RMWB council to ask federal officials to call for ceasefire in Gaza

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The mayor and council of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (RMWB) will send a letter urging Canada to push Israel for a ceasefire in Gaza. Councillor Shafiq Dogar, who proposed the motion at Tuesday’s council meeting, said this would allow Hamas to release hostages and let humanitarian aid reach people.

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Article contentCouncil approved unanimously by the rest of council. The letter will be sent to Laila Goodridge, Conservative MP for Fort McMurray-Cold Lake, and other federal officials.

Article content“There was this horrific attack by Hamas on Oct. 7 and the reaction to that is Israel started heavy bombardment of Gaza. The people who are suffering are not Hamas fighters, the majority who are getting killed are civilians and the majority of the civilians are children,” said Abdulsalam Abdo, a resident who spoke in support of the motion. “We’re asking for a ceasefire to stop the killing of humans and children and women and elders.”

Dogar and Abdo told council that other cities in Canada have passed similar motions to their federal representatives. Mayor Sandy Bowman said he is also concerned with the situation in Gaza and has met with leaders of Fort McMurray’s Muslim community to discuss the issue.

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Article content“One thing we’re very proud of in this community is being so diverse and in that diversity, things like this across the world have effects on the residents here,” said Bowman. “Although our letter may not have any effect, it does show our support for our residents.”

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Councillor Shafiq Dogar joins protesters at the ‘Save the Children of Gaza’ rally in downtown Fort McMurray on November 12, 2023. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network

Councillors Keith McGrath and Funky Banjoko also spoke in support of sending a letter to federal officials. Abdu praised Banjoko’s daughter, Kg Banjoko, for joining local protests calling for a ceasefire.

“As a mother it’s been difficult to watch the news and I’m supporting the motion because we need peace in our world,” said Banjoko. “Women, children and vulnerable people suffer more when nations take to arms and it’s difficult to watch those things. I pray for peace for both countries and for our world.”

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There have been weekly protests in Fort McMurray calling for an end to the conflict. Nearly 1,000 people joined a march on Sunday against Israel’s bombardment. Wood Buffalo RCMP says these rallies have remained peaceful and without major incident.

Recent polls from Aurora Strategy Global and Mainstreet Research show most Canadians want a ceasefire. Both polls also found most Canadians believe Hamas is a terrorist organization and hostages should be released immediately.

The Aurora poll also found most Canadians believe Israel has a right to defend itself from Hamas, but are split 60/40 on whether invading Gaza was right. The Mainstreet poll found most Canadians want Ottawa to use diplomacy to support a ceasefire or humanitarian relief

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been criticized at protests for Gaza for not calling for a ceasefire. However, he has urged Israel to show “maximum restraint” in protecting civilians. Trudeau’s remarks were condemned by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on X, the website formerly known as Twitter.

Before the war, Gaza was home to more than 2 million people in a territory roughly 360 square-kilometres. Children are roughly half the population.

The Palestinian Health Authority claims more than 11,000 civilians in Gaza have been killed since Israel began its bombing campaign. The Swiss-based Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor estimates Israel has dropped at least 25,000 tonnes of explosives have been dropped on Gaza.

Hamas killed about 1,200 people in Israel on Oct. 7, including eight people with connections to Canada. More than 240 people were taken hostage by Hamas. More than 340 Canadian citizens, permanent residents and eligible family have been able to leave Gaza since the start of Israel’s bombing campaign.

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