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Victoria councillor will not resign over letter about Israel-Hamas war

Susan Kim faces calls to be censured after signing name on controversial letter.
Victoria Coun. Susan Kim at council’s swearing-in ceremony on Nov. 3, 2022. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

Victoria Coun. Susan Kim says she will not resign from council and regrets how her name on a controversial open letter regarding the Israel-Hamas war has polarized the community.

“I am sorry for how this matter has pulled me away from the work of this city,” Kim said in a statement late Monday. “I will continue to serve out the rest of my term to the best of my abilities on behalf of those who have entrusted me with this privilege.”

Kim’s name was prominently featured in an open letter that cast doubt on the validity of reports of sexual violence during the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas.

It was signed by 2,100 others that calls for Canadian political leaders to seek an immediate ceasefire and the opening of humanitarian corridors in Gaza.

The letter begins with “We, the undersigned, residing in so-called Canada” and criticizes federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, claiming he “repeated the unverified accusation that Palestinians were guilty of sexual violence.”

Since the letter has been publicized in international media, thousands have signed a petition calling for Kim’s censure, and B.C. United Leader Kevin Falcon has called on her to resign.

In her statement, Kim said she believes survivors of gender-based violence. “The use of sexual violence in war is undeniably among the worst facets of human history,” she said, adding that her condemnation of sexual violence is “perpetual and unconditional.”

Kim committed to being more attentive to the community before adopting positions as a city councilor.

Kim denied writing the letter, as was reported by some outlets, including the U.K.’s Daily Mail. “It is disappointing that international media did not reach out to verify the letter’s authorship.”

She stated that she would continue to condemn hate and oppression, “be it victim-blaming, genocide, racism, anti-Semitism, and Islamophobia.”

A lawyer with the B.C. Civil Liberties Association said it would not be appropriate for Kim to resign or be censured over her stance on the unfolding conflict in Gaza.

B.C. Civil Liberties Association staff litigation counsel Veronica Martisius said Kim has the right to freely express herself under the Canadian constitution and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“As a lawyer, I don’t think there is anything wrong with wanting evidence to confirm some of the allegations that the government of Israel has made.” she said. “There has been a lot of misinformation.”

Martisius said that Kim’s view on the conflict is one that is held by many.

It would be a “sad day” for democracy if those calling for her censure or resignation succeeded, she said. “In order for there to be a healthy debate, it’s important to have a diversity of viewpoints on issues.”

When asked for comment, Victoria Mayor Marianne Alto declined to speak on the matter and said that it is voters who choose their representatives and have the final say on how long they stay in office.

“It is my policy not to comment on any of my council colleagues’ remarks, and I have no plan to change that now,” she said in a statement.

On Monday, she released a letter calling for a ceasefire in Gaza and condemned the increase in Islamophobia and antisemitism in Victoria.

“I have met with members of the local Muslim and Jewish communities and heard about the violence and vitriol that have been directed towards them,” she said. “These reprehensible acts of hate have no place in Victoria.”

“This is a time for comfort, empathy, understanding and support,” Alto said. “My heart goes out to every person feeling the grief, weight and impact of these devastating events.”

Meanwhile, Colwood Coun. Ian Ward, who sits on the Greater Victoria Public Library board along with Kim, is calling on the board in a formal motion to censure or remove Kim for “egregrious violations” of the trustee code of conduct, citing the community outrage and Kim’s stance on the Israel-Hamas conflict.

“I feel I no longer am arriving to an environment free of discrimination, threats, and intimidation,” Ward wrote to the board on Monday.

The next public library board meeting is set for Nov. 28.

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