2022-09-28

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Shandro fires Chief of Alberta Human Rights Commission who refused to resign – Edmonton Journal

Justice Minister Tyler Shandro has fired the chief of Alberta’s Human Rights Commission who refused to step down.

Shortly after 5 p.m. Thursday, Shandro’s office announced that a cabinet order was approved rescinding Collin May’s appointment.
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Earlier Thursday, Toronto lawyer Kathryn Marshall said in a statement she has been retained to represent May, who officially began his five-year term as chief of the commission and tribunals on July 14.

She said May, whom she pointed out was the first openly gay chief of the commission, would not be resigning his position.

“He has done nothing wrong,” she wrote.

“The various public allegations that have been made about my client are false. My client has been targeted by individuals and groups who are politically motivated, and are peddling a misleading interpretation of a book review he wrote 13 years ago,” said Marshall.

May faced fierce criticism in July over the book review, penned in 2009, but the controversy reached a turning point Monday, when the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) published a letter signed by 28 Muslim organizations and mosques calling for action.

They alleged May had shirked offers to meet with community leaders while at the same time issuing letters threatening to sue critics.

Hours later that day, Shandro’s office issued a statement announcing the minister had called for May’s resignation, but did not offer specific reasons as to why.

The NCCM has called the review “deeply problematic.” Spokesman Said Omar said earlier this week the book that was reviewed contains views that are stereotypical and Islamophobic, and community members were shocked May would give it favourable treatment. Omar declined to comment as of press time Thursday.

Marshall’s statement did not address the NCCM’s concerns about failed meetings, explain who May believed was targeting him, or why May’s sexuality is relevant.

After May was fired Thursday, Opposition NDP justice critic Irfan Sabir said in a statement it’s unacceptable for someone to hold Islamophobic views and serve as the Chair of the Alberta Human Rights Commission.

“I am glad that Mr. May has been removed from this position, and I encourage Minister Shandro to be more thoughtful and diligent in finding a replacement,” Sabir said.

First flagged by left-wing media organization the Progress Report, May’s review of historian Efraim Karsh’s book Islamic Imperialism: A History, cites Karsh’s argument that Islam is inherently combative.
“(Karsh) defies the multicultural illusion regarding pacific Islam and goes to the heart of the matter. Islam is not a peaceful religion misused by radicals. Rather, it is one of the most militaristic religions known to man, and it is precisely this militaristic heritage that informs the actions of radicals throughout the Muslim world,” May wrote in the review.
The review was published in the C2C Journal. Editors George Koch and Peter Shawn Taylor argued in late July May had been summarizing the views of the book’s author in the controversial paragraph — not his own.
Similarly, May said in a July statement his review agreed with some of the book’s assertions, but rejected others.
“I wish to state clearly that I do not believe or accept the characterization of Islam as a militant religion or movement, especially in light of important recent and diverse scholarship that is working to overcome misconceptions regarding Muslim history and philosophy. I specifically want to affirm that Muslim Albertans are entitled to the full and equal respect accorded all our communities,” he wrote.
Marshall, May’s lawyer, also filed a separate high-profile Alberta lawsuit last year on behalf of a former staffer against Premier Jason Kenney’s office alleging wrongful dismissal. The premier was not named in the suit, and his office has denied the allegations, which have not been proven in court.
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The former head of Alberta’s Human Rights Commission will be suing the government over his dismissal, his lawyer said Friday.
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