January 18, 2020 

  • Palestinians in Canada:

The Palestinians residing in Red Maple Countries, established aisles in frosting exiles, made out of Palestinian tales, cause and its pillars, that extend towards return roads. A simple tracking look of the Arab experience in Canada, the Palestinian in particular, is enough for the Palestinian and Lebanese to be feel pride at their achievements on the societal and professional levels. The integration in white, distant and cold lands hasn’t made them to forget their cause, which was rooted in their hearts and conscience as inherited with love from fathers to children.

The Palestinians did not leave a place in Canada where they can advocate the legitimacy and justice of their cause, which made Israel to consider "Toronto" city as one of the most hostile cities against them. The Palestinians with distinguished academic degrees and competencies; they were able to work in high positions within the Canadian society and at all societal and political levels.

The Beginnings of the Palestinian Presence:

The Palestinian's journey and emigration to Canada began in the mid-1960s, specifically after the June 1967 war, when tens of Palestinians arrived in Canada, and Israel was encouraging the Canadian government to welcome them as part of a plan to empty Palestinian Arab cities from their original inhabitants. Canada also witnessed the emigration of a number of students and academics, who finished their studies in some European countries, and were unable to return to the West Bank or Gaza Strip.

During the 1970's, entire families migrated from 1948 regions for political and economic reasons, and until the beginning of the 1980s; the number of Palestinians in Canada did not exceed 5,000.

The Palestinian immigration from Lebanon to Canada expanded during the eighties, especially after the Israeli aggression of Lebanon and the Sabra and Shatila massacre, and the largest numbers were, after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, when tens of thousands of Palestinians from Kuwait and the Gulf were expelled and displaced during that period.

Given the size of the financial savings of the Palestinians working at Gulf countries, and their high educational qualifications "engineers, accountants, doctors, etc.", their requests of immigrations were approved quickly by the Canadian government. Also, after the Oslo agreement, especially after the second intifada, with deteriorating economic situation and loss of hope in the peace process, led Canada to witness large numbers from the West Bank youth seek asylum; their number reached between forty and fifty thousand immigrants.

  • General Information:

The number of Palestinians in Canada: It is difficult to determine the exact number of the Palestinian community in Canada, due to the absence of official statistics, but there are approximate numbers told by some institutions affiliated to the Palestinian community in Canada; according to Palestine House Toronto, the number of members of the Palestinian community in Canada is approximately 50000 people during the year 2010.

The concentration places of Palestinian community: Palestinians are concentrated in several cities of Canada, including the city of "Mississauga" in the province of "Ontario", in the city of Toronto, which is the economic capital of Canada. The Palestinian community is also concentrated in the cities of Mesopotamia, the Province of Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia, and Ottawa.

The work fields of the Palestinians in Canada: Palestinians work in trade, administrative and professional work fields, and many of them hold important positions, such as university presidents, academics, doctors and heads of companies, factories, and institutions, even many of them became capital owners.

  • Integration at the Community Level:

One of the most important challenges facing members of the Palestinian community in Canada was the task of preserving identity along with achieving safe integration in Canadian society. The first generation was limited in its integration into Canadian society, while the generation of children was more integrated, and here was the challenge again in how to achieve the balance between preserving the Arab Palestinian identity and yet integrating openly into Canadian society.

Palestinian organizations are working on organizing and mobilizing campaigns to introduce the Palestinian cause, their legitimate rights, and suffering under the Israeli occupation to the Canadian and international community. Also, it seeks to spread Palestinian culture and enhance communication between members of the Palestinian community.

The Palestinians’ work in important vital fields and having prominent societal, political, economic, and academic positions indicate their full integration into Canadian society.

In spite of the great contributions that the Palestinian community makes within Canadian society, as well as the increase in immigration to Canada, still the social and political weight of the Palestinians community is weak and never commensurate with the its demographic weight. The Palestinians were and still face many challenges and important issues whether at the Canadian overall level, as feeling media bias towards Israel at the expense of the Palestinian issue, or at the organizational level represented by institutional weakness.

Achieving an advanced level of Palestinian integration in Canadian political and social life is a future goal for most active actors at the societal level there, through tens of volunteering works, active participation in Canadian parliamentary elections and searching for greater involvement of Arab youth in society. Thus, people of the Palestinian community continue focusing on educational achievement, engaging in government institutions, and taking their role in society to reach important positions in the Canadian state.

  • Political and Diplomatic Work:

The features of the Canadian-Palestinian relationship began to appear at the political level with the establishment of the "Canadian Arab Federation" at the hands of some nationally oriented personalities due to the small number of Arab and Palestinian immigrants present in Canada during that period. The Federation has formed a political organized power to represent Arab and Palestinians, especially with regard to political affairs, so that this constituted the beginning of Arab pressures against the Zionist lobby in Canada.

In spite of its recent establishment, the Arab Federation was able to leave its mark in the Canadian Parliament, which some of its members formed a parliamentary council in support of Arab issues, especially the cause of Palestine, the most prominent was the Deputy Mr. Marcel Prodome", as he also established a network of relations with syndicates, churches and some academic departments. This in turn has resulted in establishing the “Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights “Foundation and its most prominent leadership was a university professor called James Graff.

As a result of increasing numbers of Arab and Palestinian immigrants and the rising of Palestine Liberation Organization’s role, Palestinian associations began to deploy in various Canadian cities on the basis of the Qatari presence, to represent Palestinians in Canadian Diaspora. The Canadian Arab Federation transformed from an organization that includes Arab individuals to an organization that includes various Arab associations from different political directions and opinions.

Palestinian political action in Canada declined with the signing of the Oslo agreement, and some Palestinian societies took a position in support of the agreement, considering that as opening up to Jewish and Zionist parties in Canada that would enhance peace in the region, and this trend received governmental political support, while associations of the other opposing opinions, were declined after adding them to the list of "terrorist organizations" which have been banned from operating in Canada.

Given the position of the Canadian government being led by the unconditional pro-Israel Conservative Party, Israel has put great pressures through its organizations working there on Canadian universities and associations not to authorize any activity to combat Israeli racism.

Following the signing of the Oslo agreement in 1993, the Canadian-Palestinian relations started at the official level by opening Representative Office of Canada to the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, to take charge of delivering financial aids to the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and in 1995 an office was opened to represent Palestinians in the Canadian capital "Ottawa".

Palestinian organizations, with their influence and broad relations, provide guidance and political advice to Arab people to vote for a specific candidates within Canadian provinces, or support Arab candidates to hold parliamentary positions, and urge people to vote at the municipal, federal, and district elections. The Palestinian organizations directs their members to engage in Canadian political parties, support candidates who renounce racism, reject hatred speech, believe in Palestinian national rights, as well as sympathizers with Arab issues.

  • Palestinian Events: Alive Cause:

The photos of mass, supportive and confirming demonstrations in Canada show the participation of tens of thousands in solidarity with Palestinian cause upon the occurrence of any event. Palestinian organizations are working on organizing and mobilizing campaigns to introduce the Palestinian cause, their legitimate rights, and suffering under the Israeli occupation to the Canadian and international community. Also, it seeks to spread Palestinian culture and enhance communication between members of the Palestinian community.

Palestinian organizations in Canada are working to revive the Palestinian heritage by displaying a distinctive and real image of the Palestinian people in contradiction with what was popularized by the Israeli lobby of sabotaging the image of Palestinians refugees as part defamation for the Palestinian people in general.

Palestinian organizations organize social and artistic activities, held events that serve civil society, as well as voluntary work and cultural seminars. Annually, the organizations also revive national Palestinian occasions; as Land Day, the memory of the Palestinian Nakba, and the condemnation of the Balfour Declaration, aiming to inspirit the Palestinian remembrance, and serve as a moral message to Canadian society that the Palestinian people have a right as human being and to emphasize the importance for future generations to promote their adherence to the right of return and self-determination.

Annually, Palestinian organizations organize “The Toronto Palestine Film Festival”, which lasts for a week, during which Palestinian films and foreign films discussing Palestinian cause are displayed. This festival became very popular within the Canadian public.

Among the annual social activities are Ramadan events, the annual family gathering, the annual "barbecue" family, and activities of Food Bank, and to provide aid and assistance to new-comers from Arab countries.

Palestinian organizations provide an urgent assistance to Syrian refugees upon their arrival in Canada, as well as receiving condolences if a member of the community died, they also organize receptions on holidays and feasts, as well as reviving Palestine Day in the Canadian Parliament, and participating in all activities carried out by the Arab community in Canada. Most of these activities are open to Canadian people in general.

There are other social activities that Palestinian organizations regularly arrange for, such as blood donation campaigns, and an annual “marathon”, with its returns are donated for UNRWA Community Mental Health Programme, and to help empower Palestinian refugees, especially in Gaza. In addition to folkloric activities, Palestinian dabka, Palestinian food, afforestation campaigns and the Palestine National Theater Festival are constantly organized.

Among the most prominent achievements of the Palestinian work in Canada when “Postal Workers Union” and the “Government Employees Union” in the province of "Ontario" took a decision to boycott "Israel" and its institutions and call for withdrawing investments from them, also boycott Israeli goods in the Canadian market, and not to receive representatives of their syndicates in Canada.

  • Prominent Palestinian Personalities:

Many Palestinian personalities in Canada have influential presence in various fields, at which they enriched the Canadian community that previously welcomed and embraced them and thus they became at the heart of its social, cultural, economic and political fabric.

Among the important Palestinian figures in Canada, whose the Palestinian and Arab communities are proud of, the list includes the following:

- The Palestinian "Pierre Deebiani", who was elected in the House of Commons of Canada in 1968. He was the first Arab figure to reach this position, then he was re-elected in 1972, 1974, 1979, and 1980, and he was also appointed as Parliament Secretary of Minister of State for Foreign Affairs in 1972, and held many ministerial positions; Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs in 1974, Minister of Civil Affairs in 1974, Minister of Regional Industrial Expansion in 1980, Minister of Foreign Relations in 1982, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans in 1982, and was appointed in the Senate in 1984, and Chief of the Canadian Forces Military Police in 2005.

- The Palestinian Doctor, "Muhammad Jamal Al Sharif", a doctor in maxillofacial surgery, recently won a Canadian award that included the best 25 immigrants from among seven hundred other candidates, and three personalities of Arab origin were selected; including Dr. "Al Sharif", the doctor of Syrian origin: "Ruba Fattal, and the "Lebanese" Rola Dagher. Dr. "Al-Sharif" is currently the president of the "Humanity for Peace" Foundation.

- The Palestinian Doctor, "Ghazi Mrayish", is a member of the Canadian Federal Parliament, representing the Native Americans in America and Canada. He was selected by the Indians as their representative after obtaining a doctorate from the Sorbonne University on their cause, where his thesis was 1200 pages, and was attended by 21 Native Americans leaders from the United States and Canada.

- Palestinian Professor "Bahaa Abu Laban": After obtaining his Ph.D. and Professor’s degree in sociology from the University of Washington, he worked at the University of Alberta as a teacher of social sciences with the rank of Professor, then he took over the presidency of the Sociology Department, and then hold the position of Dean of the Arts College, then a vice president the university and Head of the Research Planning & Development Department until the year of 1987, after which he devotes himself to act as Head the Immigrants Integration Research Center until today.

- Palestinian Professor "Nahla Abdo": Member of the Advisory Council Seibel, feminist and professor of sociology and anthropology at Carleton University in Canada, and she has many publications on women, racism and nationalism.

- Palestinian Doctor, Ismail Zayed, Dean of famous Dalhousie University- College of Medicine", and he is the first Arab Dean of the College of Medicine in Canada.

- The Palestinian Doctor, "Ahmed Al-Tibi", has a unique role in the field of Genetics Science worldwide, and his research contributed to the discovery of more than 300 diseases, some of them named after him.

- Palestinian Doctor "George Awad” has a distinguished researches and studies known internationally in the field of psychotherapy for children with psychological trauma as a result of wars, and he is one of the founders of a center in the Gaza Strip to treat traumatized children.

- Palestinian Doctor, "Tariq Khalifa," President of the Canadian Palestinian Professional Foundation (CPPF), is a Pediatrician in Hamilton and Associate Professor at McMaster University.

- Palestinian Doctor "Farid Ayad", a Canadian physician, surgeon, and researcher on both the Canadian and international levels for oral and body diseases as a whole, and a fellow in scientific research at Harvard Medical School, and also an Associate Fellow at the American Academy of Dental Implantology, previously held the presidency of the "Canadian Arab Federation"  and the "Palestine House" which is regarded as one of the largest and most prestigious Palestinian organizations in Canada, Dr. Ayad held these positions along with a number of other positions.

  • Palestinian Organizations:

There are a number of organizations and institutions in Canada seeking to preserve the Palestinian identity and culture in an open and multicultural society such as Canada.

This institutional entities that provide services to thousands of children and families of Palestinian and Arab immigrants in Canada, have played an active and documented role to support the Palestinian community until it has become the focus of attention and admiration for many of its services, either social, cultural and political.

At the beginning of the Palestinian political and institutional work in Canada, and given the small number of Arab and Palestinian immigrants in Canada, some nationally oriented personalities (Dr. George Hajjar, Dr. Ibrahim Al-Salti, Dr. Baha Abu Laban, Dr. Atef Qubrsi and others) who established the Canadian Arab Federation, to be later an organized political power to represent the Arab community in Canada.

The Arab Federation was able to leave its fingerprint in the Canadian Parliament, which some of its members formed a parliamentary council in support of Arab causes, especially the question of Palestine, the most prominent figure in it was the Deputy and Senator "Marcel Prodome", who established a network of relations with unions, churches and some academic entities, which in turn established "Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights" Association, whose Professor James Graff was one of the most prominent leaders.

The efforts of the Palestinian and Arab community to form the"Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid" (CAIA), "Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights" (SPHR) and the Right of Return Organization in Toronto, which are all active Palestinian organizations at the Canadian political level.

Among the active Palestinian organizations at Arab communities level is "Palestine House" which was established in 1993, the largest social center for the Arab community in "Ontario", and there is the " Palestinian Arab Association " which is one of the oldest Palestinian institutions in Canada that was established in 1967, also "The Canadian Palestinian Association", "Canada-Palestine Parliamentary Friendship Group", Canadian Palestinian Professional Foundation (CPPF), Al-Andalus Cultural Salon, which was founded by the Canadian Palestinian novelist and poet Dr. Samih Masoud in Montreal in 2010, and National Council on Canada-Arab Relations that was established in the year 1985, its headquarters are located in the federal capital of Ottawa. The Council's Executive Director is Canadian Palestinian Rula Odeh.

Also among the Palestinian organizations are: “The Palestinian Association" in Ottawa, "The Palestinian Association in Hamilton", "The Palestinian Association in Vancouver, "The Palestinian Association in Brandford, "The Palestinian Association in Niagara Falls", "The Palestinian Association in Montreal", "The Art of Palestinian Resistance Association", "The Palestinian Association in Ontario", "The Canadian Arab Federation", "Coalition Against the Deportation of Palestinian Refugees", "The Jerusalem Artichoke Association of Canada (JAAC)", "Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights" (SPHR), Medical Care Association, Canadian Palestine Foundation.

  • Challenges at the Societal and Political Levels:

The new Palestinian generation works in an atmosphere that was and still remains in support of the occupation state and under the influence of active "lobbies" on the Canadian political scene. Despite all these challenges, the young Palestinian generation is trying to institutionalize its work away from divisions that affect negatively the communities.

The Arab community in Canada generally suffers from chronic fragmentations, as people and their economies are dispersed, which hinder the formation of a "lobby" serving Arab community purposes, and act as effective pressure power that knows its interests, as in the case of Jews, Italians or Spanish who take advantage of the voices of members of their communities in Canada in order to achieve social or political gains and serve their communities' demands.

Through years and the increase of numbers, activities changed, interests varied, and the partisan motives emerged to overwhelm the public interest, following the difficult events and conditions of chaos that prevailed the Arab countries, in addition to multiple conflicts between the leaders of the Palestinian people, especially in the occupied territories.

The Palestinian community in Canada, like other communities around the world, suffers from complications of conflicts, whether in the Arab countries or in Palestine, which are reflected on displaced Arab communities' reality and the life of their children.

In spite of the great contributions that the Palestinian community makes within Canadian society, and despite the increase of immigrants numbers to Canada, still its social and political weight is weak and never commensurate with its demographic weight, and that the people of the community were and still face many challenges and important issues whether at the Canadian general level, such as feeling media bias in favor of "Israel" at the expense of the Palestinian cause, or at the organizational level such as institutional weakness.

Palestinian organizations and characters in Canada have become accustomed to being in permanent confrontation with numerous and untrue accusations by Zionist lobby and the conservative powers. These actions aim to silence the voice of the Palestinian right, and to prevent organizations from playing effective role in Canadian society, so they can identify the injustice that is occurring to the Palestinian people everywhere.

Therefore, Palestinian and Arab organizations, which want to achieve a strong political presence for defending their rights against the "Israeli" accusations and the negative influence of the Zionist lobby, especially in the political and governmental circles which are characterized with racism opposing the legitimacy of the rights and aspirations of the Palestinian people. Palestinian and Arab organizations should unite in order to form a strong active Arab lobby defending their rights, and representing all minorities, in addition to always striving to prevent the extreme right parties from leading the government, which usually passes racist and unjust laws against minorities, without exception.