Ottawa students walk out of class in support of Palestinian people
Hundreds of students walked out of class Wednesday morning at a Catholic high school in Gloucester to protest what they described as discrimination against the Palestinian people.
More than 300 students left their classes at St. Francis Xavier High School at 9:25 a.m.
"The Catholic school board are showing no attention to Palestine through this whole crisis," said Anas Arif, a student who was involved in the rally. "They have shown attention to other causes, but when it comes to Palestine, it’s a gray area."
Students from Grades 9 to 12 walked out during the school’s first period.
"I’m here because I support Palestine fully," said Jenna Mustapha, a Grade 11 student. "I think it’s really good for us as a school to be protesting because they don’t really get a lot of air, like nobody really knows what’s going on in Palestine.”
The group marched down Limebank Road to Earl Armstrong Road, carrying flags and a banner.
"I’m here to support the protest for Palestine," said Lana Alhumsi, a Grade 11 student, adding that she has family affected by the ongoing conflict.
The decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the world’s longest-running and intractable.
Palestinians who live in Gaza and the West Bank say they are suffering because of Israeli actions. Israel argues it’s only acting to protect itself and its citizens from Palestinian violence.
The United Nations considers Israeli’s control over the West Bank an occupation. Israel claims the land based on historical and religious rights as the ancestral land of the Jewish people.
A spokesperson for the Ottawa Catholic School Board issued a statement saying:
"The school respects the right of students to advocate for issues that are important to them. We encourage students to meet with members of their administrative team to discuss ways to express their concerns while not disrupting their class attendance."
The board says around 100 students of the 300 that walked out, did go back to class after the protest.
"We all came together for one main cause and that’s to raise awareness,” Arif said. “Hopefully the school board will see and they will be motivated to help other students raise awareness, raise funds, and help in any way possible.”
The board says parents were notified of the planned protest on Tuesday.
A spokesperson says the principal has now reached out to the Association of Palestinian Arab Canadians for further discussions as a school community.
Editors’ Note: This story has been updated with additional context on the Israel-Palestine conflict. An initial version of the story did not include the necessary background information.