Open Letter to Prime Minister Trudeau: Canada Must Call for a Permanent Ceasefire and End to the Siege on Gaza.

November 23, 2023

Islamic Relief Canada CEO, Usama Khan, has written to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urging him to demonstrate moral leadership and do everything in his power to bring about a permanent ceasefire in Gaza.

Dear Prime Minister Justin Trudeau,

I am writing to you today, urging you to demonstrate moral leadership in this critical moment. As the elected leader of our country, you are the final decision-maker who has the power to call for a ceasefire, to demand unimpeded humanitarian access and to ensure the protection of civilians and humanitarian personnel. 

Thus far, we have seen Canada take a few steps in the right direction as you have spoken about the importance of prioritizing access to humanitarian aid, of making every effort to protect Palestinian civilians, and implementing humanitarian pauses. While these steps are important, they fall short of having any impact without calling for a permanent ceasefire. 

Speaking on the four-day temporary truce, you stated: "This is an important bit of progress, but we have to redouble our efforts now to get toward a lasting peace.” While it is an important action that will undoubtedly save lives, it will not stop the killing of thousands more in the days and weeks to follow.

A four day pause will not improve the lack of humanitarian access and essential services in the Gaza Strip. Yesterday, less than one hundred trucks providing life-saving humanitarian supplies were allowed to enter Gaza. This is far less than the five hundred trucks that were entering Gaza daily before October 7th.  Moreover, for 42 days the Gaza Strip has been under an electricity blackout, after the Israeli authorities cut off the electricity supply, with fuel reserves for Gaza’s sole power plant depleted. 

The four day pause will also not repair the destruction of key infrastructure – including roads, hospitals and medical facilities, telecom services and water and sanitation facilities Currently, the remaining 22 hospitals in the north of Gaza are completely out of service. Of the 11 medical facilities in the south, only seven are currently functional.  In an alarming report, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees has stated that 70% of people in Gaza do not have access to clean water. 

And while Canada speaks about redoubling our efforts to reach a lasting peace, how can we claim to be working toward a lasting peace, when we haven’t had the courage thus far to even call for a ceasefire? As a government, we have been unwilling to call for all parties to put an end to hostilities, let alone speak out against the underlying obstacles to peace – that is, the blockade and decades-long occupation of the Palestinian territories.

Recovery efforts to fund the aid that is needed in Gaza and the West Bank will cost upwards of 1.2 billion dollars. Only a permanent ceasefire will allow for the beginning of recovery efforts and prevent the suffering, starvation, dehydration, and death that we will continue to witness in the days and weeks to come. 

The international community must use this brief window of opportunity to work towards a permanent ceasefire and an end to the siege.  It remains our only option to avoid further loss of civilian life and humanitarian catastrophe. Anything less will forever be a stain on our collective conscience.

The international community and several human rights agencies have sounded the alarm over several recurrent breaches – potentially grave breaches – of international humanitarian law in Gaza.  Innocent civilians in Gaza are facing collective punishment and mass displacement, with UN experts warning against ethnic cleansing and even imminent genocide. The disproportionate use of force, indiscriminate attacks, ongoing blockade, starvation diet, and mass killing of civilians in the most densely-populated place on earth has put a target on every innocent Palestinian civilian. 

There is nowhere safe left in Gaza. Hospitals, places of worship, and schools — all protected civilian infrastructure in international humanitarian law — have been considered legitimate targets of violence.

Your choice at this moment—between allowing a campaign of ethnic cleansing and mass forced displacement to proceed or taking a stance for justice, humanity, and the protection of innocent lives—should be crystal clear. We need a complete and permanent ceasefire now. 

We cannot take back the lives that have been killed through the bombings, but there is still time to save thousands more that hang in the balance today, tomorrow and next week. 

On the international stage, Canada has traditionally held a reputation as a nation that believes in rules-based international order and works for peace. Our role as mediators for peace must translate into action for humanity and humanitarian principles.

Prime Minister, I urge you to be courageous and take a stance for what is right, call for a permanent ceasefire and an end to the siege. 

Our collective humanity and principles are at stake. Will you lead by example? 

Usama Khan
CEO, Islamic Relief Canada