Victoria Councillor Expresses Regret Over Polarization Caused by Open Letter on Israel-Hamas Conflict

Victoria city councillor Susan Kim in a photo from the city's website.

Victoria city councillor Susan Kim has expressed regret over the polarization caused in her community following her signature on a controversial open letter concerning the Israel-Hamas conflict. The letter, which has been a subject of intense backlash, includes criticism of NDP leader Jagmeet Singh and mentions unverified accusations of sexual violence by Palestinians.

Kim, along with another Canadian politician, signed the letter advocating for a ceasefire in the ongoing conflict. The letter drew attention for its critical stance towards Singh’s repetition of allegations about sexual violence by Palestinians, a claim Israeli authorities are currently investigating. Several cases of sexual assault and rape were reported during the Hamas attack on October 7, sparking Israel’s invasion of the Gaza Strip.

In a recent statement, Councillor Kim emphasized her unwavering support for survivors of sexual violence. “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,” she stated.

Despite her signature, Kim clarified that she was not the author of the letter. She highlighted that international media outlets reporting on her involvement had not contacted her for verification. Her decision to sign was driven by her belief in the necessity of a ceasefire to de-escalate the conflict.

Kim also committed to being more mindful of her community’s perspective before adopting positions in her role as a local leader. Expressing regret over the unintended aggravation and polarization, she vowed to continue serving her term diligently.

The controversy intensified after the Jewish Federation of Edmonton criticized another signatory, Sarah Pearson, who was then leading the University of Alberta’s sexual assault centre. The Federation’s statement questioned the centre’s stance on believing all victims of sexual assault. Subsequently, the university announced Pearson’s dismissal.

An online petition demanding Victoria city council censure Kim and calling for her resignation garnered over 8,800 signatures since its launch on Saturday.

Victoria Mayor Marianne Alto, when asked about the letter, declined to comment on her fellow council members’ actions. She reiterated her support for a ceasefire but maintained her policy of not commenting on council members’ statements or actions.