TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - July 21, 2014) - The Ontario Federation of Labour joins millions of Canadians who are shocked by the armed conflict between Israel and Hamas, which has created a nightmare for tens of thousands of civilians who are caught in the crossfire.
"The Harper government's policy is unbalanced toward Israel, and is completely out of step with Canadians' views," said Sid Ryan, President of the OFL. "If this government has as strong a relationship with Israel as it claims, then Prime Minister Stephen Harper must use every ounce of his influence to convince Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to stop his military's indiscriminate bombing of Gaza."
The conflict affects both sides, but by far the worst is being endured by Palestinian women and children. According to latest update from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), as of Sunday the Palestinian death toll since the start of the emergency was at least 375, of whom 270 (72 percent) were believed to be civilians. The Palestinian Ministry of Health adds that over 3,000 Palestinians have been injured, including 904 children and 533 women.
The indiscriminate firing of rockets by Palestinian armed groups into Israel continues, which the OFL also deems to be unacceptable. Two Israeli civilians have been killed from rocket and mortar fire since the start of hostilities, and 18 Israeli soldiers have been also killed, the majority within Gaza.
Parents in Gaza are fleeing their homes from Israel's attacks, which UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon described as "atrocious" over the weekend. Nearly half of Gaza's blockaded territory is affected by evacuation warnings or declaration of "no-go zones," leaving 80,000 people crammed into schools operated by the United Nations, seeking shelter.
The high proportion of civilian casualties, along with allegations by human rights organizations about the targeting of civilians and civilian locations by Israel, such as homes and a hospital, have rightly drawn international condemnation.
With the conflict at its deadliest, Palestinian labour and civil society groups are crying out for help. An appeal signed by the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions and the Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations Network (comprising 133 member organizations), which was received by the Ontario Federation of Labour, called for "immediate international protection of the civilians of Gaza."
"Every effort must be made immediately to protect civilians, especially women and children, in the short term," said Sid Ryan. "I am also urging the Harper government to support a lasting peace, which will only come through international efforts to lift the blockade of Gaza and to end the illegal occupation of Palestinian lands."
In its constitution, the Ontario Federation of Labour and its affiliates, representing 1 million workers in Ontario, commits itself "To promote the cause of peace, bread and freedom in the world."