qathet Regional District’s (qRD) finance committee defeated a motion to provide $1,000 from the general grants-in-aid to the Canadian Red Cross Ukraine humanitarian crisis.
The committee did, however, recommend that the regional board approve a grant of $1,000 to the Red Cross from the Electoral Area E (Lasqueti Island) grants-in-aid service.
At the May 18 finance committee meeting, during discussion of a large number of financial assistance requests for 2022, committee members were presented a motion to grant $1,000 from the general grants-in-aid, and there were subsequent motions that grants be made from the five electoral districts.
Speaking to the general grants-in-aid motion, Electoral Area E director Andrew Fall said he realized the idea of financial support from qRD may challenge some directors and it raises a number of questions about the role of local government in international humanitarian crises.
He said there are many humanitarian crises around the world.
“Why should we support Ukraine instead of other areas?” asked Fall. “First, this is a reason for us to reflect on our ability and willingness as a safe and secure community to provide even a small amount of support for communities that are suffering humanitarian crises. We cannot support every humanitarian crisis, but I believe it is better to support some than none.
He said it is not his desire to support Ukraine simply because they are Europeans. He said he has been part of a group to support refugees from Eritrea to emigrate to Qualicum and he and his wife had given money to help them settle. He said the same group supported a Rohingya refugee family from Myanmar to emigrate to Qualicum. During the Syrian crisis, he made significant contributions to Doctors Without Borders.
“My desire to support Ukraine is because I see civilians suffering and insufficient resources for their needs,” said Fall.
He then posed the question: is humanitarian support outside qRD’s jurisdiction? He said that maybe supporting other communities in need may be one of the regional district’s roles.
“We have the authority via our grants-in-aid,” said Fall. “The question is: do we have the will?”
Fall gave examples of other municipalities and regional districts providing funds to causes outside of their areas of governance.
“Our community has the capability to help other communities in need in response to an appeal,” he added.
Fall said one reason he supports contributing to the Red Cross is because it helps civilians suffering in conflict zones. He said there is also the question of whether this should be supported personally rather than with tax dollars. The answer is yes, he added.
“I already donated $1,000 to the Canadian Red Cross and I will be pledging to match whatever funds we contribute from the Lasqueti grants-in-aid service,” said Fall. “I hope the board supports this motion for $1,000 from the general grants-in-aid.”
Directors oppose motion
Electoral Area C director Clay Brander said he appreciated arguments Fall had made, and Brander and his wife had personally donated, but he didn’t believe it was qRD’s responsibility to step in with taxpayer money.
“If we were to fund this one, we could really get ourselves in hot water in the future when more humanitarian crises are going to present themselves,” said Brander.
Electoral Area A director and board chair Patrick Brabazon said he and his wife had sent money to the Red Cross.
“I do not believe that as stewards for the finances of qRD, that we should be engaging in giving their money for something they may or may not be in favour of,” said Brabazon.
Electoral Area B director Mark Gisborne said he had donated to Ukraine. He said he could get behind creating a local impact with grants-in-aid, but the motion set a precedent.
“I have some apprehension supporting this resolution because I don’t see that this is what the grants-in-aid service is intended for,” said Gisborne.
Opposed to the motion were Brabazon, Gisborne, Brander and Electoral Area D director Sandy McCormick, so the motion failed.
There was then a motion to approve grants of $1,000 from each of the electoral districts for the Red Cross. Fall amended it so it just pertained to Area E.
“I want this issue to unify, so I do not want to put pressure for grants from areas to which Lasqueti residents do not contribute,” said Fall. “I don’t sense a large level of support coming from other electoral areas. I previously outlined my rationale for support to the Canadian Red Cross.
“I would like to ask for board support for this for Electoral Area E. I pledge to personally match whatever funds we contribute from Lasqueti grants-in-aid service.”
Fall said he accepts that not every taxpayer on Lasqueti may support this contribution, so any island taxpayer who does not agree with this support can contact him and he will personally reimburse them the portion from their property taxes, or $2, whichever is greater.”
The committee supported Fall’s motion unanimously.
After the meeting, Fall said he was disappointed with the negative outcome of the motion.
“While I can understand some of the concerns raised, even if I disagree with them,” he added, “the amount proposed represented a cost of only about five cents per person over the entire qRD.”