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LETTER: Democracy died in council chambers Thursday night

'Regional council’s double standard when it comes to taking a stand on international events has raised troubling questions'
Onlookers start chanting their objections Thursday night, Jan. 25, at Niagara Regional Council, prompting council to take a brief recess as the gallery was emptied.

ThoroldToday received the following letter to the editor from Elizabeth Yates and Mark Skeffington about our recent article Regional council in uproar after denying discussion on ceasefire

We are writing to express our disgust with your decision on Thursday, Jan. 25, to quash Coun. Haley Batemen’s motion calling for Council to support a ceasefire to safeguard the lives of Palestinian civilians, more than 26,000 of whom - the majority women and children - have already been killed.

Even more egregious was your decision to silence the voices of 18 delegations who had been granted prior permission from the Clerk to speak and who prepared presentations to express their concerns - as citizens of Niagara - to their elected politicians.

Democracy died in those council chambers Thursday night, thanks to all but 2 councillors making the cowardly decision to support Coun. Matt Siscoe’s discriminatory, hypocritical and uninformed motion.

Claiming that the genocide Israel is warring on the innocent citizens of Gaza “does not pertain to any area of Niagara Region business or mandate” is nonsensical. Regional council’s mandate is to serve the community: a community which is home to hundreds of people who are Palestinian, who have family in the occupied territories, and/or who support the rights of Palestinians not to be indiscriminately slaughtered by an apartheid state.

Those people clearly do not matter to most regional councillors.

Your discriminatory attitude is even more apparent when contrasted with Council’s 2022 decision to formally support the people of Ukraine and denounce Russia’s invasion and, in October 2023, to light Regional headquarters in the colours of the Israeli flag in solidarity with citizens murdered and taken hostage by Hamas.

Regional council’s double standard when it comes to taking a stand on international events has raised troubling questions.

Why is it OK for councillors, who appear to be predominantly white and of European descent, to condemn the invasion of Ukraine, but not the invasion of Gaza?

Why did councillors agree to light up regional headquarters in the colours of the Israeli flag but not in Palestinian flag colours?

Why has regional council in the past added its voice supporting international humanitarian causes but refused to do so for innocent Palestinian civilians who have faced death, injury, displacement, starvation?

Would things have played out differently if the scheduled presenters - and the besieged people of Gaza they want safeguarded - were not brown, Muslim, Palestinian?

We have not heard answers to these questions.

We are especially disappointed by the actions of Coun. Laura Ip, long known for supporting and advancing social justice causes in Niagara and currently chair of the Region’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Advisory Committee. That Committee has a mandate to “improve diversity, equity and inclusion in Niagara” and “ address the negative impacts of bias and discrimination on quality of life, safety, health and inclusion.”

For Coun. Ip to second Coun. Siscoe’s discriminatory and anti-inclusive motion demonstrates that she is not committed to fighting for justice and rights for all.

We support the Niagara Palestine Coalition’s statement calling for apologies from Siscoe and Ip, and for Ip’s resignation as chair of the DEI committee.

On Sunday, Jan. 29, we attended yet another Niagara rally supporting Palestinians and calling for a ceasefire. Together with 100+ other local residents, we stood in the sleet and snow to demonstrate our solidarity and call out “Shame” regarding the actions of politicians who have done nothing to curb Israel’s genocidal massacre.

Coun. Siscoe’s claim that passing Coun. Bateman’s motion would only cause “division” in the community was bogus. His words and actions have created more division than ever.

To all the cowardly councillors who backed Siscoe and Ip: Shame, shame, shame on each of you.

Elizabeth Yates and Mark Skeffington, Thorold