Skip to content

Baldrey: B.C. NDP's stance on antisemitism — 'The ball remains in the premier's court'

For the first time, B.C. NDP political opponents have had an issue land in their laps that has the government in serious retreat, columnist Keith Baldrey believes.
Coquitlam-Maillardville MLA Selina Robinson (left) resigned from the B.C. NDP caucus. led by Premier David Eby, on March 6, 2024.

As the B.C. NDP navigates through the worst internal crisis it has experienced since forming government in 2017, it is important to note the problems stemming from rising antisemitism go well beyond what may or may not have happened among government caucus members.

Early last month, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs sent Premier David Eby’s office the details of almost two dozen antisemitic incidents that recently took place in Vancouver schools and the provincial civil service.

Only now, in the wake of the explosive departure of long time MLA Selina Robinson from the NDP caucus over the issue of antisemitism, are they getting the attention they merit. It remains to be seen if anything is actually done about these and other incidents.

One of them reportedly involved a teacher asking if any students in the class are Jewish and when two self-identified as being Jewish they were asked to stand in front of the class and explain why Israel was committing genocide in Gaza.

After meeting with Jewish community leaders after Robinson’s resignation from caucus, Eby said he was shaken to hear about such incidents and pledged to do more to combat this kind of racism.

But how credible is that pledge given that his office had been given those accounts of antisemitism more than a month before him making that statement, and nothing was done about them?

Robinson, a former cabinet minister and a Jewish woman, accused her former caucus colleagues of doing little to combat antisemitism and singled seven MLAs out by name in an incendiary 5-page letter to the caucus.

Robinson was forced to resign from cabinet last month after making controversial comments on the creation of Israel. Although she apologized, a social media firestorm erupted, and an organized anti-Israel chorus of voices besieged the government.

In an unusual and fascinating twist, none of the Opposition parties criticized Robinson for her comments and in fact some Opposition members publicly supported her.

But the social media protests spoke louder to the premier’s office and Robinson was forced out.

Robinson’s letter to her former colleagues outlines how many times she tried to get her government to address rising antisemitism in schools, universities and other institutions only to be rebuffed time and again.

She wrote “the last straw” came after she pitched an idea to the premier’s office that would see her act as a liaison of sorts between the Jewish and Arab Muslim communities. However, it was rejected with Eby’s chief of staff, Matt Smith, telling her that the whole thing was “too political.”

In other words: “We are in campaign mode, not governing mode.”

The issue of antisemitism has long been a disruptive influence within left-wing political parties, both here and abroad. The British Labor Party was bedeviled for years by the issue and the federal NDP, the Ontario NDP and the federal Green Parties have experienced messy internal fights over it.

In contrast, it looked like the B.C. NDP had everything in check on this issue (the party’s convention last November passed a watered-down compromise motion calling for a ceasefire in Gaza), but that is obviously no longer the case.

This issue may not be a ballot box question come the October election, but for the first time the NDP’s political opponents have had an issue land in their laps that has the government in serious retreat and lacking confidence in dealing with it.

The ball remains in the premier’s court. Let’s see what he does with it.

Keith Baldrey is chief political reporter for Global BC.