I was invited on Tuesday morning on to do a CBC Radio studio interview. The invitation was extended because of an email I had sent objecting to the framing of the reaction to Ms. Robinson’s hateful rhetoric as the Muslim community’s issue with her remarks.
I had also published a blog post demanding Ms. Robinson’s resignation, which I believe was another reason the show asked me to appear. Once the news broke that Ms. Robinson had resigned from cabinet, CBC Radio uninvited me. I was told the show’s producers had decided to pivot to another angle.
I’m not going to question the merit of the show’s decision although I was disappointed to lose the opportunity to contribute to a broader public conversation.
Since I was denied the opportunity to share my thoughts on air, I would like to take the time to share a few of my thoughts with you here.
There are three points I’d like to bring to your attention:
1. Ms. Robinson is out of cabinet, but it took a significant amount of community action, a lot of protest, and a general sense of alarm for you, David Eby, to act. It took too long.
What the delay indicates to me, is that there’s a lot of work that you need to do on your own education regarding Palestinian history, the grave injustices that have marked the last 75 years of occupation, and the terrible human cost that we are witnessing every moment of every day.
Ms. Robinson’s resignation, this one outcome, cannot be seen as an ending. It’s just the start of a process in rediscovering empathy, enhancing understanding, and recognizing the value of Palestinian lives, past, present, and future.
2. Ms. Robinson has held the portfolio as Minister of Post-Secondary Education and Future Skills for a while now. Given that her remarks have now exposed her ideological biases, it’s essential for you to investigate the decisions she has made while in that position to ensure that racism and Islamophobia did not play a part in any policy or operational decision that she initiated, made, and implemented.
3. The issue of what is happening in Palestine, both in Gaza and throughout the West Bank, is greater than whether Ms. Robinson has left cabinet. As such, these conversations must continue, and the dialogue can’t just be about pivoting to discuss the fact that Ms. Robinson is no longer a Minister and what that means for you, your government, and your re-election prospects.
Oh, and one more thing before I go.
Those attempting to excuse Ms. Robinson’s remarks as a mistake, or those attacking the individuals demanding her resignation, are wrong. Ms. Robinson’s remarks were not a mistake, and she is not the subject of a vendetta.
People reacted to the evidence of her ingrained beliefs, a revelation to some and for those who have been following the breadcrumbs on her social media trail, a confirmation of a deeply unsettling behaviour pattern.
As I drove to work on Tuesday, anticipating that the invitation I had received earlier that morning would be withdrawn if your afternoon announcement included the news of Ms. Robinson’s resignation, I listened to the noon show on CBC.
The host read an email from a listener who explained her contention that Ms. Robinson did not need to resign by writing that all humans are equal.
That’s precisely the point. All humans are equal and as such deserve the rights and dignities afforded to people such as Ms. Robinson, the email writer herself, and you. Palestinians are humans, too, and nothing is more important at this time then advocating for their right to live in peace and to act when others treat them as disposable, erase them from history, and deny the truth of their existence.
How dare you Selina Robinson!
How dare you take one part of history to erase another!
Do you know how clearly you’ve demonstrated your own ignorance by spouting the hateful rhetoric that Palestine was “a crappy piece of land with nothing on it”?
How dare you annihilate the memory, lives, and legacies of “several hundred thousand people” with a shrug of your shoulders as if they were no more than a few motes of dust to brush off the sleeve of your jacket!
How dare you assert that the land of Palestine was there for colonial powers to offer up to others as a plum reward! As if it were their right to give away land they had forcibly occupied. To treat the land as a token that they could forfeit in a high stakes’ poker game.
Do you even know that Zionist leaders considered other parts of the world before settling on Palestine as the one that was theirs to seize as a homeland?
How dare you deny the history and experience of people such as my grandfather and grandmother! They had productive lives in Haifa until 1948 when Israel’s expansionist march through and over people’s existence forced them to flee to Lebanon! My grandmother narrowly escaped a sniper’s bullet and my grandfather had to give up everything, leaving behind all he had built up through his professional career as a civil engineer.
My grandparents lost everything, and they were among the fortunate who had a place to go. They could return to the Lebanese village they were born in, unlike the many who were forced to live in refugee camps, left stateless, left to dream of the homes that were once theirs and denied the right to return to the homes now occupied by settlers who displaced them.
How dare you imply that my grandparents’ lives were nothing! How dare you deny the reality of all other Palestinian lives, of people who lived in Palestine with family trees rooted in the fertile soil that extended back not decades or years, but centuries!
How dare you deny a culture of a people, a history of a population, the lives of mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, children, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandmothers, grandfathers, friends, relatives and loved ones who shared and continue to share traditions, customs, music, art, poetry, craft, food, and who nourished the lands they tilled and harvested!
How dare you deny the productive labour that created a land that was given away because it was desirable and wanted and envied!
How dare you mythologize the moral superiority and inherent worth of one group of people to rationalize the deaths of over 25,000 souls, injuries to over 65,000 human beings, and the catastrophic destruction of hospitals, homes, playgrounds, schools, and universities, such places of learning as you are responsible for here!
How dare you legitimize the trauma that will mark generations to come! How dare you support undermining the rule of law, ignoring the International Court of Justice, and rendering international order virtually meaningless!
How dare you claim the authority to sit as a representative of the people in the BC Legislature, let alone as Minister of Post-Secondary Education and Future Skills, when your comments today displayed your own lack of education, your tenuous understanding of the facts, your ideological bias, your indisputable racism, and your utter lack of humanity!
How dare you!
cc. David Eby
Ratified. That’s the word which characterizes this weekend for me. It denotes success and a goal accomplished. It indicates progress and sets a marker for the way forward.
The Agreement in Committee, a framework for bargaining which was fashioned in a collaborative effort between BCPSEA* and the BCTF**, was ratified this weekend at two separate meetings: the BCPSEA Annual General Meeting and the BCTF Representative Assembly.
This is a bold step for these two organizations. It sets the stage for positive dialogue before the start of labour negotiations. That doesn’t necessarily mean the discussions will be easier or decisions arrived at without difficulty; it does mean that the parties have opened a door to a respectful process, respectful interaction, and — I hope — results.
Yet this step forward may have been jeopardized given the startling turn of events on Thursday, January 24, 2013.
On Thursday, the provincial government released a document entitled “A Framework For Long Term Stability In Education” ) which came as a surprise to many of us who have a role to play in the public education system in British Columbia.
Although stakeholder submissions had been made by key partner groups on the issue of bargaining before the December holidays, this framework was much broader and incorporated many more issues than I believe were contemplated in those submissions.
While the goal of “stability” in education is admirable, and the narrative that has been designed to sell this new initiative may sound awfully good, scratch beneath the surface and many troubling issues emerge.
For example, why 10 years? Where is the business case for introducing a level of inflexibility which may take away from the employers’ ability to respond to changing circumstances and uncertain economic conditions? Given rapid changes in technology and the reassessment of education, which seems to be in progress in many parts of the world, proposing such a lengthy time span seems like building your foundation on shifting sands.
Premier Clark and Don McRae, the Minister of Education, have both spoken about the plan and the media, including the full array of social media, have played and replayed, digested and parsed their comments.
I also had the opportunity of hearing Minister McRae speak in-person at the BCPSEA AGM today.
He said, again, that this framework was just the beginning, but I see it as stalling momentum rather than encouraging it.
Rather than asking what the best way to fund the public education system may be, we are now debating the merits of establishing yet another separate fund to deal with specific aspects of program delivery and service provision.
Rather than asking what the best way to set educational policy may be, we are now debating who should sit at the table of the proposed educational council.
Rather than asking how to ensure the best working relationship between the parties who negotiate, we are now trying to guess why the government seems intent on stripping BCPSEA of its core mandate which is to bargain on behalf of the 60 school boards in the province.
This government-proposed framework, says Minister McRae, is a conversation starter.
I see it, unlike the now-ratified Agreement in Committee, as a conversation ender.
*British Columbia Public Schools Employers’ Association (http://www.bcpsea.bc.ca)
**British Columbia Teachers Federation (http://www.bctf.ca)