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Selina Robinson quits BC NDP caucus, citing anti-Semitism

The former cabinet minister says the party is not doing enough to combat anti-Semitism

Former cabinet minister Selina Robinson resigned Wednesday (March 6) from the B.C. NDP caucus saying she feels the party is not doing enough to combat 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.”

British Columbians of Jewish faith are hiding their Stars of David (jewelry) and Jewish businesses have had to hire extra security, she added.

“We are not saying anything about it,” she said. “We are not saying this is unacceptable and we don’t have a plan for supporting the Jewish community or for helping address this level of hatred that we’re seeing on our streets and in our schools and in our post-secondary education system.”

Robinson made these comments while speaking to reporters in the legislature, where she made the announcement.

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 had called the British-ruled Mandate upon which Israel was founded in 1948 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.

Robinson acknowledged that her “unintentional” comments caused harms, adding that she has asked for and received forgiveness.

“Sometimes we say things and they do hurt people,” she said. “So we need to understand what it’s about.”

That, however, is not happening, she said.

Robinson said she had approached the Office of Premier David Eby with the idea of doing anti-Semitism and anti-Islamophobia training for caucus, but was rejected.

“That really shattered my heart, because I think that is really what we need to do and if government’s not interested, then I can’t be part of a government that would choose to be silent.”

Robinson also described herself as a victim of double standards, saying caucus colleagues Mable Elmore, Jagrup Brar and Janet Routledge all made anti-Semitic comments before and after Oct. 7, when Hamas attacked Israel, without losing their post. Those comments were hurtful to the Jewish community, she said.

“That’s a double standard that I know has deeply hurt the Jewish community,” she said.

She added that both Routledge and Brar apologized to her.

“But there were no other consequences other than their apology,” she said.

While Robinson said she does not know yet if she going to use her time in the legislature to talk about Jewish people feeling unsafe in British Columbia, she said she wants to “help heal the pain the people” are feeling.

“I want to use my voice to bring people together, to find a way that we can have conversations with compassion, with understanding and in a way that people can feel safe and included here in British Columbia, because that is what I stand for,” she said. “I used to believe that is what New Democrats stood for. I haven’t felt it in quite some time.”

READ MORE: Robinson to step down as minister after Israel-Palestine comments

READ MORE: Selina Robinson under fire for calling Gaza ‘a crappy piece of land

NDP House Leader Ravi Kahlon denied the existence of anti-Semitism in the caucus.

“We are always speaking out against hate toward any community,” he said. “Just last week, the Premier was calling it out in the legislature. We will continue to do that work. We want to make sure that everyone feels safe here in British Columbia.”

Kahlon also challenged the idea Robinson was subject to a double standard.

“When you are a minister and you make a mistake, there (are) impacts from that,” he said. “Again — she has done a lot of amazing work on the behalf of British Columbians. I respect the work she’s done. But a mistake was made and we need to move forward.”

Kahlon said to his knowledge, anti-Semitism was never raised as an issue within caucus.

“I’m not aware of that ever being raised,” he said. “But that being said, she’s hurting. She is really hurting. It has been the impact from what Hamas has done. (It) has really had an impact on her. I feel for her. My heart goes out to her. I certainly hope that her being able to step away will give her some time to reflect and heal.”

When asked how others can speak out against what is happening right now in Hamas in way that is not anti-Semitic, Robinson said her decision has nothing to do with Hamas.

“This isn’t about a conflict in the Middle East,” she said. “The fact that people are being killed is horrible. It’s what happening in our streets and in our schools that make people afraid. People shouldn’t feel afraid and we are not doing enough so that people can just be who they are…I join with Palestinians and weep for the death and destruction of Gaza. I do and I believe most of the Jewish community does as well.”

Late Wednesday afternoon, Eby said in a statement that Robinson’s decision saddened him.

“Clearly, she is hurting and carrying a lot of pain,” he said.

He added that Robinson served with distinction in several ministerial roles.

“I have deep respect and gratitude for all of the work she has done as a Minister, as an MLA in our caucus, and her advocacy for the Jewish community,” he said.

Eby added that Robinson made a mistake and that she was doing the work to address the harm that was caused.

“I wish she had brought her concerns to me directly so we could have worked through them together,” he said.

Eby said his government’s work to bring people and communities together will continue.

“I will continue to condemn hate in all its forms including the rise of antisemitism we have seen,” he said. “My focus remains on taking action for people on the things that matter most to them. I wish Selina nothing but the best.”

Former cabinet minister Selina Robinson speaks to media Wednesday (March 6, 2024) as she announced she would be resigning from the BC NDP caucus. (Wolf Depner)

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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