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Dozens of B.C. municipal politicians urge Trudeau to call for ceasefire in Israel-Gaza war

Protesters demonstrate against the Israel-Hamas wa
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More than 60 local politicians from over 30 cities, towns and villages in B.C. have now signed an open letter addressed to the federal government, urging Ottawa to call for a ceasefire in Gaza.

The letter also asks the feds to “support unrestricted access to humanitarian aid” and “secure the release of all hostages.”

“We condemn all acts of anti-Semitism, anti-Palestinian racism and Islamophobia in our communities, which have risen since the escalation of violence this past month, and will work to ensure our communities are just, safe and welcoming for all,” the letter reads.

“We stand with innocent Palestinian and Israeli civilians, during a heartbreaking time, in saying that Canada must act now.”

The current conflict began on Oct. 7 when Hamas militants killed 1,200 Israelis in brutal surprise attacks. The attackers also took about 240 people hostage, bringing them into the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

In response, Israel declared war on Hamas, began an airstrike campaign and cut off food, fuel, water and supplies to Gaza, which is home to 2.3 million Palestinians.

The territory's health officials say more than 11,470 people have been killed, two-thirds of them women and children. Another 2,700 people are reported missing, believed to be buried under rubble created by airstrikes.

Local leaders have been hearing from residents who are concerned about the events unfolding in the Middle East, and want elected officials from all levels of government to speak up, Burnaby Coun. Daniel Tetrault told CTV News. He was one of the councillors involved in the letter’s creation.

“I think we have a moral obligation to speak up when these types of events happen, and when our federal government is not taking a position that moves us towards peace and the stopping of the bombings and the violence,” he said.

As another motivation behind the letter, Tetrault pointed to an Oct. 27 United Nations General Assembly vote on a resolution that called for a “an immediate and sustained humanitarian truce leading to a cessation of hostilities,” on which Canada abstained along with 45 other countries.

“It’s becoming a universal national and international call for a ceasefire, and we're joining that voice,” he said, adding that humanitarian organizations such as Doctors Without Borders, Amnesty International and Oxfam have all called for one.

The call is also growing on the municipal level. Last week, Burnaby became the first local government in Canada to pass a motion calling on the federal government to push for a ceasefire. It also asked for a release of all hostages and flow of humanitarian aid.

Tetrault was the one who brought the motion forward, which passed unanimously. Burnaby’s mayor, Mike Hurley, is also the only B.C. mayor so far to have signed the open letter.

“I think calling for a ceasefire should not be controversial,” Tetrault said. “We see the violence every day happening, and it has to stop, particularly the violence on civilians.”

He added that on a personal level, his Jewish background motivated him to step up.

“My Jewish values have taught me to always stand up against injustice everywhere, whether it's here or around the world, and to stand up and fight for the liberation of all people,” he said.

Maple Ridge passed a similar motion on Tuesday, the same day Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was in the city to announce investment in a battery plant.

He did not call for a ceasefire outright, but urged Israel exercise “maximum restraint” in preventing loss of civilian life. 

"I have been clear that the price of justice cannot be the continued suffering of all Palestinian civilians. Even wars have rules," Trudeau said.

When asked why he won't go so far as to call for a ceasefire, the prime minister spoke about the need to keep Canadians safe from a rising tide of antisemitism and hate-motivated incidents.

"If we can't figure out how to stop being mad at our neighbours here in Canada, who in the world will? That's the question we have to be asking ourselves every day," he said.

"It's not, 'Oh, is this magic solution or that magic solution said by a Canadian prime minister going to suddenly bring peace to the Middle East overnight?'"

Tetrault said he hopes more local politicians and the public keep the pressure on the federal government to call for an end to the violence.

“I think that there’s been a growing demand and unity among Canadians over the last month to call for a ceasefire,” he said. “And I think that that message is clearly getting to Trudeau.”

Recent polling by the Angus Reid Institute found that 35 per cent of Canadians think a “temporary ceasefire should be called immediately to deliver humanitarian aid,” while another 30 per cent said “a full ceasefire should be called immediately.”

Nineteen per cent said a ceasefire should not be called, and 16 per cent answered “not sure/can’t say.”

With files from The Canadian Press

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