Following a week of public pressure, BC’s Minister of Post Secondary Education & Future Skills Selina Robinson was removed from cabinet after comments critics say erase Palestinian history. She will remain in the NDP caucus and continue to represent her riding as an MLA.
At a January 30 webinar hosted by Jewish human rights organization B’nai Brith, Robinson said young people had less knowledge of the creation of the state of Israel, saying it was founded on a “crappy piece of land.”
"There were several hundred thousand people but, other than that, it didn't produce an economy. It couldn't grow things. It didn't have anything on it," she said.
A February 4 call for Robinson's resignation from Faculty for Palestine, the Palestinian-Canadian Academics and Artists Network, the Jewish Faculty Network and its UBC chapter called her statement “profoundly racist and colonial.”
“These comments reflect the colonial logic, long exposed as false, that Palestine was “empty land” (terra nullius), and that European settlers brought “civilization” and “modernity”,” the organizations wrote.
Calls for Robinson’s resignation also came from UBC’s Social Justice Centre, Muslim Students’ Association and individual faculty members.
During a press conference on Monday announcing Robinson’s departure, Premier David Eby, whose riding UBC is situated in, said the role of a minister was “inconsistent” with the reconciliatory work Robinson had to do. He said that her words “increased the risk of Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism.”
“The core of my concern about her comments is that they increased division in our province,” he said.
Minister of Jobs, Economic Development and Innovation Brenda Bailey is currently assuming responsibility for Robinson’s ministry.
Robinson first issued an apology on X, formerly Twitter, on February 1, writing she recognized her “flippant comment” had “caused pain.”
“I regret what I said and I apologize without reservation,” she said.
Pressure for Robinson’s resignation built through the weekend, including from several mosques and Muslim community associations who banned NDP MLAs from their spaces unless the minister was removed from her role.
On Monday morning, Robinson released an additional statement apologizing again for her comments, saying she “will be taking part in anti-Islamophobia training to more deeply understand” community concerns.
Eby said that among the groups he met this weekend was the National Council of Canadian Muslims, and asked the organization “for their assistance in supporting the work that Selina needs to do.”
Robinson had separately faced pressure to resign following allegations of political interference in Langara College’s decision-making. Langara let go of an instructor who praised Hamas’ October 7 attack, whose termination Robinson had advocated for.
Eby denied Robinson played a role in the college’s decision-making.