Canada: Second wave of encampments for Palestine launched

May 12, 2024
list of demands

Last week, students at universities across Canada set up encampments in solidarity with Palestine at seven universities: McGill University, the University of British Columbia (UBC), University of Ottawa, Western University, University of Victoria (UVic), Vancouver Island University (VIU) and the University of Toronto (U of T).

Despite efforts by Zionists, and Israeli state supporting politicians to demonise the encampments, and despite hostile provocations by Zionist mobs, most have grown in size and resolve.

A second wave of protest encampments was launched at universities in several provinces in the week of May 4, including at the University of Calgary and the University of Alberta — Canada’s largest institutions, Camps were also set up at McMaster University, the University of Windsor and the University of Manitoba.

The University of Calgary encampment was violently evicted and dismantled by police, who moved in only a few hours after it was established on May 9.

Alberta and Calgary

Students set up encampments at each of Alberta’s two largest universities — the University of Alberta and the University of Calgary — on the morning of May 9. Both encampments demanded that their universities disclose all investments and divest from Israeli institutions and companies supporting and/or profiting from the genocide of Palestinians.

University of Alberta students want their institution to condemn the genocide and appeal to the government to end all military contracts with Israel.

Calgary students are calling for a complete academic boycott of institutions connected with the occupation of Palestine and are demanding that the university issue a public statement recognising the genocide of Palestinians and condemning Israeli state atrocities.

They are also raising demands to support Palestinian students on campus, including academic and mental health supports and for the university to adopt an anti-Palestinian racism definition on campus.

Early on, Calgary’s administration brought in the police who subjected students to helicopter surveillance for hours. They also shut down the power outlets around the encampment. This prompted call out for generators to be brought to the camp.

More than 50 police vehicles were deployed against the encampment and late in the evening of the first night, Calgary police in riot gear, with guns drawn, violently raided the university encampment, tearing down tents and pushing students and supporters away from the camp. Video quickly circulated of Calgary police shoving protesters and knocking people wearing keffiyehs to the ground.

This has raised the spectre of more police attacks, echoing the violence inflicted on students at several campuses in the United States.

[Update; Police attacked the encampment at the University of Alberta in the eary hours of May 11.]


Students established an encampment at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, on May 4, kicking off the second wave. Following a week of action, more than 140 people are camping out with about 40 tents.

The encampment is demanding that the university “immediately divest from all economic and academic interests” with companies involved in human rights violations and end connections with Israeli institutions, including the Hebrew University of Jerusalem — where McMaster has a university exchange program — and the Technion Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa.

McMaster also has graduate co-op and intern placements with L3Harris, a US-based defence technology company supplying the Israel Defense Forces with components that are integrated into multiple weapons systems used by the Israeli military in Gaza.

The university administration responded to the students’s demands by claiming that a letter it received from organisers with Solidarity for Palestinian human rights (SPHR) was “confrontational”.


About 100 students set up an encampment at the University of Manitoba — the province’s largest university — in Winnipeg on May 7, demanding that the university boycott Israeli institutions, end student-exchange programs with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and “divest permanently from any companies or institutions complicit in genocide, oppression and discrimination”.

The protest is also demanding that the university issue “a public statement endorsing Palestinian rights” and introduce “a new course in Palestinian identity to provide a better understanding of its cultural, historical and political aspects”.

Echoing calls from other student actions, they are also calling on the university to “swiftly (implement) safety protocols and (provide) support on campus for all Palestinian students and their allies”.

Palestinian students at the university have increasingly been targeted with racism, harassment, and discrimination since October, and nursing student Arij Al Khafagi was suspended last year for social media posts critical of Israel’s actions in its assault on Gaza.

Western's encampment relaunched

Students at Western University in London, Ontario, relaunched their encampment on May 8. Students had previously set up a 24-hour encampment during the first wave, promising that it would return if the university administration refused to discuss their concerns about the institution’s investments in companies with links to Israeli apartheid and fossil fuels. Unsurprisingly, the hoped-for dialogue did not eventuate.

In a statement released for the second encampment, students expressed their frustration with being excluded from “crucial decision-making processes that influence not only the university community, but also set and uphold broader systems of power and influence public opinion.

“Western has ignored past community calls for consultation, going so far as to claim that there is no precedent for decisions around investment policy to be made outside of private Board of Governors meetings. Yet in 1985, on the recommendation of the President's Advisory Committee on Investment in South Africa and following community consultation, Western adopted investment policy to divest from South African apartheid.”

The students are demanding the university “address the urgency of the climate crisis and their complicity in settler-colonial violence by divesting from fossil fuels and ceasing to prop up the fossil fuel industry” and “immediately divest from the companies that are directly involved in the illegal and ongoing occupation of Palestine, and the apartheid system that Israel continues to uphold”.


On May 9, a couple dozen students launched what they call “the Liberation Zone” on the center of campus at my alma mater, the University of Windsor. Students have pushed the university’s administration to divest from organizations that benefit from or support Israel. They have not given a timeline for leaving the site.

The University of Windsor Faculty Association is one that has supported the students. They have already made their own motion calling on the university to divest the faculty pension fund and to end relationships with Israeli universities. They are also seeking university-based programs for Palestinian scholars who are at risk right now.

Faculty support grows

Faculty for Palestine (F4P) released a statement on May 9, expressing its full support for “the student encampments for Palestine at universities across the settler colonial state of Canada and around the world”.

It condemned administrators for criminalising or punishing student protesters and called out those who have stayed silent regarding the Israeli state genocide in Gaza.

The statement also condemned administrations “that continue to support Israeli apartheid and occupation through their investments and partnerships, through their censoring pro-Palestine speech and protest, through their refusal to call for a ceasefire and speak out against the genocide, and through their promotion of false narratives”.

F4P reiterated its commitment to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, echoing the slogan: “Disclose! Divest! We will not stop, we will not rest!”

This comes as faculty associations at several universities passed motions expressing solidarity with students and calling on their administrations to divest.

Toronto Metropolitan University’s faculty association voted to establish a committee to investigate the university’s academic and financial interests connected with the genocide of Palestinians.

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