FIRST READING: As a spooked Europe cracks down on pro-Hamas rallies, Canada … doesn't

France is deporting Hamas supporters. Germany has banned pro-Hamas rallies. The U.K. is promising hate charges

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Canada is not alone among western nations in experiencing a recent wave of explicitly pro-Hamas rallies, but it is beginning to stand out for how little it’s done to address them.

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The United Kingdom has pressed a wave of hate charges against anti-Israel demonstrators. France has pledged the deportation of non-citizens cheering on the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks on Israel. Germany has ordered a crackdown on pro-Hamas organizations. Even the United States — with its robust constitutional protections for free speech and freedom of assembly — has seen private groups push hard against pro-Hamas sentiments coming out of academia.

But Canada will soon be entering week two of the largest and most sustained pro-terror protests in its history without a single measurable sanction or consequence for the organizers.

In sharp contrast to the Freedom Convoy demonstrations last year, many of these pro-Hamas rallies are occurring without so much as an official condemnation from local authorities. Notable exceptions to this came from Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow, who called a pro-Palestinian rally “deplorable,” and Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim, who denounced rallies that celebrate terrorism.

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On Wednesday night, a crowd of more than 100 waving Palestinian flags illegally blocked Toronto’s Yonge and Bloor intersection directly outside the city’s Israeli consulate. As a large contingent of Toronto police looked on, demonstrators called for violent “Intifada” and chanted “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” — a slogan that many believe explicitly rejects a “two-state solution” in favour of Israel’s complete destruction.

It’s the latest of dozens of such rallies that have been appearing regularly in the downtowns of all of Canada’s major cities — most of them organized and promoted by a group calling itself the Palestinian Youth Movement.

Only hours after details emerged of Hamas orchestrating a coordinated massacre of more than 1,000 Israeli civilians, an initial wave of All Out for Palestine rallies were held from Montreal to Vancouver to Toronto to Ottawa to cheer the attacks as an act of “resistance” and to honour the “martyrs” who perpetrated them.

“The resistance’s offensive attack has shaped a new precedent for our national liberation struggle and we remain steadfast in our right to resist by any means necessary,” read one Palestinian Youth Movement Facebook post organizing a Thanksgiving Day rally in Toronto’s Nathan Phillips Square.

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Now, as Israel mobilizes to invade Gaza and destroy its Hamas leadership, many of the protests are themed around accusing the Jewish state of perpetrating a “genocide” against Palestinians. After a misfired Islamic Jihad rocket struck Gaza City’s Al-Ahli Arab Hospital, for instance, the Palestinian Youth Movement held “emergency” rallies in several Ontario cities blaming the explosion on Israel — and circulating the wildly inflated figure that the blast had created more than 1,000 “martyrs.”

While media reports have often characterized the rallies as “pro-Palestinian” protests, organizers have made no secret of referring to Israel only as a “Zionist occupation” that must be destroyed by violence. Speakers have frequently been recorded calling for Israel’s eradication, or even pledging allegiance to Hamas, which has been designated a terrorist organization by both Canada and the U.S.

Rallies of a similar character and purpose have simultaneously occurred across the United States and Europe. But in Europe especially, the spectre of crowds openly cheering the death of Jewish civilians has prompted an aggressive crackdown by civil authorities.

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Last week, French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin prohibited pro-Palestinian demonstrations and promised “systematic” deportation of foreign nationals who violated the ban.

U.K. Home Secretary Suella Braverman warned last week that any open promotions of terrorism or antisemitism would be met with criminal prosecution. “To all those who saw fit to promote genocide, glorify terrorism and mock the murder of Jewish people, including women and babies — the police are coming for you,” she wrote in an Oct. 15 post to X.com.

And according to recent figures by the U.K.’s Crown Prosecution Service, hate crimes charges have surged considerably since Oct. 7, with 457 recorded acts of alleged antisemitism, and 200 instances of alleged anti-Muslim incidents.

Germany banned the pro-Palestinian group Samidoun after it organized events in Berlin where demonstrators handed out sweets to celebrate the Oct. 7 attacks. “We will not accept the heinous attacks against Israel being celebrated here on our streets,” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told the country’s federal parliament. Scholz also announced a ban on all Hamas-linked activities, with his interior minister saying she was authorizing a broader probe into “deporting offenders from the Islamist scene.”

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Canadian law enforcement has stepped up security at Jewish schools and community centres, particularly after Hamas leadership in Qatar called for a worldwide “day of rage” against Jewish and Israeli targets last week. But otherwise, Canada has seen no dispersals of rallies, no reviews of government funding to organizations or institutions with open Hamas sympathies, no charges laid under Canadian laws forbidding the public incitement of “hatred against any identifiable group.” Canada’s own branch of Samidoun, headquartered in Vancouver, retains non-profit status.

One of the most direct questions — and responses — to what Canada should do came from Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre. He was asked by reporters last week whether Canada should follow France and Germany in its approach to the rallies.

“We, as Conservatives, believe in freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, freedom of association,” Poilievre said. “People are free to state their own opinions, even opinions that I find abhorrent.”

Poilievre added, though, if anyone is providing material support for Hamas “then the police must enforce the anti-terror laws and arrest them for that Criminal Code offence.” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has also condemned rallies, saying the “glorification of death and violence and terror has no place anywhere, including, especially, here in Canada.”

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The only attendees known to have experienced any kind of personal consequence after attending a Canadian rally were two people fired after publicly making pro-Hamas comments. A Montreal-based Air Canada pilot was fired after he responded to the Oct. 7 attacks with a series of celebratory anti-Israel posts, including images of himself attending a rally with a sign reading “keep the world clean” alongside an image of a stick figure throwing away an Israeli flag.

And Mississauga’s Essra Karam lost a position with Convenience Group, a Toronto-area window film distributor, after she said in a video interview with Rebel News that Hamas is “not a terrorist group” and “every single thing they have done is justified.”

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Pierre Poilievre eating an apple
Unlike most Canadian prime ministers, Justin Trudeau is unique in that he’s pretty recognizable to foreigners, either as a matinee-idol progressive, or a cautionary political bogeyman. Well, this week saw Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre’s first major coup at getting noticed by a foreign audience. In a video that has since been picked up by outlets across the U.K. and U.S., Poilievre can be seen eating an apple while calmly slapping down questions from an unprepared reporter. If you’re a connoisseur of what the Germans call fremdschämen, Colby Cosh has transcribed the exchange here. Photo by Pierre Poilievre/X

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Originally posted 2023-10-20 11:06:43.


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