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Councillors vote for peace in Ukraine. Don't quite agree on how to achieve it

'All people of Sault Ste. Marie are a peace-loving people who stand together in opposition to war in all forms' - resolution moved by Coun. Lisa Vezeau-Allen
20220320 Interfaith Walk for Ukraine KA 11
Hundreds walk along Wellington Street in support of the people of Ukraine during an interfaith walk for peace held Sunday in Sault Ste. Marie

Sault Ste. Marie City Council unanimously approved an anti-war resolution Monday night, but not without some hesitation over the resolution's blanket objection to war in all forms and circumstances, and with two council members referring to Ukraine in a manner widely considered an etymological insult. 

The resolution, moved by Ward 2 Coun. Lisa Vezeau-Allen and seconded by Ward 3's Donna Hilsinger, declared all people of Sault Ste. Marie to be "a peace-loving people who stand together in opposition to war in all forms and in all corners of the globe."

The resolution further stated that "all people of Sault Ste. Marie stand together in demanding an immediate and peaceful resolution to the war in Ukraine."

"Council urges the government of Canada to de-escalate war in Ukraine by demanding peace and diplomacy on the international stage," it said.

"I think this resolution... just supports what our community is already doing," Vezeau-Allen said, referring to a local interfaith walk over the weekend and a recent prayer service hosted by St. Mary's Ukrainian Catholic Church. 

"War is horrible and it feels very hopeless to me that there's very little we can do. But we can make clear what we think about it," Coun. Hilsinger added.

Not all council members agreed, however, that the Russian attack on Ukraine will be stopped by mere diplomacy, or that Canada is able to influence the situation.

Ward 3's Matthew Shoemaker pointed out that Ukraine was attacked unprovoked "by Russia, who is the aggressor here."

"We cannot be calling for peace without condition," Shoemaker said.

That condition should be that Ukraine be returned to an unoccupied state and Russia needs to be expelled from the country, he added.

"I think that the spirit of the resolution does capture that. There's a couple words here that I had some hesitation about, but I'm happy to support it given the overall intent of it," the councillor said.

Mayor Provenzano expressed support for the Canadian government's response to the crisis.

"I don't want the motion to be read as a criticism of it, because I actually think that Canada has been a leader in responding to what's happening."

"I think there's very little that Canada can do to force de-escalation of the war. But I think Canada as a nation has led here, has made significant contributions to defer the war, has made significant contributions to support the country Ukraine."

"I'm proud of what I think is very good foreign policy decisions that the country has made, and the leadership that the country has shown in participating in the anti-war efforts."

"In spirit I completely agree with what we're saying here, which is to stand against this," the mayor said.

Both Coun. Shoemaker and Mayor Provenzano referred to Ukraine as "the Ukraine."

Use of that name has been improper and inaccurate for more than 30 years.

"On Aug. 24, 1991, four months before the collapse of the Soviet Union, Ukraine declared its independence and released its constitution. Ever since then, the country’s official name has been 'Ukraine' only – hold the 'the,'" stated the journal Foreign Policy in a 2019 article.

Ukraine is now an independent nation, not just part of another country.

Its only official name is Ukraine, which means 'borderlands.'

Referring to it as "the Ukraine" is like saying "the Midwest," implying it's an unofficial geographic entity, usage that's objectionable to many Ukrainians.

After this article first appeared, Coun. Shoemaker tweeted an apology: "I was not aware I improperly referred to Ukraine by an historical and incorrect name tonight and I apologize if this caused any offence."

The following is the full text of the resolution passed by City Council:  

Anti-War

Mover: Councillor L. Vezeau-Allen
Seconder: Councillor D. Hilsinger

Whereas on the 24th of February 2022 Russia began a military invasion of Ukraine; and

Whereas Ukraine gained independence from Russia in 1991, and is considered a neutral state; and

Whereas under Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, an attack on a NATO country is considered an attack on all NATO countries, and they all must help to restore security; and

Whereas Ukraine is not considered a NATO country; and as all citizens of Canada enjoy the rights and freedoms as a NATO member country;

Now therefore be it resolved that as Council of the City of Sault Ste. Marie recognizes that all people of Sault Ste. Marie are a peace-loving people who stand together in opposition to war in all forms and in all corners of the globe; and further recognizes that all people of Sault Ste. Marie stand together in demanding an immediate and peaceful resolution to the war in Ukraine; and that Council urges the Government of Canada to de-escalate war in Ukraine by demanding peace and diplomacy on the international stage; and that all municipalities across our country put pressure on the Government of Canada towards this end by passing similar resolutions.

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David Helwig

About the Author: David Helwig

David Helwig's journalism career spans seven decades beginning in the 1960s. His work has been recognized with national and international awards.
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