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Victoria councillor regrets 'polarization' stemming from open letter on Israel-Hamas

A Victoria city councillor facing backlash for signing a controversial open letter on the Israel-Hamas war has said she regrets that the matter has caused "polarization" in her community.

Coun. Susan Kim was one of two Canadian politicians whose names appear on the letter, which calls for a ceasefire in the conflict but also criticizes NDP leader Jagmeet Singh for repeating what it calls "the unverified accusation that Palestinians were guilty of sexual violence."

Israeli authorities have said they're investigating several cases of sexual assault and rape that took place during the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas, which sparked Israel's ongoing invasion of the Gaza Strip.

In a statement on Monday, Kim stressed that she "will always believe survivors of sexual violence."

"The use of sexual violence in war is undeniably among the worst facets of human history. My condemnation of all sexual violence is perpetual and unconditional," she wrote.

The councillor added that she did not author the letter – despite reports in international media outlets, which she said had never contacted her to verify her involvement – but signed due to her belief that a ceasefire is "a necessary next step in de-escalating the horrific conflict we're seeing on the other side of the globe."

Kim also pledged to be "more attentive to community" before adopting positions in her role as a local leader going forward.

"Aggravation and polarization of this beloved community is never my intention," she wrote. "I will continue to serve out the rest of my term to the best of my abilities on behalf of those who entrusted me with this privilege."

While the open letter appears to be weeks old, it began drawing widespread outrage on Friday after the Jewish Federation of Edmonton called out another signatory, Sarah Pearson, who was then the head of the University of Alberta's sexual assault centre.

"Shouldn’t a sexual assault centre believe all victims, and not just the non-Jewish ones?" the organization wrote, referencing the "unverified accusation" claim.

The university has since announced that Pearson was fired.

An online petition calling for Victoria city council to censure Kim, and for the councillor to resign, was then launched on Saturday, and has since been signed more than 8,800 times.

Asked about the letter on Monday, Victoria Mayor Marianne Alto declined to comment, and instead expressing her own support for a ceasefire.

"I've never, ever commented on what my fellow council members have said or done, and I don't intend to start now," Alto said.

With files from CTV News Vancouver's Ian Holliday Top Stories

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