Body armour from local police forces could help save the lives of Ukrainian fighters resisting Russia’s invasion that began Feb. 20.
That’s the idea Port Moody Mayor Rob Vagramov recently presented in a letter to the B.C. government, asking them to make an exemption to laws that control the sale and donation of body armour so such equipment that’s no longer needed by local police can be sent to Ukraine.
On Wednesday (April 6), a motion by Vagramov was passed unanimously in that the chair of the Metro Vancouver mayors' committee would write letters to the province, as well as the feds, to facilitate donations.
"The roadblock in front of local governments lies in Section 8 of B.C.’s Body Armour Control Act, which prevents this kind of donation," Vagramov told the Tri-City News, noting Port Moody police (PMPD) has fully supported the donation efforts.
This follows a letter he already sent on March 25 to B.C.'s public safety minister and Port Coquitlam MLA Mike Farnworth on behalf of the Port Moody police board.
"While our local MLA has been trying to be helpful in attempting to arrange staff-level phone calls with the ministry, I think the ultimate solution would have to come from the ministerial level, and we have yet to hear back from the minister directly."
The B.C. Body Armour Control Act cites the following under licensing to sell body armour:
"A person who does not hold a valid security business licence or a valid security worker licence, authorizing the sale of body armour, must not sell body armour to another person."
The rule applies to donations as well.
However, Vagramov said his plan to send used body armour to Ukraine would involve used, non-lethal equipment as deemed by Canadian standards that would otherwise be earmarked for a landfill.
He believes this is one way local governments can show support for the embattled country, even if it's a small gesture.
"Port Moody’s contribution alone would likely barely be noticeable in this massive conflict," he said. "But this invasion has shown us that when small players band together, the unthinkable can happen — who would have thought a country as small as Ukraine would be able to hold off a former superpower? Much in the same way, my hope is that police detachments across B.C. and Canada would be able to provide a significant amount of help by combining their individually-small contributions."
Vagramov added there would be no cost to the taxpayer with this kind of donation. He encourages local residents to consider giving a little something themselves to the people of Ukraine during these uncertain times.
"Whether it's donating to a local organization like Maple Hope Foundation, or to one with global reach like the Red Cross, or emailing your MPs and demanding the facilitation of a Ukrainian-led no-fly-zone, there are many ways to help."
Vagramov was born in Cherkasy, Ukraine. That's where his mother is from, and where his parents settled after fleeing Tbilisi in nearby Georgia when that country was embroiled in a fierce civil war.
His family ultimately left the country when he was young because they feared the implications on the country of the Soviet Union’s collapse.
If approved, potential "end-of-life" body armour donations could also come from Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Anmore and Belcarra.
Each community's mayor is part of the Metro Vancouver mayors committee; PoCo Mayor Brad West is the committee chair.