Pro-Palestinian groups claim Trudeau, Chow spreading misinformation on protest

Pro-Palestinian groups claim Trudeau, Chow spreading misinformation on protest © Provided by The Canadian Press

TORONTO — Organizers of a pro-Palestinian demonstration that passed by a Toronto hospital earlier this week accused the prime minister and the city’s mayor on Wednesday of spreading misinformation and being unfair to peaceful protesters.

In a joint written statement, three groups who organized Monday’s march – Jews Say No To Genocide, Palestinian Youth Movement-Toronto and Toronto4Palestine – said the politicians’ suggestion that demonstrators targeted Mount Sinai Hospital in an act of antisemitism is unfounded and inaccurate.

The protest groups involved “respect the sanctity of hospitals and hospital grounds,” the statement said.

“The protest marched from the Israeli Consulate for four hours, and concluded at Yonge-Dundas Square, passing many buildings and monuments across the city, with some attendees climbing structures and scaffolding to raise the Palestinian flag at various points along the way: none of which were targeted,” they wrote.

“We condemn the Canadian politicians incorrectly portraying the protest as targeting the hospital.”

The Prime Minister’s Office and the office of Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday.

Mount Sinai Hospital, located in downtown Toronto, was founded by the Jewish community a century ago.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, calling the demonstration’s stop outside the hospital a “reprehensible” display of antisemitism and said, “Hospitals are places for treatment and care, not protests and intimidation.”

Chow issued a post on X saying Monday’s actions at Mount Sinai were “unacceptable.” “Targeting Jewish institutions is antisemitic,” she wrote.

A group of 15 hospital leaders, including the president and CEO of Sinai Health, also called the gathering antisemitic in a letter issued Wednesday.

“This protest ran the real risk of disrupting hospital operations and compromising the safety of staff, physicians, learners, patients and visitors – all totally unacceptable,” the Toronto Academic Health Science Network Leadership wrote.

A video posted online shows a demonstrator scaling scaffolding outside the hospital and waving a Palestinian flag during the demonstration, but a protest marshal said that person scaled several high points along the route.

Chelsey Lichtman, who is also a member of Jews Say No To Genocide, said that demonstrator is a frequent fixture at recent pro-Palestinian protests in the city, calling himself “Spiderman for Palestine” online.

“Spiderman for Palestine is somebody who commonly comes to these protests and is a climbing expert,” she said. “There was no specific targeting of any of the structures that he chose to climb.”

Lichtman said she did not witness any disruption outside the hospital while she was leading the march and protesters did not prevent the public from accessing its entrance. She added that police were aware of the protest route and were on scene observing the demonstration.

“There were people coming and going out of that hospital, just as there were people coming and going from every other hospital on University Avenue that we were marching by,” she said.

“As a Jew, I stood along that route and when we were outside of Mount Sinai it did not for one second occur to me, ‘Oh, no, we’re outside a Jewish hospital.’ That’s a hospital that treats anyone and everyone.”

Toronto police said Tuesday they are investigating incidents that occurred in front of the hospital and along the protest route, and will have an increased presence along the so-called hospital row area. They did not say whether the hospital operations were disrupted during the protest.

Source: Fakiha Baig, The Canadian Press