British Columbia

B.C. Opposition leader calls on Victoria councillor to resign after her name appears on pro-Palestinian letter

The leader of B.C.'s Official Opposition is calling on a Victoria councillor to resign, saying she denied the experience of victims of sexual violence in Israel.

Kevin Falcon says Susan Kim denied sexual violence experienced during Oct. 7 Israel attack

An East Asian woman smiles in a headshot.
Victoria councillor Susan Kim is facing controversy after her name appeared on an archived version of an open letter calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. (City of Victoria)

The leader of B.C.'s Official Opposition is calling on a Victoria councillor to resign, saying she denied the experience of victims of sexual violence in Israel.

Susan Kim is a first-time councillor in B.C.'s capital city, elected in October 2022, whose name appears on an archived version of an open letter asking Canadian politicians to "end their complicity in the ongoing massacres and genocide in Gaza."

CBC News has been unable to independently verify she signed the letter.

However, Opposition leader Kevin Falcon, of B.C.'s United Party, says she displayed "unacceptable" behaviour in appearing to sign the letter, whose archived version is critical of federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh in claims he made about Palestinians and sexual violence.

"Denying the sexual violence experienced by victims of the October 7 terrorist attack by Hamas is appalling," reads a post from Falcon on X, formerly known as Twitter. "Councillor Kim should resign & [Premier David Eby] needs to join me in calling on her to step down."

Municipal Affairs Minister Anne Kang stopped short of calling for Kim to resign, but said she should apologize for her name appearing on the archived version of the letter.

Kang said she believed "first-hand" accounts of sexual violence in the Oct. 7 attack.

"The issue today is really about supporting survivors, so I'm going to ask that Councillor Kim address this in her own words and apologize," she said.

A man in a black suit stands in front of a background that reads "BC UNITED CAUCUS" with a B.C. provincial flag on the left.
B.C. United Leader Kevin Falcon has said that Kim should resign and that she displayed unacceptable conduct. (Michael Mcarthur/CBC)

Kim's name appearing on the letter has led to a petition, with over 8,500 signatures as of Monday evening, calling for her official censure in Victoria council, a ban on her wearing the Palestinian keffiyeh scarf in council and her removal from all official board appointments.

"It's a very complicated subject and I think a lot of people feel as though Councillor Kim really overstepped a line in being a signatory to that position," said Janice Williams, a former Victoria council candidate who started the petition.

Israeli authorities have said they are investigating several cases of sexual assault and rape during Hamas's Oct. 7 attack, which killed an estimated 1,200 people.

Letter critical of Canadian politicians

The archive of the open letter, which has since been removed from the internet, was created on Nov. 15. CBC News has been unable to find an active version of the letter, but Kim and Ontario MPP Sarah Jama are the two politicians listed to have signed it in the archived version.

The letter charges Canadian politicians with not standing in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza, and urges them to call for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and the freeing of Palestinian prisoners amid an Israeli siege of the Palestinian city that began last month

In particular, one paragraph is critical of federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh.

"Jagmeet Singh repeated the unverified accusation that Palestinians were guilty of sexual violence, refused to end his party's deal with the Liberals, and revoked the passes of four delegates who joined a pro-Palestine rally at the NDP Convention," reads the archived version of the open letter.

In a statement posted on Instagram Monday evening, Kim said she believes survivors of gender-based violence and sexual assault.

"The use of sexual violence in war is undeniably among the worst facets of human history," her statement read. "My condemnation of all sexual violence is perpetual and unconditional."

Kim goes on to say that she would be "more attentive to community" before adopting positions in her role as city councillor.

She also said that a ceasefire in Gaza would be a "necessary next step" in the Israel-Hamas war.

"Aggravation and polarization of this beloved community is never my intention," she said. "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."

Kim did not specify in Monday's statement whether she had signed the letter in question.

Mayor calls for ceasefire

Victoria Mayor Marianne Alto said in a statement on Monday afternoon that she does not comment on her council colleagues' remarks, and would be providing Kim with a chance to comment on the controversy.

"Voters choose their representatives, and have the final say on their longevity," she said.

Alto herself has been vocal about calls for a ceasefire in Gaza, and said in her statement that the loss of civilian life, including children, is catastrophic.

A woman with short white hair and round glasses smiles for the camera in a small room.
Victoria Mayor Marianne Alto says she has a policy of not commenting on her fellow councillors' remarks. (Kathryn Marlow/CBC)

"I join my local government colleagues from around the nation to urge the Canadian government to call for a ceasefire in Gaza, to advocate and work with our international partners to support the unrestricted access to humanitarian aid and to secure the release of all hostages," she said.

Following the Oct. 7 attacks, Israel immediately began an airstrike campaign and cut off food, water and supplies to Gaza, which is home to 2.3 million Palestinians.

Palestinian authorities have estimated over 12,000 people have been killed in the campaign so far, with Israel pledging to continue its siege of the city until some 240 hostages have been released, even as international pressure builds for a humanitarian ceasefire.

With files from The Canadian Press