Politics

Palmer: MLA blasts premier for lack of action against antisemitism

Opinion: Since her departure from caucus, the NDP has ignored Selina Robinson.

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VICTORIA — Former NDP MLA Selina Robinson launched a bitter attack on Premier David Eby this week, accusing him of “gaslighting” the Jewish community with empty promises to do something about antisemitism.

She noted how the premier, in a note addressed to the Jewish community at Passover, listed how the NDP government was “taking action.”

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“This is the same list that he has been using for five months to demonstrate government’s actions to fight the rise in antisemitism,” Robinson said Wednesday.

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Some, like the promise of Holocaust education, had been in the works for years. Others, like an anti-racism hotline, were promised repeatedly. Yet the hotline is still not operational.

Even the promise of additional funding for security fell short of what was needed.

“Yes the funds for additional security are welcome,” Robinson acknowledged. “But what other community has to have extra police officers at community events right here, right now?

“What other community has to hire security to escort speakers to venues? Has to advise their children not to wear their school uniforms or their Jewish star to hide their Jewish identity because it is not safe? Has to train community volunteers to help with security?

“The only thing on the table from this government to address the rise in Jew hatred is a bit of money for security,” said the MLA. “There is no other action being taken to protect a community under siege. There is no plan.

“I just wish that the premier would stop gaslighting the Jewish community in B.C., right here and right now.”

Robinson spoke during debate on the Anti-Racism Act, NDP legislation to eliminate systemic racism in provincial institutions. The key provision establishes a committee to develop a two-year plan to promote “Indigenous, Black and racialized” public servants.

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“As a non-racialized person who is regularly attacked for being a Jew, I can vouch for the impact, the pain and the trauma that hate can have not just on one person but on an entire community,” said Robinson.

“But even this bill has no plan. It’s a bill that requires public bodies to develop a plan. Government isn’t even acting on what it wants other public bodies to act on. This is gaslighting, it’s crazy-making.

“When dealing with antisemitism, whether it’s on campuses across our province or in our streets, the only thing the premier has done is to wring his hands and say that he condemns these acts,” she continued.

“He pretends like he doesn’t have a role or the government doesn’t have a role in stemming a tide of hate, vitriol and violence directed toward a minority group.

“Perhaps government ought to start with their own action plan before the legislation is even passed.”

Eby forced Robinson out of cabinet earlier this year over some ill-advised comments on Palestine. Initially he accepted her apology, then reversed himself after a backlash from the Muslim community, some MLAs and party supporters.

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Robinson says under Premier John Horgan, “I was tasked as an openly identified Jew, who is well-connected to the Jewish community, to help facilitate a relationship with the community.”

Not so with Eby: “The message to me has been: ‘Don’t be too Jewish, that creates a problem for us.’ I was told I needed to leave a job I love because I was too Jewish.”

Even after Eby dumped her from cabinet, she tried to bridge the gap between the Jewish and Muslim communities.

“I proposed to the premier a program and an idea to heal two communities affected by racism,” she recounted.

“What was I told by the premier’s office? I was told it’s too political. Doesn’t matter if communities are hurting. Now is not the time because we have an election in six months.”

It has been a lonely few weeks for Robinson since she resigned from the NDP caucus on March 6.

B.C. United MLA Michael Lee recently joined her on a tour of Israel organized for politicians. B.C. United MLA Ellis Ross delivered a strong speech in support of Robinson Wednesday.

The New Democrats have mostly ignored her.

However the premier’s office did provide the following when I asked for his reaction to the accusation of gaslighting:

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“Jewish people in B.C. have experienced horrific acts of antisemitism, a disturbing trend that has only increased since the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks.

“Since then, I’ve been listening and learning from people in the Jewish community and regularly attending meetings with leaders. Together, we have taken actions to address the rise in antisemitism, including making Holocaust education mandatory for high school students, and grants to deal with security, safety, graffiti removal and other measures.

“I will continue to listen, learn, and take action because hate of any kind, has no place in B.C.”

Robinson is nearing the end of her political career. She’ll get in maybe one question and a speech or two before the house adjourns on May 16.

Then the party she served for two decades and the government she served for almost seven years will be rid of her voice, hoping not to hear it again in the political arena.

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