Vancouver police made an arrest based on a viral video of a woman praising terrorists—a few days before she was spotted at the encampment at UBC

The Vancouver Police Department (VPD) announced on Wednesday, May 1, that it had arrested a 44-year-old woman, who, during a rally on the steps of the Vancouver Art Gallery the previous week, praised the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on Israel—and referred to several terrorist organizations as heroes.

The VPD’s Major Crime Section launched an investigation against the woman on April 26 after footage emerged on social media of her speaking through a microphone to hundreds of protesters.

The video, in which the woman describes the attacks as “the beautiful, brave and heroic resistance of the Palestinian people,” has been viewed several hundred thousand times. The woman can also be seen in the video leading a chant of “long live Oct. 7” before the crowd.

“We defend everyone’s right to gather and express their opinions, even when those opinions are unpopular or controversial,” said Sgt. Steve Addison. “We also have a responsibility to ensure public comments don’t promote or incite hatred, encourage violence, or make people feel unsafe. We will continue to thoroughly investigate every hate incident and will pursue criminal charges whenever there is evidence of a hate crime.”

Police investigators identified the speaker—whom numerous sources have stated is Charlotte Kates of Vancouver—and she was arrested on Monday. She has since been released from custody pending further investigation. Police said once the investigation is complete, the evidence will be presented to the Crown for their assessment.

Outrage over Kates’s words reached the highest level of the provincial government. Earlier this week, Premier David Eby said they were “the most hateful” a person could possibly say.

“Celebrating the murder, the rape of innocent people attending a music festival, it’s awful. It’s reprehensible, and it shouldn’t take place in British Columbia. There is clearly an element of some individuals using an international tragedy to promote hate that’s completely unacceptable,” Eby said.

One of the conditions of Kates’ release is that she will not be allowed to participate in any protests for the next five months, according to information put out this week by the Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, a Vancouver-based group for which Kates serves as the coordinator.

Samidoun is a federally registered non-profit. The Centre of Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) has long called for Samidoun to be added to Canada’s list of terrorist organizations. CIJA and others maintain that the Vancouver-based organization has direct ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which, since 2003, has been on the list of terrorist entities under Canada’s Criminal Code. In 2021, Samidoun was designated a terror group by Israel because of its affiliation with the PFLP.

In a statement on its website, CIJA says, “Most disturbing to Canada’s Jewish community, Samidoun has a significant and active presence in Canada where it holds events, raises funds, runs advocacy campaigns, and organizes activities on university campuses. Regularly, Samidoun officials call for violence at these events.”

Samidoun is banned in Germany. In a November 2023 press release, the German Interior Ministry said, “Samidoun is an international network that spreads anti-Israel and anti-Jewish propaganda under the guise of a ‘solidarity organization’ on behalf of prisoners in various countries.”

Kates is married to Khaled Barakat, who, according to numerous media reports and Jewish organizations, is a senior member of the PFLP. In December 2023, B’nai Brith Canada renewed its call for people to sign its petition—an effort it began in 2022—to have the couple deported from Canada and for Samidoun to be dissolved.

B’nai Brith released a video last year highlighting Kates’s history of incitement and celebration of acts of terror.

“It is essential that Canada’s leaders take proactive measures to ensure that our country remains a safe place for all Canadians. We will never allow the future of our democracy to be in the hands of terrorists,” said Michael Mostyn, CEO of B’nai Brith Canada.

In March, both Kates and Barakat participated in a webinar at Columbia University, titled “Resistance 101,” during which the New York Post quotes her as saying, “There is nothing wrong with being a fighter for Hamas.”

On April 29, the day of her arrest, Kates was spotted at an encampment on the campus of the University of British Columbia (UBC) where pro-Palestinian students have been protesting since the beginning of the week. Similar encampments, involving hundreds of students and participants from elsewhere, have cropped up at the University of Victoria (UVic) and Vancouver Island University (VIU) in Nanaimo.

Protesters are calling for the universities to cut academic times with Israeli schools, seeking divestment by the universities from Israeli companies and asking the respective university boards to condemn the killing of Palestinians. The protesters say they will stay in their encampments until their demands are met.

During question period in the British Columbia Legislature on May 2, Michael Lee, an MLA for the right-of-centre BC United Party, who represents the Vancouver-Langara riding, castigated the ruling NDP party for the “disturbing pattern of hate against Jewish students” at university campuses in the province—and mentioned Kates by name for supporting the encampments at UBC, UVic and VIU.

He also decried Samidoun’s ability to receive government funding despite its connections to the PFLP.

“While McGill University has requested police assistance to protect student safety, Premier David Eby has done nothing to keep students safe. Why has there been no action by Premier Eby and his NDP government similar to that taken in other provinces to protect students from radical activists who openly praise Hamas?” Lee said.

On May 1, Premier Eby released a statement to mark the start of Jewish Heritage Month in Canada in which he noted that, while celebrating Jewish contributions to the country, the recent “alarming rise” in antisemitism cannot be overlooked.

“For years now, too many Jewish people have experienced both hate crimes and hateful, vile rhetoric targeting them. This has only worsened since the terrorist attacks of Oct. 7th. Every incident of hate in our neighbourhoods is a reminder of how work still lies ahead of us,” Eby said.