City council has formally endorsed the sanctions placed on Russia and Belarus by the federal government, and will forward its decision to every municipality in Ontario requesting they take similar action in solidarity with Ukraine.
Coun. Jay Fallis sparked a discussion about how Orillia might support the sanctions placed on Russia and Belarus, citing the Town of Gravenhurst’s decision in April to stop purchasing products that are traceable to Russia and Belarus, “upon confirmation that the Belarusian military is engaged within Ukraine.”
“The Town of Gravenhurst (outlined) their plan to boycott Russian and, potentially, Belarusian products in solidarity with Ukraine and the difficulties that they’ve been facing,” Fallis said at Monday’s council meeting. “Of course, the Canadian government does have some restrictions currently in place, and I just want to make sure that, if there is an opportunity to be as ambitious as we can be on this front, that we explore that.”
While council did not plainly state the city would stop purchasing products from Russia, as Gravenhurst did, on staff’s suggestion it approved fully supporting sanctions enacted by the federal government.
“In reviewing the motion passed by the Town of Gravenhurst, (city staff) went back to the mother document, which is the regulations and the laws enacted by the federal government. In doing the research, we became aware that the Government of Canada has passed the Special Economic Measures Act against Russia in Belarus,” said Amanpreet Sidhu, city solicitor and general manager of corporate services.
“The City of Orillia, as a municipality, cannot enact laws to govern the country, but we can most certainly support, in principle and in practice, the laws that have been enacted and passed by the federal Parliament.”
The motion brought forward to council passed 7-1, with Coun. Mason Ainsworth voting against it.
“I think our job, being on Orillia city council as part of local government in Canada, we’re supposed to deal with local government items, not meddle in international affairs or deal with what the federal government is doing,” he said.
“There’s a lot that we can focus on, as towns (are) supporting some of the folks who are coming over … but I just don’t think we should be meddling from a policy standpoint and passing motions about international politics because that is not our job here.”
“I believe, in our position, as public figures, it’s important for us to support and demonstrate what we believe in, notwithstanding that we don’t have the option of legislating at this level,” responded Coun. Ted Emond.
“We certainly have the option of supporting our federal government and what it’s doing, and I see this motion as purely and simply an expression of our commitment as a council and as a city.”
Mayor Steve Clarke empathized with Ainsworth’s stance, but argued it’s OK for municipalities to support issues taking place around the world.
“It’s not what we would see as a traditional municipal issue, but … there are times over the last eight years, that I’m aware of, that we have stood up to certain events that have taken place around the world and either spoken about them or have done something symbolic or maybe even more than symbolic, so I think it’s OK to do both,” he said.
“We raised a flag a number of weeks ago now, not many days after the war broke out, and that also could be seen as meddling in international affairs, but I would still stand by that move as well.”