphere of protests, counter-protests and political apprehensions, the community seeks ways to address and prevent any form of hatred, striving to maintain the values of peace and unity that Canada is known for.