Former minister Selina Robinson resigns from BC NDP, citing anti-Semitism in caucus

A former British Columbia cabinet minister resigned from the New Democrat government on Wednesday, citing anti-Semitism in the party caucus and indifference to the issue.

Selina Robinson, who is Jewish, said she could no longer remain in government because it was not adequately addressing anti-Semitism in the province or among some of her former colleagues.

He said he will sit as an independent. He had previously announced his retirement, saying he will not run in October’s provincial election.

Asked if there were anti-Semitic voices in the caucus, Robinson said: “That’s been my experience. There’s been a history of that. I know people who have said or done anti-Semitic things over time. They’ve apologized or they haven’t apologized. “.

He said he felt his voice was no longer heard within the party.

“I can no longer be the only voice speaking out against anti-Semitism and Jew-hatred,” Robinson said. “All of this has made the Jewish people feel unsafe and I have shared this with the prime minister’s office for the last five months and I am still the only one who says we have to do something different.”

Robinson resigned from her Cabinet position as post-secondary education minister last month after saying that modern Israel was founded on “a piece of shit land.”

His comments on January 30 sparked an outcry from pro-Palestinian groups who called them racist and Islamophobic.

Robinson said at an impromptu news conference in a hallway of the British Columbia legislature on Wednesday that his heart had been “shattered” by the treatment he had received since his cabinet resigned and that he was the victim of a double standard.

Former minister Selina Robinson resigns from BC’s #NDP, citing #antisemitism in the caucus. #BCPoli #SelinaRobinson

“It’s been a month, I’d say, crying every day,” she said.

NDP House Leader Ravi Kahlon said it was “a sad day.”

“Selina is clearly suffering. I certainly hope she finds peace as she moves forward.”

Kahlon denied that there was anti-Semitism in the NDP group.

“We are going to continue to denounce racism, whether towards the Jewish community or towards other members of our communities,” he said. “We have brought back a human rights commission. We have launched the strongest anti-racism strategy in the country. This work is important to us. It is deeply important to all my colleagues.”

Kahlon said Robinson made a “mistake” with his comments in January.

“A mistake was made and we have to move on,” he said.

Prime Minister David Eby is a strong supporter of anti-racism initiatives and has often condemned anti-Semitism, Kahlon said.

Robinson said he had asked Eby if he could work with the Muslim and Jewish communities to promote dialogue between them.

He said he wanted to work with the two communities, which were “in agony, pain, suffering and fear, and reduce the division that we are seeing because I believe that is the role of government.”

“The prime minister’s office said they weren’t interested in doing that and that really broke my heart,” she said.

“If the government is not interested then I cannot be part of a government that chooses to remain silent while people suffer.”

Eby said in a statement Wednesday that Robinson made a mistake and that he was working to “address the harm caused.”

“I wish he had brought his concerns to me directly so we could resolve them together,” he said. “Our government’s work to bring people and communities together will continue. I will continue to condemn hate in all its forms, including the rise in anti-Semitism we have seen.”

Last month, Eby said Robinson’s “denigrating” comments in January were incompatible with him remaining in Cabinet.

Robinson said she had been treated differently than her former colleague Mable Elmore, parliamentary anti-racism secretary. She said Elmore had “outraged the Jewish community” with comments about the Middle East conflict in November.

“She didn’t lose her role as a result of those comments that hurt that community, but I did lose my role, I was asked to resign,” he said, without further describing Elmore’s comments.

He said it was “a double standard that has deeply hurt the Jewish community… and that has also deeply hurt me.”

Robinson, who also served as finance minister, said she had not heard from Eby or any other members of the NDP caucus since informing them of her decision.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 6, 2024.

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