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Selina Robinson steps down as minister, remains in BC NDP caucus despite calls for resignation

In the wake of controversial comments, Selina Robinson is stepping down as the B.C. minister for Post Secondary Education and Future Skills. Monika Gul reports.

In the wake of controversial comments, Selina Robinson is stepping down as the B.C. minister for Post Secondary Education and Future Skills.

She will remain in the BC NDP caucus, serving as the MLA for Coquitlam-Maillardville until the end of her term.

B.C. Premier David Eby made the announcement Monday, appearing before reporters on his own after he cancelled a scheduled housing news conference in Coquitlam — just 30 minutes before it was set to begin.

The bottom line, Eby says, is Robinson has to do what’s necessary to make this right to heal the hurt she caused.

“The depth of the work that minister Robinson needs to do in order to address the harms that she’s caused is significant. And it is incompatible with her continuing as minister of Advanced Education given the volume and the depth of the work that she needs to do,” he said

Robinson has faced growing calls for her resignation since she appeared in a panel discussion hosted by B’nai Brith. During the event, she said before Israel was settled by the modern population, the area inhabited by Palestinians was just a “crappy piece of land with nothing on it.”

“There were, you know, several hundred thousand people but other than that, it didn’t produce an economy,” Robinson continued. “It couldn’t grow things. It didn’t have anything on it.”

Robinson issued an apology last week, followed by a second one on Monday.

“There have been many discussions over the weekend with the Premier and many caucus colleagues, and together we decided it’s best for me to step aside as Minister of Post Secondary Education and Future Skills. This decision does not excuse my harmful comments, nor does it absolve me of the work I am committed to doing,” she said in another statement Monday.

“While I had previously decided not to run again in the next election I remain committed to my constituents for the remainder of my term.”

Robinson must leave cabinet to focus on repairing the harms, premier says

Eby says it’s important to recognize that the harm and hurt Robinson caused to communities “is the focus here.”

“The reason for this decision is that, over the past few days, both Minister Robinson and myself have been reaching out to the many communities that have been harmed by her remarks … to understand how to make things better,” the premier explained.

“When you hurt somebody you need to reach out to them and try to figure out what the best way is to reduce the harm and address the hurt that has been caused.”

Eby says in the past several days, Robinson has taken part in a number of meetings and phone calls particularly with leadership from the Muslim community, as well as First Nations leaders.

“On Friday … I was very clear: Selina’s comments were wrong. They crossed the line. They were belittling and demeaning to a community of people that is already under profound pressure, given the war in the Middle East, and already feeling that their voices aren’t being heard,” Eby said.

“What has become apparently is the scope of the work that needs to be done by Selina, the depth of the hurt that she has caused to many British Columbians, and, as a result, we reached the conclusion together that she needed to step back from cabinet so she can focus on that work.”

In addition to calls for her resignation, Robinson’s comments have also prompted protests at NDP events and even spurred a petition by party members calling for her removal.

Prior to word of her stepping down from the NDP cabinet, the leader of a local Mosque in Metro Vancouver said apologies from Robinson and her commitment to taking anti-Islamophobia training are good steps, but only if it comes alongside a resignation.

Haroon Khan, director at Al-Jamia Masjid Vancouver, said there’s always room for discourse, but in this case, it has to come alongside consequences.

“She’s brought disrepute to that post. And so her time as a minister in that capacity, in our view, should come to an end,” he said.

Khan was one of more than a dozen mosque leaders from around B.C. who said they would not engage with any NDP MLAs or candidates until action was taken on the issue. He told CityNews no one from the NDP had reached out to him directly.

Robinson’s comments were not only described as hurtful but also factually incorrect, with experts pointing out the history of Palestine is well-noted over hundreds of years as having its own economy, agriculture, and long-standing multi-faith populations.

The argument is also similar to those that have been used to justify the colonization of multiple regions globally, including in North America.

Monday’s housing event was supposed to take place in Robinson’s Coquitlam riding.

Robinson removal ‘political triage’: UBC expert

Gerald Baier, associate professor of political science at the University of British Columbia, says an upcoming election likely factored into Eby’s announcement of Robinson’s removal from her ministerial post.

“It’s political triage, the need to remove any of the kinds of vulnerabilities that will follow you into the election,” he said.

Unification of the NDP party also likely factored into this announcement, Baier says, as the current caucus could have been divided on the matter of Robinson’s removal.

“They’re a little bit of war within, and success doesn’t breed less war, it breeds more,” he said.

“The soul of the NDP, in some ways, is up for grabs in what seems to be a really strong potential election for them in the fall.”

Baier says the party will want to “put this behind them” now, and focus on how to present a unified front once again, moving forward.

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