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Victoria city councillor called on to resign after signing letter disputing sexual violence in Hamas attack

(Update: @2:40 pm): Victoria Mayor Marianne Alto has released a statement regarding the controversial letter that appears to have been signed by councillor Susan Kim. Click here to read.

A petition is gaining thousands of signatures following the discovery that a Victoria city councillor signed an open letter that calls on politicians to “end their complicity in genocide,” and disputes reports of sexual violence by Hamas during the Oct. 7 attack.

According to the Israeli officials, about 1,200 people were killed in the attack and police are investigating numerous rape cases. 240 hostages were also kidnapped by Hamas. Gaza’s government estimates 13,000 Palestinians have been killed in the war since Oct. 7, including over 5,000 children.

In response to the letter, a petition is calling for the city to censure Councillor Susan Kim, who was elected in 2022. It also demands that she apologize and resign from her position.

<who>Photo credit: City of Victoria</who> Screenshot showing Kim at a council meeting on Nov. 9, 2023

The open letter calls for members of Parliament to demand “an immediate ceasefire” as well as the “urgent restoration of human necessities including water, and the opening of humanitarian corridors and crossings for medical purposes.”

"We urge you to call on Israel to free all Palestinian prisoners, lift its siege on Gaza, and end its illegal occupation,” the letter adds. “You must contribute to sensible political and social discourse as elected officials. We urge you to stand on the right side of history where you will be redeemed: Resign with integrity and dignity.”

However, in another section of the letter, it also states: “Meanwhile, Jagmeet Singh repeated the unverified accusation that Palestinians were guilty of sexual violence.”

“Imagine being a Jewish member of our community and having to rely on Ms. Kim as an elected representative,” the petition states.

“​​In being an elected member of Victoria City Council, Ms. Kim has a responsibility to serve all members of her community to the best of her ability, including Jewish members. In behaving the way she has, she has brought our community into disrepute and has lost the trust and respect of many citizens in the City of Victoria.”

The petition also claims that Kim has been seen wearing a keffiyeh to council meetings, and asks that this be forbidden, “just as they would forbid any other member from engaging in a “display of hate” during council business.” A keffiyeh is a traditional headdress in the Arab world, and also come to be associated with Palestinian nationalism.

Leader of the BC United party, Kevin Falcon, condemned the councillor's support for the letter, and said BC Premier David Eby should join in calling on her to step down.

"Denying the sexual violence experienced by victims of the October 7 terrorist attack by Hamas is appalling. This is unacceptable behaviour from an elected official here in BC," Falcon said on X.

Kim serves on several committees and boards, including the Youth Council, the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority, the Greater Victoria Public Library, the Regional Water Supply Commission and the Victoria’s Citizens’ Assembly Council Committee.

Kim was also previously active on X, but seems to have recently deleted her account. VictoriaNow has reached out to Kim and the City of Victoria for comment, but no response has been received.

A special council meeting, which is closed to the public, is scheduled this morning at 9 am. The closed meeting was called under Section 90 of the Community Charter due to agenda items dealing with matters such as labour relations or employee relations, law enforcement, or legal matters. There has been no confirmation that this meeting pertains to Kim's situation.

Another signature on the same letter resulted in the termination of an employee at a university in Alberta. Samantha Peason was, until this weekend, the director of the University of Alberta Sexual Assault Centre. Bill Flanagan, president and vice-chancellor, issued a statement saying that Peason is no longer employed by them, and that a new interim director has been appointed.

"The recent improper and unauthorized use of the name of the University of Alberta’s Sexual Assault Centre in endorsing an open letter has raised understandable concerns from members of our community and the public," the statement reads.

"I want to be clear that the former employee’s personal views and opinions do not in any way represent those of the University of Alberta. The University of Alberta stands firmly and unequivocally against discrimination and hatred on the basis of religion, race, ethnicity, national origin, and other protected categories. We recognize the historical and ongoing harms of antisemitism and commit to doing all we can as a university to advance a world free of prejudice and discrimination.

"The services provided by the university, particularly those supporting the well-being and health of community members, must be open and welcoming to all individuals in our diverse community. The new leadership at the Sexual Assault Centre is committed to swiftly implementing the changes required to ensure this university commitment is upheld."

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