The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau Prime Minister of Canada
House of Commons Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6
December 1, 2023
Dear Prime Minister,
On behalf of Oxfam Canada and Québec, and the 95,000 people who have signed our petition, we ask you to mobilize the international community to demand that the humanitarian truce initiated on November 24 finally lead to a total and permanent ceasefire between the warring parties in Gaza, and not to the resumption of hostilities we witnessed today.
Considering that since the beginning of the conflict, a child has died every 10 minutes, the six-day truce gave us hope due to the fact that 1,008 children were spared by the bombs, and their families just as much. Whereas up until now, around a hundred women gave birth every day in appalling conditions, most of them on rubble and without any medical resources, during the truce more than 700 had given birth to their babies, sheltered from the relentless attacks.
We are unequivocal in our demand that a permanent and total ceasefire is the only lasting way to put an end to the loss of civilian life, the unprecedented destruction and the inhumane deprivation imposed on an entire population by a total siege that flouts international humanitarian law.
We are relieved that the pause in hostilities led to the release of 61 Israelis, 20 foreign nationals and 180 Palestinians. These releases have been part of our demands since the beginning of the conflict, as humanitarian organizations.
Admittedly, the humanitarian truce offered a welcome respite to those in Gaza to mourn the loss of loved ones and perhaps receive some basic life necessities, but far too little in view of the vast needs and the approaching winter. Indeed, in the exceptional context of massive destruction in Gaza, where almost 60% of homes are uninhabitable, 60% of health infrastructures are dysfunctional and many roads are destroyed or littered with rubble, this short pause was only a fleeting relief.
It would have taken several weeks to distribute the necessary aid throughout the Gaza Strip. Replenishing food and medical supplies, repairing water infrastructures and rebuilding homes require time not only for logistics, but also for rebuilding confidence. With no guarantee of sustainability, Gazans are terrified of going out in search of help, and the prevailing insecurity is hampering the reconstruction of devastated areas. The resumption of bombardments only confirms this, having already killed 70 people in the first few hours, the majority of them women and children.
Your government was quick to demonstrate its solidarity with the Israeli and Palestinian populations by providing $60 million in financial aid to meet urgent needs in Gaza, the West Bank and surrounding areas. However, despite the undeniable necessity of this declared solidarity, it proves futile and illusory from an operational point of view without a guarantee of a total and permanent ceasefire.
We are witnessing massive destruction that has cost the lives of over 15,000 people in Gaza, 70% of them women and children, since the Israeli army began its indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks in response to Hamas’ atrocious attacks killing 1,200 Israelis. What’s more, Gaza has been under a complete siege since October 9, with the population living without electricity, fuel, water and food supplies. Oxfam has warned that hunger is being used as a weapon of war, which is prohibited under international humanitarian law.
Recently, Canada reaffirmed its call for the protection of civilians, humanitarian personnel and civilian infrastructure, in accordance with international humanitarian law. But what good are these principles if Canada is not in a position to demand that they be respected and implemented in all circumstances?
Mr. Prime Minister, over and above the operational necessity of a ceasefire to enable humanitarian aid to be delivered as needed, the fundamental principles on which Canada relies must prevail, particularly in complex and difficult situations. Canada’s moral credibility, and that of Western countries, is at stake if their leaders apply human rights principles when convenient.
A total and permanent ceasefire now is the only solution to protect civilians, rebuild their homes and their hope. It’s high time Canada demanded it, and offered the prospect of peace and security for Palestinians and Israelis alike.
In particular, we call on your government to:
- Demand a permanent and total ceasefire today;
- Request the opening of all entry points to deliver aid;
- End the siege and allow the reopening of electricity, water and fuel services;
- Target aid to women and girls to reduce gender-based violence and restore their access to sexual and reproductive health;
- Press for the restoration of commercial activities in Gaza;
- Demand an end to violence in the West
Oxfam Canada and Oxfam-Québec are ready to intervene as soon as conditions permit. We’ve been present in this region since the 1950s, and we can only hope that these repeated cycles of war-truce-rebuild will come to an end.
|Executive Director Oxfam-Québec
|Executive Director Oxfam Canada
Melanie Joly, Minister of Foreign Affairs
Ahmed Hussen, Minister of International Development