Breaking from U.S., Canada votes for ceasefire—but continues Israeli arms shipments
A Palestinian flag flies near the Peace Tower during a rally on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Nov. 4, 2023. | Spencer Colby / The Canadian Press via AP

TORONTO—Peace and solidarity activists across Canada were pleased to see the government support the United Nations vote on Dec. 12 calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. They should be pleased—it was their efforts which helped make it happen.

Without the continuing mass mobilizations against Israel’s war in communities large and small, the Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would surely not have felt compelled to shift from its two-month-long refusal to support a ceasefire.

At the same time, the same activists are rightfully disgusted that the government took so long to take even a modest stand against a bloody siege that many rightfully recognize as a genocide.

In the time it took for Ottawa to decide that a ceasefire was worth supporting, over 18,000 Palestinian people have been killed and nearly 50,000 wounded. The majority of the people killed and wounded are women and children. Eighty-five percent of the people in Gaza have been displaced by the siege, according to the U.N.—this would be like having over 32 million of Canada’s 38 million people displaced.

The government’s public statements on the ceasefire vote have been contradictory, leaving many people concerned that the Liberals will quickly weasel their way out of any commitment to action. When Trudeau has used the word “ceasefire” (which is not very often), he has stressed that it must be “sustainable” but has avoided saying it must be permanent.

His government took great pains to amend the previous U.N. resolution for a ceasefire, on Oct. 27, to make it explicitly condemn Hamas. When the amendment failed, Canada abstained from voting on the resolution. Trudeau’s current qualified call for a “sustainable ceasefire” suggests that the government is still guided by the same thinking.

The Canadian government needs to issue a clear, public call for an immediate and permanent ceasefire, beginning with and focused on Israel’s vicious offensive against the people of Gaza. Imposing conditions through an assumed moral equivalency between Israel’s violence and that of Hamas will only stall a ceasefire before it can even begin.

Ottawa also needs to back up a real call for a ceasefire by ending its military support for the genocidal siege itself. Canada can and should immediately halt shipments of arms to Israel. Where the government has so far failed to do this, protesters have tried by blockading arms manufacturers like L3Harris and Lockheed Martin.

Certainly, it is positive that Canada has finally been pushed to support a ceasefire. But this only makes the work of the peace and solidarity movements more urgent and more important. Over the past nine weeks, millions of people in this country have protested and petitioned the government, and that wave of mobilization needs to continue—and grow—if Ottawa is to be pushed from words to real action.

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Dave McKee
Dave McKee

Dave McKee is the editor of People's Voice, Canada's leading English-language socialist publication.