Over the weekend, Victoria City Councillor Susan Kim came under a massive amount of scrutiny on an international level for co-signing an open letter to Parliament, calling for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas conflict.
However, some of the messaging and the language used in the letter may have insinuated that those who signed it were in denial of reported sexual assaults that occurred during the October 7th Hamas attack on Israel.
The letter was pointing out that federal NDP leader, Jagmeet Singh, was echoing the prime minister’s stance that any sexual assaults that may have occurred are “unverified.”
It read, “Meanwhile Jagmeet Singh repeated the unverified accusation that Palestinians were guilty of sexual violence.”
Following this statement, the letter continued by calling on Singh to cut ties with the Liberals and put an end to the deal they have made to support each other to push progress forward.
The open letter has since been deleted from its online source.
After the letter was released, unsuccessful 2022 Victoria city council candidate Janice Williams launched an online petition calling on Councillor Kim to resign from her position as a city councillor.
The petition was questioning her ability to be a leader of people in Jewish communities in Victoria and calling her out for wearing a garment Williams considered to be a “display of hate.”
Williams tweeted shortly after launching the petition calling for Kim’s resignation that if Kim did indeed decide to resign from her position, she would not be running for the seat in the ensuing by-election.
On Monday, November 20th, a statement was released by Kim which was addressed to the people of Victoria.
Councillor Kim’s statement
“Let me first begin by stating that I regret how this matter has polarized our community. That was never my intent,” Councillor Kim wrote.
“My principles demand that I continue to condemn any and all forms of hate and oppression, be it victim-blaming, genocide, racism, anti-Semitism, and Islamophobia.”
“I believe survivors of gender-based violence. I will always believe survivors of sexual assault. The use of sexual violence in war is undeniably among the worst facets of human history. My condemnation of all sexual violence is perpetual and unconditional.”
“On the open letter signed by civil society, I agree that a ceasefire is a necessary next step in de-escalating the horrific conflict we’re seeing on the other side of the globe.”
“To further clarify, that letter was not written by me. It is disappointing that international media did not reach out to verify the letter’s authorship.”
“Venturing forward, I commit to being more attentive to community before adopting positions while I am a City Councillor. Aggravation and polarization of this beloved community is never my intention.”
“My primary duty is to serve the city and its residents; I am sorry for how this matter has pulled me away from the work of this city. I will continue to serve out the rest of my term to the best of my abilities on behalf of those who entrusted me with this privilege.”
Mayor Marianne Alto’s stance
Prior to Councillor Kim releasing her statement, Mayor Marianne Alto sent a statement regarding the situation to Victoria Buzz in support of her colleague.
“It is my policy not to comment on any of my council colleagues’ remarks, and I have no plan to change that now. I expect — and will provide the opportunity for –- Councillor Kim to speak for herself,” Mayor Alto said.
“Voters choose their representatives, and have the final say on their longevity. My earlier statement speaks to the need for Victorians to reach out and comfort one another in response to the local pain arising from the current violence in the middle east.”
In this, Victoria’s mayor was referring to another statement that was released calling for Victorians to be kind and peaceful with one another during this tumultuous time.
The next regularly scheduled city council meeting and committee of the whole are scheduled for this Thursday, November 23rd.
Thus far, Kim has indicated she will continue her work as city councillor to the best of her ability and aims to regain the city’s trust through her actions and beliefs.
As of November 19th, over 13,000 people have died in Gaza in this conflict. Kim insists that her intent in signing the letter was not for local controversy to overshadow the deaths that will continue until a ceasefire is reached.