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Victoria council considers suspending relationship with Russian city

The motion by Coun. Stephen Andrew to suspend the twin-city relationship with Khabarovsk will be considered on Thursday.
The Emily Carr statue at the corner of Belleville and Government streets displays the colours of the Ukrainian flag on Monday, Feb. 28, 2022. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

A Victoria councillor has filed a motion urging the city to suspend its relationship with the Russian city of Khabarovsk.

Coun. Stephen Andrew said suspending the twin-city relationship will send a message that Victoria isn’t interested in a connection with a country that is involved in tyranny.

“We’ll suspend our twin relationship with them and if it continues, we’ll then go further to end it,” said Andrew. “But we cannot just sit idly by and assume that we are going to have a relationship with a Russian city while the country’s involved in illegal invasion of another country.

“This is a stand. I think it’s a symbolic stand that we are supporting the hundreds of Ukrainian Victorians that live in Greater Victoria.”

The motion will be considered at council’s committee of the whole meeting Thursday.

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said suspension is better than termination of the relationship at this point.

“I wonder if there isn’t something about cities that supersedes nations in some ways, ties that are stronger than what the country may be doing. I think that’s the point of twin-city relationships,” she said.

“Khabarovsk did not decide to go to war and in fact may have many residents that oppose Putin’s moves. But if suspending the relationship until the conflict is over will help to show our support for peace and also for Ukrainian Canadians in Victoria, then I’m in support of the initiative at this point.”

Victoria and Khabarovsk have been twinned since May 1990 and Victoria officials visited the city in 2008 and 2013.

The twin-city program is designed to share ideas and establish an atmosphere in which economic and community development can be strengthened.

Victoria has four twin cities. Besides Khabarovsk, they are Napier, New Zealand; Suzhou, China; and Morioka, Japan.

At a rally for Ukraine at the legislature on Sunday, Andrew, the acting mayor, read a statement on behalf of the city saying Victoria stands with Ukraine against violence, war and the unprovoked attack on the country.

“We know that many of you have family members who are currently fleeing their homes, in fear for their lives. We are sending our love and our support to you and to your families,” he said. “We must all hold peace in our hearts and send our best and strongest hopes for peace to the Ukraine. In solidarity and with deep support.”

Andrew said in light of the size of the local Ukrainian community and the vocal support the city has seen for Ukraine through the last week, the city has no choice but to do something.

“Will it make a difference? I think it will make a difference to the people of Ukraine and their families that the city is going to disavow a relationship with this twin in Russia during this time,” he said. “I personally cannot see how we can stand with Ukraine and have a relationship with a twin city in Russia.”

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