A delegation from Vancouver, Canada has arrived in Gaza, Palestine on Saturday, June 16. The eight delegates will meet with health work, refugee rights, labour union, boycott divestment sanctions (BDS), women's, student and youth organizations and activists during their visit to the besieged Palestinian strip.
The delegation has a busy schedule of meetings and activities, including sailing with Gaza fishermen whose livelihoods are under attack by Israeli naval guns, sharing experiences - including the massive student movement in Quebec - with Palestinian student organizers, visiting Palestinian libraries, and meeting with former political prisoners and prisoners' families, including participants in the recent hunger strikes organized by Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. The delegates will bring with them a letter of solidarity from the Canadian Union of Postal Workers to Palestinian trade unionists in Gaza.
"We also are here to challenge Canada's complicity in the ongoing occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people and Palestinian land," said delegate Aiyanas Ormond, an organizer with the Alliance for People's Health. "Canada itself is also guilty of colonialism and genocide against indigenous peoples, and Harper's government has become one of the biggest boosters of Israeli apartheid in the world. This is something that must change."
"We are here to listen to and connect with progressive Palestinian voices that are so often silenced in Canadian and Western media - labor unions, teachers and students, and women's organizations," said delegate Kathy Copps, a retired educator. "80% of Palestinians in Gaza are refugees being denied their right to return. The world - and people in Canada - must learn what is happening in Gaza, and throughout Palestine."
The delegation will produce a written report upon its return, and will continue to blog on its website (http://vancouver2gaza.org
) throughout its visit, as well as on its Twitter account, @Vancouver2Gaza. Delegates have planned a reportback for Sunday, July 22 at the Simon Fraser University Harbour Centre, Room 1700 (Labatt Hall) at 7 PM in Vancouver. Delegation members are available for interviews while in Gaza and will also be available for speaking engagements upon their return.
* The delegation acknowledges that the work that we do in Vancouver takes place on unceded Coast Salish territories.
Khaled Barakat (Delegation Coordinator) is a Palestinian writer and journalist. He is a longtime community organizer in the Palestinian and Arab communities in Vancouver and across North America. His writings have been widely published in a variety of Arabic-language media outlets, including Al-Quds al-Arabi, el-Badeel daily newspaper of Egypt, as-Safir of Lebanon, and Arabs48. He is active with Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network and has co-founded various Palestinian and solidarity organizations in Canada and the US.
Brian Campbell is Co-Chair of the Seriously Free Speech Committee which seeks to defend individuals and organizations who are attacked because of their criticism of Israel and their support for Palestinian human rights and is also an active member of the Boycott Israel Apartheid Campaign. He worked as a librarian for 25 years, winning many awards including a Distinguished Alumni award on the 25th anniversary of the UBC School of Library, Archival and Information Studies and the Canadian Library Association Outstanding Library Service Award. He was founding President of the Vancouver Community Network.
Nathaniel Canuel is a videographer who works with the Environmental Youth Alliance. Having grown up in East Vancouver and traveled the world, Nathaniel has always managed to find a way to apply his skills in a practical and meaningful way. Having spent the past three years in Nairobi supporting a multitude of grass-roots projects, Nathaniel has built bonds with everyone he has encountered. From waste management to documentary films, Nathaniel has been mentoring youth non-stop. Up With Hope, Mobile Movement, the Nairobi Slum Film Fest and the new Pequininos Youth Resource Centre are just some of the recent additions to Nathaniel’s resume.
Kathy Copps' active support for Palestinian rights goes back to her student days in the early 1970's. She is currently a member of the Boycott Israeli Apartheid Campaign and the Seriously Free Speech Committee. Recently retired after a 35 year teaching career in B.C. schools, she is committed to the protection of public education in this province and the fundamental right of access to education around the world.
Charlotte Kates is a longtime social justice and Palestine solidarity organizer and activist. She organizes in Vancouver, with the Boycott Israeli Apartheid Campaign and the Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network. She graduated from Rutgers University School of Law in 2006, and works as an organizer and coordinator with the National Lawyers Guild International Committee. Prior to coming to Vancouver, she has worked with Al-Awda, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition in New York, Labor for Palestine, and New Jersey Solidarity Activists for the Liberation of Palestine. She also serves on the organizing committee of the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel and writes about justice, Palestine, prisoners and international solidarity.
Aiyanas Ormond is a community health organizer, public educator and activist in Vancouver, Canada. For 15 years Aiyanas has worked with grassroots organizations in Vancouver including the Poverty Action Network, the Bus Riders Union, the Palestine Solidarity Group, the international campaign to Stop the Killings in the Philippines and the Organizing Centre for Social and Economic Justice. He currently works as a community organizer and popular educator for VANDU, a grassroots and democratic organization of people who use illicit drugs in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. His is also an active member of the Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Council and the west coast representative for the International League of People’s Struggles – Canada. Aiyanas lives in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver with his partner and three children.
Martha Roberts is a Registered Midwife and community health organizer in Vancouver, Canada. Martha has been a community organizer for social and economic justice for more than 20 years working with the La Quena Coffeehouse Collective, the Poverty Action Network, Grassroots Women, the Organizing Centre for Social and Economic Justice and the Bus Riders Union. She has organized in solidarity with people in struggle in El Salvador, Colombia, Palestine and the Philippines. Since 2006 Martha has worked with the Alliance for People’s Health, an organization of health workers, grassroots organizers and people committed to the struggle for health for all. The APH challenges health workers to take sides with the oppressed and exploited in the face of the greatest dangers to people’s health: war, occupation, corporate plunder, and exploitation. Martha lives in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver with partner and three children.
Jase Tanner of Vancouver is an independent film maker. He serves on the steering committee of the Canadian Boat to Gaza. He visited Gaza in August 2009, accompanying a Canadian delegation of Parliamentarians and was a participant in the Gaza Freedom March in December 2009.