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'We, as Quebecois, want a ceasefire': Thousands march for Gaza in Montreal

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Thousands gathered in downtown Montreal Sunday afternoon for another demonstration calling for the Israel-Hamas war to end in a ceasefire.

It's the second march of its kind in three days. Some demonstrators told CTV they believe Canadian politicians should do more to promote peace in Gaza as the death toll in the strip climbs.

The march took place in the aftermath of reported strikes in and around Gaza City's main hospital. Thousands of residents were forced to flee south as Israel intensified its assault on the territory's largest city.

The death toll in the strip has surpassed 11,000, according to Gaza officials.

"I want to show that we, as Quebecois, want a ceasefire now," one demonstrator told CTV. Many protestors shared similar messages: that too many innocent lives have been lost.

"I think this shows us the importance of continuing to demonstrate," said Sarah Shamy of the Palestinian Youth Movement.

"I think that the Canadian public officials are betting on just ignoring us and having this momentum die out. For the past 4 weeks, our numbers have only increased," she said.

People take part in a Pro-Palestine rally in Montreal, Sunday, Nov. 12, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

A RIGHT TO DEMONSTRATE?

The future of Montrealers' ability to demonstrate was questioned earlier this week when Quebec Premier Francois Legault wouldn't rule out banning demonstrations surrounding the war.

He made the comment after two Jewish schools were shot at in Montreal, acts his education minister called "a form of terrorism."

Police presence around Jewish institutions has grown in recent days as officers investigate violent acts near education and faith centres. On Sunday, police confirmed one Jewish school had been shot at for a second time in a matter of days.

Montreal police are analyzing the "from the river to the sea" slogan heard at Sunday's march. Police say they aim to determine whether it crosses into hate speech.

Those words have been echoed all over the world as protestors call for an end to this most recent instance of violence in the region. They have also drawn controversy since their meaning can be interpreted differently, depending on who hears them.

Many Palestinian activists say it's a call for peace and equality after 75 years of Israeli statehood and decades-long Israeli military rule over millions of Palestinians. Jews may hear it as a demand for Israel's destruction.

PEACE AND COLLABORATION

Since the Israel-Hamas war began, there has been a significant spike in hate crimes in Montreal.

Police statistics gathered from Oct. 7 (the start of the war) to Nov. 7 reveal 98 reported hate crimes in the city. Of those, 73 were against the Jewish community, while 25 were against the Arab-Muslim community -- though both numbers are likely under-reported.

In a separate event Sunday, a diverse group of women from various professional fields joined in calls for peace and collaboration among Montrealers in the face of war in the Middle East.

The event was organized by anti-racism group CRARR, and featured Palestinian and Jewish members on the panel. They urged people to speak out for what they believe is correct and do it peacefully.

People take part in a Pro-Palestinian rally in Montreal, Sunday, Nov. 12, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

"To the people that committed these acts of violence, they have no place in our society," said McGill University public policy professor Pearl Eliadis. "None of them speak for any of us."

"It's not up to Jews to face anti-Semitism alone. The same way that it's not up to Muslims to face Islamaphobia alone," said Mélissa Rina Shriqui of Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholom. 

-- Published with files from CTV's Matt Grillo and Max Harrold and The Associated Press

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