Fri. Aug 19th, 2022

‘I can not fathom giving Odesa notice while Ukrainians are fighting for their country and lives,’ said Coun. Sarah Kirby-Yung

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A councilor is taking issue with Vancouver’s plan to notify sister city Odesa about the status of that relationship while war rages in Ukraine.

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City council is due to meet this week to approve a new “friendship city” framework that would replace existing sister-city relationships around the world, which include the Ukrainian port city.

A staff report recommends the city notify the five sister cities – Odesa, Yokohama, Edinburgh, Guangzhou and Los Angeles – that they have two years to apply as a friendship city instead.

Coun. Sarah Kirby-Yung notes that the sister-city review was started last September, while Russia invaded Ukraine in February – long before the report was wrapped up last month.

“I can not fathom giving Odesa notice while Ukrainians are fighting for their country and lives, or not respecting the legacy nature of current sister cities,” Kirby-Yung wrote on Twitter Sunday. “So I will put an amendment forward to strike.”

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The pivot to friendship cities is aimed at making the relationships time-limited and “focused on achieving defined goals and objectives,” said the staff report.

It would include “a review of the status of current sister cities, and suggestions for updating the gendered language of the program.”

The report notes that, “given Vancouver’s long-standing commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion, it is a good time to update the term ‘sister city’ to a more inclusive, gender-neutral name.”

Mayor Kennedy Stewart said on Friday that the move to friendship cities is “not to replace the strong relationships we have with sister cities including Guangzhou and Odesa,” and vowed to move amendments to the motion reflecting that.

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The report notes Odesa was the first city with which Vancouver formed a sister-city relationship, and that too was at a time of crisis in Ukraine. It was launched in 1944 to offer humanitarian aid during World War II.

Agreements were made with Yokohama in 1965, Edinburgh in 1978, Guangzhou in 1985 and LA in 1986. With the exception of Guangzhou, the local friendship societies that helped form the partnerships have dissolved, leaving city staff to maintain the sister-city protocols.

The new relationships would lean on local non-profits for the work of maintaining the relationships and would need to be renewed after five years.

“There is a trend towards developing relationships that are project or goal-oriented, time-limited and community driven,” read the report.

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