Nelson is now the third municipality in B.C. asking the federal government to call for peace in Israel and Gaza.
City council voted in favour at its Dec. 5 meeting to send a letter that calls for “open communication, empathy, and a profound regard for human life.”
Two other B.C. municipalities, Burnaby and Maple Ridge, have sent similar letters. In addition, a letter signed by 82 individual municipal politicians in B.C. has asked the federal government to push for a cease fire, the return of all hostages, and more humanitarian aid.
“Acknowledging the intricacies of the situation, including historical and geopolitical factors, we refrain from taking sides in the conflict,” the Nelson letter states. “Instead, our plea is for an immediate cessation of hostilities from all involved parties.”
Mayor Janice Morrison said the letter will be sent to the federal government and all leaders of the opposition parties in Ottawa.
Expressing his support for the letter, Councillor Rik Logtenberg expanded on the decision to remain neutral.
“As much as we would want to (weigh in) when the power differential is so great between the combatants, between Israel and Palestine, we have to ask ourselves, are we contributing to a calming of the waters? Are we de-escalating, in our small way, the emotions in our city, and in our small way, the emotions in the Middle East? And I think the letter does a great job of doing that.”
Logtenberg said there are Israeli Canadians living in Nelson who are “expressing fear that as they move into Hanukkah, fear about putting a menorah in the window, and I’ve seen that that reason is not unfounded.”
He asked residents not to identify Nelson’s Israeli residents with the combatants in the war, and to recognize the basic humanity of all of citizens.
Councillor Leslie Payne called the letter “one of the most difficult decisions that have come before us.” She said she and other councillors have received many emails and phone conversations with Nelson residents about it.
“The level of influence that can be exerted by a municipality on any international issue is not high,” she said. “I certainly want the community to stand for what is right. And in this situation, it’s extremely difficult to understand the intricacies of this. We all want a way forward to a resolution that ends the loss of life the incredible atrocities that are being exhibited to us in so many different ways on a daily basis.”
Payne said that the role of city council is “calling for peace, being open to listening to everyone, and safeguarding our neighbours. This is what I’m here to do as your city council … I think at this point in time, this letter is our way forward.”
Morrison acknowledged that she and other councillors have had “lengthy and difficult” conversations about the war in Gaza, and she went on say that the letter applies to all wars.
“It is the belief of the city council that no more people should be killed or families damaged in this war or any other war,” she said.
The full letter reads as follows:
As representatives of the Nelson City Council, we are reaching out to convey our profound concern and empathy regarding the ongoing conflict in Gaza. The distressing toll on humanity and the suffering resulting from the violence compel us to unite in the pursuit of peace.
We firmly believe that constructive dialogue and mutual understanding are indispensable elements for any resolution aimed at tranquility. Acknowledging the intricacies of the situation, including historical and geopolitical factors, we refrain from taking sides in the conflict. Instead, our plea is for an immediate cessation of hostilities from all involved parties.
War only perpetuates anguish and hardship, especially for innocent civilians trapped in the midst of conflict. The repercussions extend beyond geopolitical boundaries, impacting the lives of ordinary individuals, including women, children, and vulnerable communities. Our city, emblematic of the strength derived from diversity, underscores the significance of nurturing a culture of peace and collaboration.
We respectfully implore all parties to prioritize the well-being of their citizens and to explore diplomatic channels for resolving the underlying issues.
As a city dedicated to fostering unity and understanding, we extend our support to initiatives promoting dialogue, reconciliation, and enduring peace. We hold the conviction that through open communication, empathy, and a profound regard for human life, we can collectively strive toward a future where conflicts find resolution through peaceful means.
Thank you for your consideration of this matter, and we remain optimistic for a prompt and peaceful resolution to the conflict.
Mayor Janice Morrison
City of Nelson