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Eby promises to work with Jewish leaders after Robinson’s departure

Former minister Selina Robinson quits NDP, saying party isn’t doing enough to combat anti-Semitism

Premier David Eby said he is going to reflect Selina Robinson’s decision to quit his party’s caucus after she claimed the party is not doing enough to combat anti-Semitism.

“It’s a humbling moment to know that I didn’t create the space for her to be able to bring that forward and I will have to reflect on that,” Eby said, while speaking with reporters Thursday morning at the legislature.

Eby comments come after Robinson resigned from caucus Wednesday (March 6). In a letter to the NDP caucus, she said it has consistently shown a double standard when it comes to anti-Semitism.

“When any of my colleagues have made (anti-Semitic) remarks it was expected that apologies should suffice,” she said, before listing past anti-Semitic statements by members of the NDP caucus.

While Robinson’s letter cites several of her former colleagues, she has been especially critical of Mable Elmore, MLA for Vancouver-Kensington and Parliamentary Secretary for Anti-Racism Initiatives to the Attorney General.

Robinson’s letter cited comments Elmore had made in March 2004 as well as November 2023, when she commented on the current conflict between Hamas and Israel. Elmore’s comment does not mention Hamas’ role as the instigator of the conflict, while calling for the release of all the hostages.

Robinson’s letter claims that Elmore never apologized for her comments in 2004 and Elmore’s comments “alarmed the community again of Mable’s “antisemitism.” According to Robinson’s letter, the Jewish community “asked for her resignation” but “was merely told that (Attorney-General Niki Sharma) would now be the point of contact for anti-racism work in the Jewish community.”

Elmore disagreed with Robinson’s characterization.

“I know that Selina is in a very difficult situation,” she said, adding she is “very sad” about her decision to leave caucus. “I think I’m known to have dedicated my life to really upholding human rights and social justice for all people and I stand by that. I continue to support that and work every day to bring British Columbians together.”

Eby said the NDP caucus will feel the loss of Robinson’s “important voice,” adding caucus members feel quite hurt. He added he disagrees with Robinson’s characterization of a number of their colleagues, who every day “fight racism and discrimination, but he has to accept that Robinson didn’t feel safe as a Jewish woman.

“Although I disagree with many of these issues (raised in the letter), it’s still cause for me to reflect on why she didn’t feel comfortable bring that forward, so we can deal with it.”

Eby said he will have a long-scheduled meeting with the Rabbinical Council of British Columbia Friday to engage with the Jewish community.

“So we are going to be guided by the Jewish community about how we can address rising anti-Semitism in our province, hope to make them feel safe and support them in this moment of increased hate.”

Conservative Party of BC Leader John Rustad spoke before Eby’s scrum with reporters and called on Eby to resign.

Robinson’s resignation from the NDP caucus also dominated Question Period with BC United Leader Kevin Falcon calling for a “full and independent inquiry” into Robinson’s allegations.

“What the long-time senior member and former (former finance minister) of this NDP government has confirmed is that there is systemic anti-Semitism that requires more than just the empty words that we just heard from this Premier.”

Eby responded by saying he agreed with the need for actions to support the Jewish community in pointing on-going initiatives, but did not commit to an inquiry.

Falcon reiterated his call during his weekly media availability after having described the last 24 hours in provincial politics as “stunning to say the least.”

Falcon said Eby needs to address the accusations in Robinson’s letter directly.

“There is still an opportunity for the Premier to do the right thing,” Falcon said. “That’s why I’m asking the Premier again, ‘Hold a full independent investigation of his cabinet, his caucus, his party and indeed in government about the systemic anti-Semitism that a former senior member, former finance minister has alleged are rife within his government.’”

Robinson announced she was leaving caucus Wednesday (March 6). She said her reason for resigning was the BC NDP was not doing enough to combat anti-Semitism.

READ MORE: Selina Robinson quits BC NDP caucus, citing anti-Semitism

“I’m just saying there has been anti-Semitism in caucus,” she said. “(If) you pay attention to our conventions, there is a lot of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish sentiment, certainly around the state of Israel.”

The Coquitlam-Maillardville MLA plans to sit as an independent for the rest of her term after having already announced in December that she won’t run again.

Robinson had resigned from cabinet on Feb. 5 following days of furor including pressure from extra-parliamentary groups aligned to the NDP after she called Gaza a “crappy piece of land with nothing on it.”

She had made that comment Jan. 30 during an online forum with Jewish public leaders, during which she also lamented the state of historical knowledge among 18-to-34-year-olds about the Holocaust. Her comments also drew criticism from First Nations leaders for perpetuating colonial ideas, namely the concept of Terra nullius.

Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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