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Posts prompt Port Moody council to reconsider Middle East motion

Port Moody council passed a motion on Tuesday supporting Canada's official position advocating for peace in the Middle East.
A screengrab of one of the posts about two Port Moody city councillors that prompted Mayor Meghan Lahti to call for a reconsideration of a motion passed on Tuesday in spport of Canada's official position on the current Middle East conflict.

Port Moody council has reconsidered its motion in support of the Canadian government’s official position on the current conflict in the Middle East.

Instead, a new motion put forth by Mayor Meghan Lahti will be debated at council’s next meeting, scheduled for April 9. A text of that motion was not immediately available.

The turnabout occurred in an extraordinary and emotional special session tonight, March 28, called by Lahti.

She said some members of council and the community had been targets of hateful and threatening messages on social media in the wake of the motion that was passed on Tuesday following a delegation from members of a group called Free Palestine Tri-Cities that had asked council to support its call for an end to the hostilities.

“The group that asked for it turned around and spread hate the next day,” said Lahti, adding some of the posts have since been removed or toned down.

“We can’t let this happen on our watch.”

Several members of the gallery at Tuesday’s meeting — some wearing the keffiyeh, a scarf that symbolizes Palestinian nationalism — lauded councillors for their careful consideration of the issue and measured declaration of support for peace.

But screenshots of social media posts provided to the Tri-City News showed the sentiment wasn’t universal.

Some denounced two councillors, Kyla Knowles and Callan Morrison, and encouraged people to vote against them in the next election.

One called them “colonist and genocide supporters.”

“Obviously both Kyla and Callan are islamophobic [sic] for their lack of supporting ceasefire motion and are more than happy watching Muslims get executed,” said a comment on an Instagram post summarizing the evening’s activities.

“Islamophobia is the forefront of these two council members’ values.”

Another post by an account called freepalestinebc said the councillors “selectively support motions based on obvious demographic needs rather than humanitarian needs.”

A post on an account linked to a representative of the Free Palestine Tri-Cities delegation that presented at Tuesday's council meeting called three members of the Jewish community who also spoke at Tuesday’s meeting “zionists who… were much less effective with their attempts to convince council that this was out of their jurisdiction.”

Council responds

Thursday, Knowles and Morrison reiterated their initial contention council shouldn’t get involved in international affairs.

“I didn’t believe we should be considering this motion in the first place,” said an emotional Knowles, who had supported Tuesday's motion but voted for its reconsideration. “I’d hoped this council would keep its nose out of non-jurisdictional matters.”

“I voted with my heart not because I side with one side or the other. It should be the federal government making these statements,” said Morrison, adding a post left on one of his personal social media accounts was particularly upsetting and frightening for his wife.

“It’s heartbreaking to hear this group that got what they wanted and I was still being villainized.”

Coun. Diana Dilworth said she was shocked by some of the commentary she saw online.

“They spoke of harmony, peace, humanity and non-hate, but then some of those same speakers went on social media and threw hate,” she said, adding her support for council’s original motion was “a huge mistake.”

But some councillors said council had done nothing wrong with its motion and they would continue to stand by it.

Coun. Samantha Agtarap, who’d crafted the main thrust of the motion that was passed by council on Tuesday, said she would not be bullied.

“Fear and stress should not deter us from advocating for peace,” she said. “My vote for peace will never change.”

“I reject the idea we need to retract this motion,” Coun. Haven Lurbiecki said. “I think we did the right thing in passing this motion.”

Coun. Amy Lubik said she was “proud” of the motion.

“I thought we came up with a good compromise,” she said, adding retracting the motion wouldn’t help the community find the healing it needs.



Here is the text of the motion passed by council on Tuesday, but reconsidered on Thursday:

That the Mayor, on behalf of Council, be directed to write a letter to the Prime Minister of Canada and the Minister of Foreign Affairs calling for the following concurrent actions:

  • Securing the release of all hostages,
  • Immediate and sustainable Gaza ceasefire that is committed to ensuring Israelis and Palestinians live in peace and security within internationally recognized borders in peaceful states while working towards a permanent political solution through transparent and open negotiations,
  • Supporting unrestricted access to sufficient humanitarian aid,
  • Affirming our support for the Canadian government’s moratorium on the approval of new arms export permits for military goods and technology as per requirements under the Arms Trade Treaty to which Canada is a signatory,
  • Facilitating the safe return of Canadian citizens from Gaza, and
  • Affirming support for the Government of Canada’s official position

As well, an amendment added by the mayor called upon the Canadian government to provide support for local initiatives to bring disparate communities together and promote the healing of divisions.

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