A relatively large contingency asked Squamish council to call for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war; ultimately, council did not vote in favour of writing to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
On Tuesday, Dec. 5 at a regular business meeting, approximately 30 people showed up to council calling on the elected officials to sign on to a letter, which has been circulating online, that asks for a ceasefire, humanitarian aid, and the release of all hostages. About 80 municipal officials around B.C. have signed the letter, including three District of Squamish councillors: John French, Lauren Greenlaw and Chris Pettingill.
“We are also in disbelief that with all of this happening, only three of our city councillors have signed on to the open letter to call for a ceasefire,” said Maryam Adramgi, who spoke on behalf of the delegation. “By not calling for a permanent ceasefire, by not signing the municipal letter that has been circulating, then we're hearing that most Squamish city councillors are OK with the loss of life.”
After Adramgi spoke, council debated a motion to write to Trudeau as requested. By a 2-5 vote, the motion did not pass, with councillors Greenlaw and Pettingill in favour and Mayor Armand Hurford and Councillors Eric Andersen, French, Andrew Hamilton, and Jenna Stoner opposed.
“We are morally obligated as representatives of these people before us today and others in our community to amplify their voices to our higher levels of government,” said Greenlaw. “It is a relatively small ask to write a letter to the Prime Minister requesting to support the ceasefire.”
However, despite the fact that French has already signed a letter about the matter, he said this was an individual choice.
“If there are members of this council that don't wish to participate in the open letter, then those council members who don't wish to do that have that exact right,” he said.
Stoner said she believed taking a position on foreign affairs and international relations was beyond the scope of her seat as a locally elected official.
“It's important to recognize that the growing tensions between both sides of this war are having very real ripple effects on Jewish and Islamic communities here in Squamish, in B.C., across the country, and around the world,” she said. “As a local government, we are better suited to ensure that we are doing all we can to support community connection, understanding and compassion. That this is a safe place where we can have difficult conversations with our neighbours.”
The audience interrupted Stoner during her comments with several people saying “shame” towards her. Hamilton was also interrupted during his comments. Both times the audience was reminded by Hurford that they needed to remain quiet.
Pettingill also said it was difficult to make decisions on such conflicts, but he didn’t see the motion as such.
“As a local politician with the resources available to me, trying to wade into the conflict—who is right, who is wrong in general and what a good resolution to the conflict is—I don't think that's something I feel able to do. I don't think that's, though, what we are being asked to do,” he said. “When I heard my colleague's resolution, the ask is for a ceasefire, a release of hostages and humanitarian aid, which just speaks to making sure that however conflicts get resolved … civilian casualty is not acceptable and we need to stop the human casualty.”
Like French, Hurford said he thought it was an individual choice.
“The appropriate place for this is in the individual, as Coun. French stated,” said Hurford. “But I also believe that it is important that we stand up in the community against hate speech, against violence, all those things and so I won’t be supporting the motion on the floor but that does not mean that myself or this council is silent on this or related issues.”
Before council decided not to write Trudeau, numerous motions were passed in order to hear from the group.
Adramgi initially spoke on the delegation’s behalf during the unscheduled public attendance near the start of the council meeting. During this time, members of the public have about five minutes to make a statement about why the matter urgently needs to be put on that meeting’s agenda. Council allowed the group to have a presentation on the agenda by a 6-1 vote with French as the sole opposing vote.
Hurford then made a motion to suspend the order of the meeting to allow the discussion to happen next in the agenda instead of much later on in the meeting. That motion passed narrowly by a 4-3 vote with Andersen, Hamilton and Stoner opposed.