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B.C. pro-Palestinian protester faces mischief charge

Sapotaweyak Cree Nation author jaye simpson was arrested Nov. 9 for what she called solidarity actions in support of Palestinians facing genocide. 
jaye simpson has been active in protests against Israel's invasion of Gaza following a Hamas-led attack that killed 1,200 Israelis.

A B.C. pro-Palestinian protester charged with mischief under $5,000 appeared in Vancouver’s Downtown Community Court Dec. 14 after a demonstration outside a city bank.

jaye simpson was arrested Nov. 9 and held overnight for what she called solidarity actions in support of Palestinians facing genocide. 

simpson told Glacier Media she was under legal advice not to discuss what led to the arrest.

The Sapotaweyak Cree Nation author and activist said global protest actions have “spotlighted brutal and horrific genocide in Gaza and across Palestine.” 

She said the protest outside The Scotia Tower on West Georgia Street was in response to a call from the Palestine Youth Movement for international awareness actions, one of which took place in Vancouver. simpson said people across Canada organized actions drawing attention to state-funded arms sales to Israel.

“In Vancouver, multiple bank branches, including Scotiabank and Royal Bank of Canada were targeted,” she said.

“As an Indigenous survivor of the very genocidal foster care system, my heart and my ancestors told me I couldn’t look away while Israel decided to enact genocide and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian folks in Gaza,” simpson said.

She added: “Canada’s own colonial history and support of this genocide has brought many of us together to say in the millions: Free Palestine.”

“My experiences from the so-called justice system was traumatic and I still find myself wondering why systems like this exist, but we must look at this as a symptom of brutality and silencing. I condemn the actions taken against me, but I condemn our government’s silence and support while a genocide is ongoing.”

U.N. vote divides Canadian MPs

The charge came two days after Canada joined 153 other countries to vote in favour of a United Nations’ resolution calling for a ceasefire in the Israel-Gaza conflict. Ten countries voted against the resolution, including the U.S. and Israel, while 23 abstained. 

The resolution left Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal caucus divided after the U.N. resolution failed to condemn Hamas.

The latest round of intense violence began when Hamas militants launched an Oct. 7 surprise attack inside Israel. About 1,200 people, many civilians, were killed in the attack, while another another 240 were abducted and taken back to Gaza.

Since then, the Israeli Defence Force's large-scale aerial bombardments and ground invasion of Gaza have left more than 18,000 people dead and more than 50,000 injured, according to the Hamas-controlled Gaza health ministry. 

The conflict has reverberated around the world, deepening divisions between backers of Palestine and Israel.

Police forces across Canada have reported a rise in what they suspect are hate-motivated incidents in recent months, many of them antisemitic. Jewish schools in Montreal have been hit with gunfire, a molotov cocktail was thrown at a Jewish community centre, and at least one bomb threat was made against a high school.

That widespread violence prompted simpson to take action. She said her actions came from her heart.

“What I can’t allow is the continued aggression and harm happening to our kin in Palestine. There are children scared of the skies,” she said.

“There are families starving. There are men pulling their wives and mothers and children out of the rubble. I can’t look away, nor should any of us.”

'Tireless advocate'

Massy Arts Society director Patricia Massy called simpson as a tireless advocate.

In an emailed statement, Massy said simpson has been a long-time advocate to create safer spaces for Indigenous youth, and won a B.C. Child and Youth In Care Award from the Federation of B.C. Youth in Care Network.

“jaye simpson is recognized for their significant contributions to the community...” Massy said. 

The Defund 604 Network said simpson’s arrest underscores the criminalization of people standing up for Palestine.

It said people across Canada have faced legal action and intrusions on free speech for their pro-Palestinian actions.

“Despite the use of the criminal and civil legal systems to discourage solidarity, people continue to show up in massive numbers, both in Vancouver and internationally,’ the group said. 

With files from The Canadian Press