The Quest for the Promised Land: How Canada and Israel Perpetuate Settler Colonialism

By Margaret Gilligan

The settler-colonial projects of the states of Canada and Israel have willingly participated in the dehumanization and massacre of indigenous peoples. Canada’s modus operandi was to dehumanize these peoples through assimilation, which they ful lled via their residential school policy and by forcibly removing indigenous children from their families and putting them up for adoption by settler families. In residential schools, children were not allowed to speak their own language, and were frequently subject to physical and sexual abuse, as well as forced sterilization. At least 4,000 children died as a result of being forced to attend these schools, the last of which closed in 1996.

The state of Israel is also a settler colonial state, and its behaviour suggests an open intent to wipe out Palestinians from the area entirely. The illegal occupation of the West Bank – which leads to indiscriminate home demolitions, sporadic land seizure, severe police brutality against Palestinian civilians, and repeated military sieges – as well as the ongoing blockade on Gaza, reveal a harsh and brutal logic employed by the Israeli government in its attitude towards its Palestinian inhabitants and neighbours. Additionally, the Israeli administration maintains apartheid policies, with over 50 laws sanctioning discrimination against Palestinians living in Israel. It also frequently erases the existence of Palestinians living within the borders of Israel by referring to them as “Arab-Israelis,” in an attempt to hide the fact that Palestinians are the indigenous people to this territory.

Given the overlapping characteristics Canada and Israel share, it is not surprising to see Concordia and McGill universities engage in direct agreements with the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. Their exchange programs with the Technion are directly representative of this relationship, as well as their collaboration on the development of harmful military technology, such as guided missile research.

In addition to university ties, Canada provides military, financial, and political support to Israel’s colonial project. The BDS (Boycott Divestment and Sanctions) Canada movement aims to bring an end to the support that Canada provides the state of Israel. The movement began in July 2005, and is a call from Palestinian civil society to stand in solidarity with Palestinians in the face of colonialism. It is a growing global movement, and is modeled on the boycott used to end apartheid in South Africa. The Montreal community contributes to BDS through organizing campaigns to boycott institutions pro ting off the illegal occupation.

While there are universities all over the world (Canada, Israel, the United States, New Zealand, Australia) that are built on native land (McGill is built on Kahnawake Mohawk land, and the Technion is built on Palestinian land),
in our community, these are the institutions that we can directly affect to recognize and end their settler-colonial agendas. For more information on how to get involved with BDS and other anti-colonial initiatives, contact SPHR Concordia, SPHR McGill or KANATA.

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