Justice Minister Tyler Shandro yielded Thursday to demands from Muslim groups that the chief of the Alberta Human Rights Commission (AHRC) be removed from office. No explanation was included in the cabinet order provided by the justice department.
Commissioner Collin May was asked to resign earlier in the week. On Monday, the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCMM,) consisting of 28 Muslim groups and mosques, condemned May in a letter sent to Shandro, calling for May’s resignation.
It read, in part, "Dear Minister Shandro, we write this letter to you to formally ask for the resignation of Colin [sic] May, appointed Chair [sic] of the Alberta Human Rights Commission in May 2022."
The minister announced to the press that night that he would be seeking May's resignation, although May was not officially informed until the following day. May refused and was fired Thursday.
Meanwhile, University of Calgary law professor and associate dean Evaristus Oshionebo’s name was added to the listing of Chiefs of the Commission and Tribunals noted as ‘Acting’ dated September 2022. Below it is May’s name with the date July 2022-September 2022.
May is fighting the decision to rescind his appointment. He has been targeted by “groups and individuals who are politically motivated,” said his lawyer Kathryn Marshall, an employment and labour lawyer with the Toronto-based firm Levitt Sheikh. In a statement late Friday, Marshall said May is taking legal action and "will be pursuing justice for his firing.”
She described it as an “unjust, unexplained, and outrageous termination.”
"After this matter was first raised, my client promised to meet with various community groups and individuals. He kept his promise. In fact, more meetings were planned, until the NCCM unilaterally cut the process short. The Government is aware of this, but fired him anyway."
"This is wrong, and should never have happened."
There may be more to the story, but as no one indicated there is, we must assume May lost his job because of a passage he wrote 13 years ago in a lengthy book review on Efraim Karsh’s ‘Islamic Imperialism: A History.’ His review, considered by some to be Islamophobic, appeared in the C2C Journal.
In particular, May highlighted the views of the author that claimed: “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."
For making that “shocking” reference, the gay Calgary lawyer was declared unfit to serve in the AHRC by the deeply offended National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM.) The council also complained May wouldn’t meet with the group.
However, not all Muslims see it that way.
High-profile anti-racism activist Raheel Raza, a Pakistani-born Muslim, read May’s review and comments, “He said absolutely nothing wrong from my perspective as an observant, practicing Muslim. I would agree with him,” Raza told the Western Standard.
“I have said the same thing. But they can’t accuse me of Islamophobia because I happen to be a Muslim. But in today’s woke culture and cancel culture and political correctness this is exactly the tactic Islamists use.”
“It’s most unfortunate the leadership of the country caves in to them.”
Toronto-based Raza is president of the Council of Muslims Facing Tomorrow, a founding member of The Muslim Reform Movement, head of Muslims Against Anti-Semitism and author of the award-winning book “Their Jihad — Not My Jihad.’
“I am morally compelled to speak out against violence, against radicalization, against discrimination.”
“My whole organization is working to separate political Islam from the spiritual message of Islam. Political Islam is militaristic, political Islam creates violence, political Islam is dangerous, and political Islam is growing.”
“What we see in many parts of the Muslim world, and more importantly in the West, is that the radicals are militaristic.”
Raza noted May simply wrote a book review.
“And whether or not anyone agrees with the thesis, it’s the freedom of the author and the reviewer to comment on it. The 28 organizations should have written a rebuttal if they disagreed — but to ask for May to be fired is cancel culture at its best.”
That so many groups under the NCCM umbrella supported May’s dismissal, didn’t surprise Raza.
“That’s the typical way that they attack. They do it in numbers. This is why 28 organizations banded together because they wanted to show they're the voice of Muslims in Canada. They are not. It’s only 25% of Muslims that go to a Mosque or are a part of any community organization.”
“It’s happening more and more where they band together as they have. It actually is something that's of great concern to us as liberal reform-minded Muslims who wish to live in a liberal democracy with total freedom of expression no matter how harsh it is and to be able to debate and discuss issues instead of shutting up the conversation.”
Raza urged caution in accepting increasing claims Muslims in Canada are discriminated against.
“It’s absolutely a strategy used by the Islamists because victimhood is something that appeals to Canadians in general, or the Western people, because they suffer from colonial guilt syndrome.”
“They are colonizers, oppressors, they buy into it hook, line, and sinker.”
“Muslims, in Canada at least, are not victims. They live here with more freedoms than they would have in any Muslim country. They're in positions of power. There are at least a dozen Muslims in the (federal) government in very strategic posts. They have businesses, they have wealth, they have power, they have autonomy. So what victimhood are they talking about?”
However, she doesn’t deny “bigotry, racism, and xenophobia” exists.
“It exits in every society, so it also exits in Canada… Any time there is an attack on Muslims — and there have been and there continue to be — it does not mean that the entire community is being targeted.”
“We very urgently have to get out of this victim mentality. The only way we can deal with racism, bigotry, xenophobia is by addressing it head-on and finding solutions and looking inwards and having reflection and dialogue and discussion.”
Unfortunately, instead of open discussion, there’s a coordinated effort to silence.
“It’s just a matter of time. They’ll find a way to shut me up as well. I can’t live in fear I’ve decided.”
“I use the term Islamists very carefully because this is the term for the people who have turned my faith into a political ideology totally, devoid of any compassion, of any human rights values, gender equality. It is a tactic they use to shut up any debate.”
The NCCM did not respond to calls and emails requesting comment.
An interview request with NDP justice critic Irfan Sabir was declined. But, in a July 7 statement, Sabir called May’s review “overtly racist and Islamophobic” and called for an apology and his removal from the AHRC.
“This explicit prejudice is — obviously — completely unacceptable for the chair of the Alberta Human Rights Commission, whose mandate is to combat exactly these kinds of hateful views.”
“Muslims in Canada are targeted for harassment, assault, and murder purely because of their faith. May has not apologized for his published statements or demonstrated he has any insight into how they contribute to rising hate-motivated violence towards Muslims in Alberta and across Canada.”
As I said, there may be more to the story — but right now, it looks to me like the wrong person lost their job.