Canada: Week of blockades, protests spotlights complicity, weapons sales to Israel

March 8, 2024
Photos of protests around Canada

Palestine solidarity activists in Canada scored a major victory on March 2, shutting down a high-profile meeting between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Italian far-right prime minister Giorgia Meloni.

More than 400 people blockaded the event in opposition to the two leaders’ ongoing support for Israel’s genocidal war in Gaza and opposition to Meloni’s fascist government.

This was a high point in a week of actions where Palestine solidarity activists blockaded major arms manufacturing companies across the country, reinforcing growing calls for an immediate embargo on Canadian arms sales to Israel.

TTM, Viasystems, RTX, Thales targetted

In Toronto, more than 200 workers, union members and community activists disrupted the morning shift at TTM Technologies, setting up picket lines at three entrances to TTM’s facility on February 26.

According to World Beyond War, “TTM Technologies has exported circuit boards from their Canadian location destined for consignees Elbit Systems and Artem Technologies Ltd — two Israeli companies”.

WBW also reported that Viasystems Toronto Inc — acquired by TTM in 2015 — has applied for permits to ship goods to Israel under an export category that includes “Bombs, torpedoes, rockets, missiles, other explosive devices and charges and related equipment and accessories [...] and specially designed components”. The company has also sought permission to “export bare printed Circuit Boards that will subsequently be populated by the consignee outside Canada” to be installed in testing equipment for a “Smart Tactical Advanced Rocket” system.

Workers arriving at TTM’s facility on foot refused to cross the picket lines and dozens of vehicles turned around and drove away.

In Calgary, protesters picketed the local office of United States weapons manufacturer RTX — formerly known as Raytheon — on February 26. RTX develops and sells military equipment to Israel, including missiles launched from F-16 and F-35 fighter jets. Protesters tied the main gate shut and attached a banner saying “Canada Stop Arming Israel” to it.

That same morning, 40 protesters in Peterborough, Ontario, picketed outside the Safran Technologies facility during the morning shift change. Safran produces telemetry equipment and battlefield targeting technology for the Israeli military. According to World Beyond War, Safran also has an agreement with the Israeli government “to support the development of its Arrow 3 anti-missile system and surveillance at border walls”. Protesters held banners saying “Stop Arming Genocide” and “Permanent Ceasefire Now”.

Protesters in Vancouver blockaded the entrance to a Hikvision promotional event for several hours on February 27. Hikvision sells surveillance cameras to the Israeli military that are used in illegal Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory.

That same day, workers in Québec City protested at the offices of Thales to condemn their complicity in the Israeli state’s genocide in Gaza and raise awareness in the community. Thales supplies Israel with radars, missiles and components used in their air force, navy, and ground forces. According to WBW, “Thales has been involved in Israel’s military supply chain for decades, providing … materials for Israel’s fighter jets, such as the F-15 and the F-35. In addition, Thales supplies Israel with radars, missiles, electronic warfare systems, communication systems and naval equipment.” Thales and Elbit “jointly own UAV Tactical Systems (U-TacS), which makes killer drones”.

Protestors also shut down the offices of the Lockheed Martin’s Department of National Defence campus in Esquimalt, near British Columbia’s capital, Victoria, on February 28. Lockheed and the DND sent most workers home by 9am and shut operations for the day.

Protesters also gathered with banners at the Colt Canada plant in Kitchener, Ontario, on February 28, bringing attention to the company’s rifles being used by the Israeli military in its assaults on Gaza. According to WBW, Israel ordered 18,000 assault rifles from Colt as recently as November.

Notably, members of the labour movement were involved in most of the blockades and picket lines. This is a significant aspect of Palestine solidarity organising in Canada, which has grown since Israel launched its genocidal war on Gaza in October.

Labour for Palestine

A sizeable and growing Labour for Palestine movement has emerged in cities across the country. Mobilisations against arms manufacturers and suppliers to the Israeli state have been combined with campaigns within unions to divest from Israeli companies and refuse to handle Israeli goods.

The state, at all levels — federal, provincial and municipal — has responded by upping levels of surveillance and repression against Palestine solidarity movements and activists. Toronto police have launched an investigation into the mass action that ended the Trudeau-Meloni event.

In Surrey, British Columbia, the city government has taken the extreme step of locking residents out of city council meetings to silence Palestine solidarity voices. Members of the public were refused entry to the two most recent council meetings — whether as observers or speakers. Riot fencing was erected at City Hall entrances and large numbers of police, council enforcement officers and private security personnel deployed — on the chance that people might show up to call on the council to release a statement calling for a ceasefire.

Popular organising and mobilising clearly has politicians — and some segments of capital — scared. Some splits appear to be emerging among the ruling Liberals — at least behind closed doors.

Following the week of action, the federal government decided to resume funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinians (UNRWA), which they paused in January. The government will now make a scheduled payment of $25 million in April and announce new funding.

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