Bridging Palestinian & Canadian Aboriginal’s experiences

Speakers talk to students about the issues faced by indigenous peoples

The SPHR hosted an event on Friday at Dunning Hall.
The SPHR hosted an event on Friday at Dunning Hall.

The SGPS club Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) hosted an event last Friday with the hopes of educating the Queen’s students about the parallels between the struggles of Canada’s indigenous peoples and Palestinians.

The event, called, “From Jerusalem to the Grand River, Our Struggles Are One”, took place in Dunning Hall. Roughly 60 people gathered to listen to speakers Robert Lovelace, Laith Marouf and Mohamed Abdou.

Organizers of the event were inspired by the title of an article published by Mike Krebs and Dana M. Olwan, which explores the similarities between settler colonialism in Palestine and Turtle Island colonialism in Canada. The event focused on the same theme.

Turtle Island is the indigenous name for North America for some aboriginal groups.

Activist and scholar Robert Lovelace was among the speakers at the event. Lovelace, a retired Chief of the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation, now serves as the Chief Negotiator.

Lovelace, who teaches a course on Aboriginal Studies at Queen’s, focuses on the similarities between the settler colonialism in Palestine and Turtle Island in his work. He’s also been involved with the movement to bring resources and aid to the Gaza Strip.

During his talk, he spoke about indigenous peoples’ struggles, their achievements and the ways they’ve faced oppression over the years. Lovelace then associated those experiences with the struggles faced by the people of Palestine.

The Queen’s chapter of SPHR is a non-profit organization that advocates for the rights of Palestinian people worldwide and raise awareness about the historical and cultural identity of the Palestinian people.

Members of SPHR — Jacquie Safieh, Faisal Badran, Alaa Qamhieh and Emilia von dem Hagen — told The Journal in an interview that they believe the events taking place in the Middle East have a direct effect on their lives and the lives of others here in Canada.

From left to right: Alaa Qamhieh, Sci`17, Jacquie Safieh, ArtSci`16, Faisal Badran, Sci`16 and Leen Amarin, CompSci`17 – the SPHR executives who organized the event. (Photo by Anna Maria Li)

“It is important to recognize that this is a humanitarian issue, and it doesn’t only affect Palestinians,” Safieh, ArtSci ’16, said.

Badran, Sci ’16, added that the Canadian government plays a large role in the political and financial support of Israel, and “therefore, we as citizens of this country each play a role”.

“After educating yourself, it is important to take a stance, because we so often forget that remaining silent only helps the oppressor,” he said.

Qamhieh, Sci ’17, said as a settler on Turtle Island, the situation in Palestine affects him economically, politically and socially.

“Our government’s support of injustice, corruption and the denial of human rights directly implicates us as both citizens, and as human beings,” he said.

Qamhieh’s views on the matter were shared by the other members of SPHR.

“Our government is very quick to speak of human rights and freedoms for privileged elites in our own country, but is even quicker to throw them aside and deem them irrelevant in relationship to indigenous and radicalized peoples here,” Emilia von dem Hagen, ArtSci ’19, said.

Two other speakers — Mohamed Abdou and Laith Marouf — presented at the event.

Abdou, a PhD candidate and lecturer in Queen’s Department of Cultural Studies, delivered a speech on the happenings in the Middle East and the affect it has on the people living there.

Marouf, an activist and multimedia consultant of Palestinian and Syrian descent, has been an active figure in the world of Palestine and indigenous rights in Canada for over 15 years. He spoke about his personal struggles growing up in Canada as the son of parents from Palestine and Syria.

The SPHR hopes to further raise awareness for their cause this year by holding documentary screenings and lectures and creating an educational library for students.


November 16, 2015
The event focused on the struggles of Palestinian people worldwide, not specifically on the struggles of Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip or in the State of Israel.

The Journal regrets the error.

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