The Canadian state has been one of the most steadfast supporters of the Israeli state’s occupation, apartheid and genocide against the Palestinians.
Justin Trudeau’s government has expressed continuing support for Israel’s latest genocidal war on Gaza, refusing to call for a ceasefire even as the Gazan Health Ministry reported that the death toll among Palestinians passed 8300 on October 30.
Canada was one the 45 countries that abstained from the final vote on an October 27 United Nations’ call for a “humanitarian pause” in Israel’s bombardment of Gaza. Bob Rae, Canada's permanent UN envoy (and former social democrat), had tried to add an amendment to the resolution to formally condemn Hamas (but not Israel).
More and more people across the country are thinking about how solidarity actions with Palestine can be undertaken to directly impact those supporting and benefiting from Israel’s assault on Gaza. One powerful way is to target the military weapons companies that arm genocide and profit from it.
Canada awarded 315 export permits and exported CA$21.3 million- (A$24.2 million) worth of military materials and technologies to Israel in 2022. This included more than CA$3 million (A$3.4 million) in bombs, torpedoes, missiles and other explosives.
Activists, from a diversity of movements, have stepped up efforts to protest arms manufacturers over the past few weeks, up to and including blockading facilities. This may signal an important shift in the solidarity movement’s tactics — bringing some real costs to capital, rather than more symbolic expressions.
Actions at arms companies
Activists set up a picket on October 20 outside technology firm Leidos Incorporated, to call out their profiting from the occupation of Palestine and killing of Palestinians. According to World Beyond War, Leidos has supplied the Israeli state with screening technologies that are deployed at several military checkpoints in occupied Palestinian territory. The company’s SafeView and ProVision scanners have been used at the Erez checkpoint in the Gaza Strip and SafeView body scanner machines have been installed in the Qalandia, Bethlehem, and Sha’ar Efraim (Irtach) checkpoints in the occupied West Bank.
One day later, activists covered the entrance to L3Harris Technologies Toronto weapons facility with red “blood” splatters. Activists say L3Harris Technologies makes essential components for many of the weapons systems that are used by the Israeli military, including the air-to-ground bombs currently raining down on Gaza.
The largest action took place on October 30, as part of an international day of action in solidarity with Palestine. Activists mobilised a blockade of the entrances to INKAS — a “security and defense company” headquartered in Toronto. INKAS claims that its Israeli division has “supplied the government of Israel with more command & control units than any other supplier in history”.
The blockade was organised in response to a call for action from Workers in Palestine — a coalition of 30 Palestinian trade unions and professional associations — “to end all complicity and to stop arming Israel”.
The blockade involved Labour for Palestine, Labour Against the Arms Trade and World Beyond War — part of a coalition of 100 organisations calling on Members of Parliament and key government ministers to end arms sales to Israel. They have also organized online campaigns toward this goal.
Anna Lippman, of Labour for Palestine said at the blockade: “Workers in Canada do not want their labour used in service of ethnic cleansing. We demand that Canada cease arms sales to Israel. Labour unions have historically led the fight for human rights both in Canada and globally. Today we show up again and demand our politicians stop funding genocide.”
World Beyond War’s Rachel Small said in a statement: “We refuse to stand by as businesses in our neighborhoods and across Canada are arming and making a fortune off of carnage in Gaza and the massacre of thousands of Palestinians.”
That same day a sit-in took place at the constituency offices of 17 federal MPs, including Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland, Defence Minister Bill Blair and Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly.
A sit in was also held at the office of New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh. The NDP — which signed a cooperation agreement to prop up Trudeau’s minority government — could pull the plug over its refusal to support a ceasefire in Gaza, but it has so far refused to do so.
The blockades come as more and more unions, labour councils and union federations have come out with calls for a ceasefire and/or expressions of solidarity with Palestine. These calls must move to actions — whether strikes, blockades or boycotts. To assist with actions, World Beyond War has produced a map of weapons manufacturers in Canada arming Israel.
Canada also hosts key suppliers and profiteers of Israeli occupation, such as ZIM Lines, Israel's largest and oldest cargo shipping company. A ZIM ship stops in Vancouver roughly every month. There is also a ZIM office in downtown Vancouver. In recent years, dock workers — members of the International Longshore Workers Union — have refused to load or unload ZIM ships and there have been community blockades.
Policing Palestinian solidarity
At the INKAS blockade, police arrested five protesters and removed them from the site. They were all released and given a provincial offence notice for trespassing.
Police arrested six people at the sit in at Liberal Minister of Justice Arif Virani's office in Toronto. Police were also called to Joly’s office and removed protesters from Freeland’s office.
Police were called to the protest at Centre MP Randy Boissonnault’s office in Edmonton, removing protesters as they read out the names of 6000 Palestinians killed in Gaza.
As I have reported recently, many local police being deployed against Palestine solidarity activists have connections with Israeli security forces. Several, including Edmonton police and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, have deployed their officers in joint operations with Israeli forces.