FPSE Calls for Immediate Resignation of the Minister of Post-Secondary Education and Future Skills
For Immediate Release
February 1, 2024
The Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC (FPSE) joined today with our national partners, the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT), in writing to Premier David Eby to call for the immediate resignation of Selina Robinson, Minister of Post-Secondary Education and Future Skills. Minister Robinson inappropriately intervened in the termination of a Langara College employee for controversial remarks on the war in Gaza. The Minister’s subsequent statements on the matter undermine the democratic principles of freedom of expression, academic freedom, and a college and university system free of direct manipulation by the provincial government.
“Dr. Natalie Knight was cleared by the internal Academic Freedom and Freedom of Expression Advisory Committee at Langara College with respect to her October 28 remarks, and her January 23 remarks were clearly Charter-protected, but the Minister continued to press for her termination,” said Michael Conlon, Executive Director of FPSE. “The notion that a Minister would intervene directly with a college and call for the termination of a tenured faculty member is highly inappropriate and unprecedented. We will assist the Langara Faculty Association in grieving this unjustified termination,” continued Conlon.
On January 25, Minister Robinson used her X account to share a call by the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) for Langara to fire Dr. Knight. Minister Robinson later confirmed that she had met with the College to express concerns about Dr. Knight’s reinstatement. Dr. Knight was terminated on January 26. We are also concerned that the Minister had inappropriate access to confidential employment information about Dr. Knight. We have given Langara several opportunities to assure us that no such private information was shared, but they have been unwilling to do so.
“Dr. Knight’s comments were clearly hurtful to some in the Jewish community, but the reality is that freedom of expression applies to speech we may well find offensive. Free speech is meaningless if it is reserved only for speech we agree with. That the Minister of Post-Secondary Education and Future Skills either doesn’t understand or doesn’t respect the Charter right to freedom of expression disqualifies her from holding this office,” said Brent Calvert, President of FPSE.
In a panel discussion hosted by B’nai Brith Canada on January 30, the Minister indicated that she had been pressuring college and university presidents in BC to police speech related to the war in Gaza.
“I was shocked to read the Minister’s comments about Dr. Knight and even more alarmed by her remarks in the B’nai Brith Canada forum. They represent a brazen attack on academic freedom and freedom of expression. We have written Premier Eby to call for Minister Robinson’s immediate resignation on behalf of our 72,000 members,” said David Robinson, Executive Director of CAUT. “We have assured FPSE that CAUT will provide all necessary resources to protect academic freedom in BC and ensure that Dr. Knight receives due process in this matter,” he concluded.
For more information, please see the following documents:
- FPSE letter to Premier David Eby (February 1, 2024)
- CAUT letter to Premier David Eby (February 1, 2024)
- CAUT calls for B.C. minister's resignation over political interference (February 1, 2024)
- Joint FPSE–Langara Faculty Association Statement on Member Termination (January 26, 2024)
- Report of the Langara College Academic Freedom and Freedom of Expression Advisory Committee (November 14, 2023)
Michael Conlon, Executive Director, FPSE
604.873.8988, ext. 109
The Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC is the provincial voice for faculty and staff in BC teaching universities, colleges and institutes, and in private sector institutions. FPSE member locals, represented by Presidents' Council and the Executive, represent over 10,000 faculty and staff at 19 public and 5 private sector institutions.