Oakville – April 2, 2024 – The Canadian Muslim Public Affairs Council (CMPAC) stands in solidarity with the peaceful protesters who gathered in downtown Toronto on Saturday, March 30, 2024 to express their support for the Palestinian cause. The Palestinian struggle for justice and freedom is one that resonates deeply with many members of our community, and we recognize the critical importance of raising awareness and advocating for the rights of Palestinians, both locally and globally.

However, we are dismayed by the disturbing reports of excessive force and aggression displayed by the Toronto Police Service and the apparent premeditated and selective nature of the police blockade during Saturday’s demonstration. Saturday’s protest, much like those of the past six months, commenced as a peaceful demonstration and ended with claims of law enforcement-initiated violence. Videos circulating on social media vividly illustrate protestors and bystanders being barricaded, shoved to the ground, and intimidated by special police forces and mounted police officers. Particularly alarming were the reports of police turning off their body cameras and the absence of audible or repeated warnings from police preceding these altercations and subsequent arrests. The use of such excessive force against peaceful protesters is unjustifiable and is fundamentally incompatible with the principles of democracy and the fundamental freedoms enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Freedom of expression and the right to peaceful assembly are sacrosanct principles that lie at the very heart of our democratic society. These rights must be vigorously defended and protected, particularly in the context of political protests and demonstrations. It is deeply troubling to hear reports of law enforcement officers using intimidation tactics and resorting to violence against individuals exercising their democratic rights.

Eyewitness accounts from such pro-Palestinian protests underscore how movements advocating for Palestinian human rights are not subject to equitable policing, sparking concerns regarding Toronto’s entrenched history of racial marginalization and disproportionate police violence. This pattern of selective policing, wherein pro-Palestinian demonstrations are targeted despite similar conduct during other demonstrations, underscores the need for accountability and transparency in law enforcement actions. 

CMPAC urges the Toronto Police Service to undertake a transparent and thorough investigation into the events surrounding the demonstration, including the ensuing altercations and arrests. It is crucial that law enforcement agencies prioritize de-escalation efforts over exacerbation and uphold the rights of all individuals to peaceful expression, abstaining from excessive force or intimidation tactics. The safety and welfare of protesters must remain paramount, and measures should be implemented to ensure that future demonstrations are managed in a manner that honours the rights and dignity of all involved.