*This story has been updated with a response from Susan Kim.
Calls are mounting for a City of Victoria council member to resign after her name appeared on a controversial open letter that questions if there was sexual violence committed by Hamas as part of the Oct. 7 attacks in Israel.
But Coun. Susan Kim says she is not resigning.
Kim’s name appears on the letter, which included the line the “unverified accusation that Palestinians were guilty of sexual violence” as part of the Oct. 7 attacks that saw some victims tortured before they were killed. Since this story was first published, the letter has now been heavily edited to remove the statement and the names of those who signed it.
The only other Canadian politician’s name listed on the letter before it was removed was Ontario MPP Sarah Jama, who was kicked out of the Ontario NDP and censured in the Ontario legislation for previous statements related to the aftermath of the Oct. 7 attacks.
On Monday, B.C. Minister of Municipal Affairs Anne Kang called on Kim to “apologize immediately” but stopped short of asking her to resign.
“I believe in survivors,” Kang said. “I believe in their first-hand accounts and it is absolutely wrong to deny that these accounts happened.”
Kim issued a statement Monday night, saying she regrets “how this matter has polarized our community. This was never my intent.
“I believe survivors of gender-based violence,” Kim said. “I will always believe survivors of sexual assault. The use of sexual violence in war is undeniably among the worst faces of human history. My condemnation of all sexual violence is perpetual and unconditional.”
Kim also said that a ceasefire is necessary.
“Venturing forward, I commit to being more attentive to community before adopting positions while I am a city councillor,” Kim said. “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.”
The revelation prompted an online petition asking for Victoria council to censure Kim and remove her from any board positions.
“Imagine being a Jewish member of our community and having to rely on Ms. Kim as an elected representative,” says the petition, which has more than 8,300 signatures as of Monday (Nov. 20) morning. “Would you feel as though she’d represent your interest, equally to the interests of others in our community? Would you be able to trust Ms. Kim?”
The City of Victoria published a statement Monday on behalf of Mayor Marianne Alto, but it only mentioned the conflict in general terms and did not mention Kim or the controversy directly.
Ian Ward, a councillor for the City of Colwood, sits on the library board with Kim, but is considering quitting in protest of Kim signing the letter. Ward is also putting forward a motion to have Kim censured from the library board.
Ward said in a letter to Black Press Media that the letter Kim signed was an “amplificaton of hate.”
“This is the worst kind of victim-blaming, and to have it come from an elected official abusing her platform in this way is unconscionable,” Ward said in his letter.
Others are stepping forward to call for Kim’s resignation, including Kevin Falcon, leader of BC United.
“Denying the sexual violence experienced by victims of the Oct. 7 terrorist attack by Hamas is appalling,” Falcon posted on X (formerly Twitter). “This is unacceptable behaviour from an elected official here in B.C. Coun. Kim should resign & David Eby needs to join me in calling on her to step down.”
The conflict began on Oct. 7 when Hamas militants killed an estimated 1,200 Israelis in surprise attacks, taking another 240 people hostage.
Israel declared war on Hamas, began an airstrike campaign and cut off food, fuel, water and supplies to Gaza, which is home to 2.3 million Palestinians. The territory’s health officials say more than 11,500 people have been killed so far, two-thirds of them women and children, and another 2,700 people are reported missing.
- With files from the Canadian Press