Friday, June 14, 2024

Victoria Councillor Susan Kim issues second apology for signing open letter

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Victoria City Councillor Susan Kim has been at the forefront of not only a national, but an international controversy this week after she signed an open letter to parliament calling for a ceasefire in the Hamas-Israel conflict. 

The reason for the backlash and public scrutiny was that the open letter contained one sentence that effectively denied that members of Hamas committed acts of sexual violence towards Israeli women during their surprise attacks on October 7th. 

“Meanwhile Jagmeet Singh repeated the unverified accusation that Palestinians were guilty of sexual violence,” is what the controversial line in the open letter read. 

The letter has since been removed from its source on the internet. 

Over the weekend, the letter came to light and a petition was launched calling for Kim’s censure or resignation was launched by unsuccessful 2022 city council candidate Jancie Williams.

In this petition, Kim was accused of being anti-semetic and wearing a Middle Eastern garment called a keffiyeh that Williams considered to be a “display of hate” she thinks should be banned from city council chambers. 

Around 8,300 people signed this petition while misinformation was still widely circulated and  before Councillor Kim had a chance to speak about her intent in signing the letter. Now the petition has nearly 10,000 signatures. 

Following this petition’s launch, the international and national media grabbed hold of the story and perpetuated misinformation in the process, some of which even accused Kim of writing the open letter herself.

Kim then deleted her X (formerly Twitter) account due to the mass amounts of hate she was receiving online.

Until this time, Kim herself hadn’t made a public statement to the media regarding her signing the open letter, but Mayor Marianne Alto did release a statement to the media, effectively saying that she would allow Councillor Kim the time to be able to speak for herself.

Then, Kim released her first apology letter.

In it she stated her firm stance against oppression, gender-based violence, victim blaming, genocide, racism, anti-semitism and Islamophobia. 

She said she stands by survivors of sexual violence and her intention in signing the open letter was to help amplify the message of peace and the need for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza.


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After this apology was released by Kim, a second petition was launched which echoed her intent for a ceasefire but also stood by her in solidarity, calling on Victoria to support the councillor rather than condemn her for wanting peace. 

This petition was created by local Jewish advocates, the Independent Jewish Voices Victoria. 

In this petition, Williams, who had penned the initial petition, was called out for her remarks against Kim.

In the initial petition, Williams deemed the keffiyeh a display of hate, to which they wrote, “we strongly condemn the suggestion of banning Keffiyehs from council chambers.” 

“Would council ban kippot next? To suggest that Palestinian cultural garments are ‘displays of hate’ feeds into Islamophobic tropes and we cannot allow these racist views to take hold in our city.”

This petition in support of Councillor Kim has garnered over 1,300 signatures. 

Councillor Kim’s second apology

On Thursday, November 23rd, Kim released a second apology via Instagram to the people of Victoria in which she further commits to putting in the work of understanding different perspectives and learning from this mistake. 

“I am writing again to apologize for signing the open letter that has been the subject of much warranted scrutiny over the past days. I have asked for my name to be removed from the letter. I regret not being more careful in understanding the impact of the letter on the community members I represent.”

“I signed this letter in a moment of immense grief and a felt urgency to call for an end to violence and support the people of Gaza. In the process, I failed to critically assess the impact this would have on community members directly affected — including Jewish and Palestinian community members — experiencing loss and grieving loved ones.”

“This apology is part of a process of holding myself accountable, to representing the city with more awareness and consideration. I am deeply grateful for Jewish and Palestinian community members who have taken the time to speak with me and offer generous guidance on how to take action in more considerate, collaborative, and accountable ways ahead.”

“This is a time when so many of us are feeling raw and shaken as we advocate for peace and justice. I am going to continue to connect with all of those impacted by this conflict to better understand perspectives that are not my own. I am committed to this important work, even in such extremely difficult times, and will proceed gratefully my post working together towards better futures.”

With this statement, Kim has reaffirmed she will not be stepping down as a city councillor and will continue with her duties that the role requires. 

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Curtis Blandy
curtis@victoriabuzz.com

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