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More than 1,500 Canadian writers call for charges to be dropped against protesters who disrupted Giller Prize gala

More than 1,500 Canadian writers and editors have signed an open letter calling for charges against anti-war protesters who disrupted the Scotiabank Giller Prize gala to be abandoned.

During Monday’s ceremony, protesters chanted slogans and displayed signs accusing Scotiabank of financing “genocide” in Gaza. Scotiabank, which sponsors the literary event, has a 3.56 percent stake, valued at approximately $431 million, in Israeli arms manufacturer Elbit Systems. Ltd, through its subsidiary 1832 Asset Management LP, Scotiabank and Elbit Systems Ltd. did not respond to requests for comment prior to publication.

Three people now face charges in connection with the protest, according to Toronto police.

“As writers and editors, we express our support for the protesters who disrupted the Scotiabank Giller Prize gala,” reads an open letter that began circulating Wednesday.

“We stand with the protesters and urge that the charges against them be dropped. »

Signatories to the open letter include award-winning writers and poets such as Rupi KaurWaubgeshig Rice, Billy-Ray Belcourt and this year’s Governor General’s Award winner, Anuja Varghese.

They also include past Giller Prize winners, such as Omar El Akkad, who won the prize in 2021 for his novel “What Strange Paradise,” and Giller Prize shortlisted authors, such as Noor Naga and Tsering Yangzom Lama. .

The open letter said the signatories were “proud and grateful” to have received nominations, grants and awards from literary institutions, including the Scotiabank Giller Prize.

But he said these literary institutions should “make their voices heard where our governments and our media have remained silent,” calling for a ceasefire and pressuring the Canadian government to end its military financing in favor of Israel.

“Over the past five weeks, Israel has cut off water, electricity and communications with Gaza. More than 11,000 Palestinians were killed, mostly civilians and non-combatants,” the letter said.

“This week, Al-Shifa Hospital, the largest hospital in Gaza, was bombed until it could no longer be used. Among those who died were more than 4,000 children, including many infants. This is the deadliest attack on children in recent times. Many government officials and institutions quickly condemned the deadly October 7 attack on 1,200 Israeli civilians and the taking of 220 hostages. We demand that our institutions treat Palestinian civilians with the same concern and humanity. »

A protester holding a sign reading “SCOTIA BANK FUND GENOCIDE” is escorted off stage at the Scotiabank Giller Prize presentation in Toronto, Monday, Nov. 13, 2023. (AP Photo/Rob Gillies)

The child death toll cited in the open letter matches figures presented by Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry. Global charity Save the Children called it the deadliest conflict for children in recent times.based on these figures, and a spokesperson for UNICEF, the United Nations children’s agency, made similar comments to The Canadian Press.

Israel’s record matches what was reported by the The Israeli government, which responded to Hamas’ deadly surprise attack on October 7 with a siege of Gazaweeks of airstrikes and a possible ground assault against the enclave, and said his military action was necessary to eliminate Hamas.

Benjamin, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu rejected ceasefire until all Israeli hostages are freed.

Elbit Systems Ltd. claims it has a long history of supplying ammunition to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), and in July it received a contract worth around $60 million to supply the IDF with thousands of 155mm artillery shells over the period of one year.

In connection with Monday’s protest, Evan Curle (25), Maysam Abu Khreibeh (25) and Fatima Hussain (23) all face charges of obstructing, interrupting or obstructing the use, enjoyment or lawful exploitation of property, as well as being accused of using a false document.

The initial protest was met with boos from the audience at the Scotiabank Giller Prize gala, and protesters were escorted away by security. But this is not the first time that Scotiabank’s ties to the Israeli defense company have come under fire.

Scotiabank came under scrutiny last year when he became the largest foreign shareholder in the publicly traded Israeli defense company.

SumOfUs, an advocacy group, launched a petition campaign in 2022 calling on Canada’s third-largest bank to divest its stake in the company, which is accused of making cluster munitions.

As previously reported by BNN Bloomberg, Elbit Systems Ltd. has been placed on banned investment lists for a number of companies, and Australia’s Future Fund and Norway’s largest pension fund have excluded it from their portfolios due to its alleged production of submarine weapons. ammunition.

At the time, the Israeli company denied producing cluster munitions and Scotiabank told BNN Bloomberg that it supported the company’s position.

“1832 Asset Management does not knowingly invest in companies that directly manufacture cluster munitions,” Scotiabank spokesperson Heather Armstrong said in an October 2022 email.

“Our engagement with the firm confirmed that it was not, and we verified this position with a leading global investment research firm commonly used by asset managers around the world.”

With files from Associated Press and BNN Bloomberg

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