Seven elected officials from West Kootenay local governments — three from Nelson — have joined some of their colleagues from around the province in signing an open letter to the Canadian government calling for a cease-fire in Gaza.
The letter, signed by 73 politicians as of Nov. 21, also urges the federal government to support the release of all hostages and to push for unrestricted access to humanitarian aid.
The writers, from 32 B.C. communities, say they are ashamed of Canada’s abstention at the United Nations on a resolution calling for those measures.
“So many civilian lives have been needlessly lost and there is no end in sight. The collective punishment of civilians is understood to be a violation of international law.”
According to the Union of B.C. Municipalities there are 189 municipal governments and regional districts in the province.
The letter’s signatories write that they have heard from their residents who have families in both Gaza and Israel.
“We mourn with the communities who have lost loved ones and family members, grieve the unconscionable number of innocent lives lost, and watch in anguish at the unprecedented degree of violence and human suffering.”
Nelson city councillors Leslie Payne, Rik Logtenberg, and Jesse Pineiro signed the letter, along with Silverton councillor Leah Main and Creston councillors Monique Arès and Norm Eisler. Regional District Area D director Aimee Watson also signed the letter.
Logtenberg said the issue has incited division in Nelson.
“I signed this letter hoping to mend some of that division at home and possibly influence Canadian policy abroad,” he said. “In the heat of battle, it’s easy to lose sight of humanity — your enemy is ‘evil,’ and civilians are ‘collateral damage.’ This is happening in Gaza right now, as it happened in Israel on Oct. 7.”
Pineiro said the letter is “consistent with my views on the situation and with my actions in the past.”
Payne said the war is a fraught issue in Nelson and she wants to bring the community together, not contribute to division.
She said she had a “moral obligation to collaborate with the people who put the letter together,” and that she was inspired by the veterans at the Remembrance Day ceremony “who had given service to our country for peace.”
The letter condemns all acts of anti-semitism, anti-Palestinian racism and Islamophobia, which the writers say have risen in the past month.
“We stand with innocent Palestinian and Israeli civilians, during a heartbreaking time, in saying that Canada must act now.”
This story was updated on Nov. 21 to reflect the increased number of signatories and to add Aimee Watson, director for RDCK Area D, to the list of local signatories. We also added the sentence about the number of municipalities in the province.