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Brent Patterson

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Brent Patterson is the Political Director at the Council of Canadians. He works with the Council's chairperson Maude Barlow, its campaigners, organizers and chapters across the country on trade, energy, water, and health care issues. The Council has political staff in Ottawa, Vancouver, Edmonton, Toronto, Halifax, Delhi, Cape Town and Mexico City. You can follow Brent on Twitter @CBrentPatterson.

Women's Boat to Gaza to set sail in mid-September

| March 9, 2016
The Women's Boat to Gaza international coalition meeting in Messina, Sicily. Pho

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The Freedom Flotilla Coalition has announced a Women's Boat to Gaza will set sail in mid-September.

The coalition, which includes civil society groups and individuals from Canada, the European Union, Turkey, the United States and South Africa, calls for the ongoing blockade of Gaza to be lifted and for full rights for the Palestinian people. The coalition made the announcement about the women's boat on International Women's Day.

Coalition member Wendy Goldsmith says, "Upon sailing, the crew and delegates on board will be only women, in order to highlight and bring attention to the ongoing struggle faced by Palestinian women, and to show the world that the women of the world sail in support of this struggle."

At the annual general meeting of the Council of Canadians in October 2011 in Montreal, our members passed a resolution to:

  • support the Canadian Boat to Gaza to end the illegal blockade of Gaza
  • call on the Government of Canada, the United Nations and the international community to do everything in their power to ensure the safe passage of the Canadian Boat to Gaza and the safety of all those aboard
  • call for an end to the blockade of Gaza, in accordance with international law.

One year later at our annual conference in Nanaimo, we welcomed Jim Manly who had just been released from custody after the Estelle was boarded for attempting to break the blockade of Gaza.

Gaza is now home to about 1.8 million people. The blockade means that its people struggle for access to basic services such as safe water and sanitation. The United Nations has stated that the aquifer that serves Gaza will be unusable at some point this year because of the overpumping of groundwater, the seepage of seawater into the aquifer, and contamination by sewage. In September 2011, Catarina de Albuquerque, then the UN Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, stated, "Israel must facilitate the entry of necessary materials to rebuild the water and sanitation systems in Gaza, as a matter of priority, otherwise this public health catastrophe will continue unabated."

That same month, de Albuquerque joined with four other UN experts to state, "As a result of more than four years of Israeli blockade, 1.6 million Palestinian women, men and children are deprived of their fundamental human rights and subjected to collective punishment, in flagrant contravention of international human rights and humanitarian law." At a July 2014 rally in Charlottetown, Council of Canadians vice-chairperson Leo Broderick said, "We need to show [Canadian politicians in all parties] that the people of P.E.I. and Canada are opposed to the collective punishment of civilians in Gaza and that we support peace and justice in the area -- not violence."

Council of Canadians chapters, including St. John's, London and Delta-Richmond, have supported Boat to Gaza efforts over the past several years.

To learn more about this situation, you can read the 20-page Blue Planet Project report The Human Right to Water in Palestine.

It is hoped that the Women's Boat to Gaza will be able to arrive in Gaza on October 1.

For more information on the Women's Boat to Gaza, please follow the Freedom Flotilla Coalition on Twitter and Facebook.

Photo: Ann Wright

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