The B.C. NDP’s minister of post-secondary education is stepping down from her cabinet position, days after sparking widespread outrage by describing the region where Israel was founded as a “crappy piece of land.”
Selina Robinson’s remark, which was made during a recent B’nai Brith Canada panel, surfaced on social media last Thursday, leading to mounting calls from pro-Palestinian groups and others for her resignation.
Premier David Eby confirmed she was vacating her ministerial role Monday afternoon, describing the decision as “challenging but necessary.”
“Selina’s comments were wrong,” Eby said. “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.”
The premier spoke hours after abruptly cancelling another news conference approximately 45 minutes before it was scheduled to begin – a move some observers speculated was the result of the growing upset over Robinson’s remark.
Earlier in the day, protesters gathered outside an NDP caucus retreat in Surrey and tried to deliver a petition calling for the minister’s removal.
The MLA, who has represented the Coquitlam-Maillardville riding since 2013, and was previously the province’s finance minister, will remain in the B.C. NDP caucus.
In a brief statement, Robinson said she had “previously decided” she would not be running in the next provincial election, but that she would continue representing her constituents for the remainder of her term.
Robinson issued a public apology for the comment on Thursday, describing her remark as a reference to the land’s “limited natural resources.”
“I understand that this flippant comment has caused pain and that it diminishes the connection Palestinians also have to the land. I regret what I said and I apologize without reservation,” she wrote on social media.
Robinson spent the weekend reaching out to leadership in B.C.’s Muslim and First Nations communities, and Eby said she would continue working to address their concerns after leaving cabinet.
“The depth of the work that Minister Robinson needs to do in order to address the harms that she’s caused is significant,” Eby said. “We reached the conclusion together that she needed to step back from cabinet so she could focus on that work.”
A collection of B.C. mosques and Islamic associations sent the premier a letter over the weekend that said they would not welcome any NDP candidate into their sacred spaces during the next election unless he took action against Robinson.
With files from The Canadian Press