“The depth of the work that she needs to do in order to address the harm is significant and incompatible with her continuing” as post-secondary education minister. — Premier David Eby
Selina Robinson has resigned as post-secondary education minister, Premier David Eby announced Monday, after a mounting backlash over her controversial comments about Palestine and the Israel-Hamas war.
“The depth of the work that she needs to do in order to address the harm is significant and incompatible with her continuing” as minister, Eby said during a news conference at the Vancouver cabinet office.
“She screwed up and that screw up was not a small one. It was a big one. She’s caused a lot of hurt.”
Eby said he and Robinson reached the decision together but she did not appear at the news conference. Asked why, Eby said the last 72 hours have been challenging for Robinson and she’s taking some personal time “to catch her breath.”
The announcement came hours after Robinson, who is Jewish, released a statement apologizing for the second time and offering to take anti-Islamophobia training.
Robinson also announced Monday afternoon she would not seek re-election in the riding for Coquitlam-Maillardville, which she’s represented since 2013. She said she made that decision before the current controversy.
Robinson has been under fire for comments she made during an online discussion Jan. 30 where she said Israel was founded on “a crappy piece of land with nothing on it.”
Eby condemned Robinson’s comments on Friday, saying she had “more work to do” but said at the time she could do that while remaining in cabinet.
Laith Sarhan, a Vancouver-based Palestinian Canadian lawyer and organizer of local rallies in support of a ceasefire, said Eby’s announcement is the “first step” toward repairing the “hurt that was done to the Palestinian community, to the Muslim community, to the Palestinian-Christian community.”
“It’s disappointing that we needed so much pressure to be applied for her to rightfully lose her position,” he said. “The sense that I get from (Monday) morning’s activities is that the B.C. NDP is looking to do the bare minimum possible to quell the anger that’s been caused by Selina Robinson’s comments.”
On Monday morning, there was a protest of about 50 people outside the B.C. NDP caucus retreat at the Sheraton Vancouver Guildford Hotel in Surrey. Organizers said a petition for Robinson to be removed from the B.C. NDP cabinet had 11,000 signatures.
The controversy caused the B.C. NDP to cancel a party fundraiser planned for Sunday night in Surrey and a rental housing funding announcement Monday morning in Coquitlam.
Sid Shniad, a founding member of Independent Jewish Voices, a group which had called for Robinson to resign, said it was “extraordinary that it took the amount of effort from so many different individuals and organizations to get the premier to finally do this.”
“I think that (Eby) was just facing the prospect of being unable to conduct the business of his government if he continued to adhere to that support for her,” said Shniad, who attended the protest Monday.