Editorial—The Hands are Heavy

A protest as to Israels’ actions in Palestine was recently broken up at the University of Calgary, leading to widespread condemnation of the university and the police actions taken from it’s own legal faculty and student associations alike, including our own AUSU.

I’ll be honest, I haven’t had a lot of sympathy for the protests or a lot of the pro-Palestinian movement that’s sprung up since the October 7, 2023, massacre.  I’ve tried to read accounts from both sides, and while Israel is certainly no saint in the activities that have gone on, a lot of false information about them is being peddled as well.

Consider what would have been our response if the Indigenous people in Canada had risen to invade a major city, slaughter over a thousand people and then kidnap over 250, including women and children, to hold as hostages.  But before you answer that, let me direct you to our response at Oka, where we sent in over 4,000 soldiers simply to break up a blockade.  A blockade where the only injury prior to that was a single police officer killed in a short gunfight after they went in with tear gas and concussion grenades.  One security officer, in violence instigated by the security forces, and we sent in over 4,000 military personnel with supporting equipment.

Meanwhile, over 3,000 rockets were launched at Israel on October 7th, with all the casualties described above.  And yet Israel often dropped leaflets as warnings to people to evacuate the buildings they intended to level.  So, when thinking of our response to the Oka crisis, can we honestly say we would have shown even that level of restraint for the same provocation that landed on Israel?

But that said, sympathy or not, I agree that the university and the police came down far too quickly and in too heavy-handed a manner than appropriate for the protest groups at the University of Calgary and the University of Alberta.  Some of the reasoning given was because of the well-publicized violence that occurred at similar protest groups on campuses in the United States, but that’s simply an exercise in profiling.  There had been no violence, to my knowledge, at either of the tent protests in Alberta, and although the reason behind the campaign is definitely politically charged and a much more tense situation than previous tent-protests against tuition hikes, that’s no reason to assume these students would become violent.

And even though the event is past, it’s still important for all of us to let our governments and our various institutions know that this was not acceptable behavior.  There was no evidence of harm being caused by the protest, no court order requiring the protestors to modify their behaviour, so there was no reason to forcibly remove them, especially with tear-gas and other anti-riot devices.

While I have no idea what effect the protests could have had (Israel certainly doesn’t care about student groups in North America, to say nothing of Hamas), that’s still not a reason for the state to use its own violence to disperse them.  I worry some of this may be the legacy of the “Freedom Convoy” with authorities now reluctant to let protesting groups get even a small foot in for fear of what it might lead to down the road, but that’s a fear we need to work against if we hope to maintain a society where citizens can make a voice for changes known, even if not in line with the actions the state would prefer.

Fortunately, things aren’t as heavy in the rest of the magazine.  Enjoy the read.