Shandro removes chief of Alberta Human Rights Commission

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Alberta human rights commission chief fired after refusing to quit
Alberta human rights commission chief Collin May was fired Thursday, after ignoring Justice Minister Tyler Shandro’s request to resign on Monday. Breanna Karstens-Smith reports. – Sep 15, 2022

Calgary lawyer Collin May has been removed as chief of the Alberta Human Rights Commission following an order in council issued by Justice Minister Tyler Shandro on Thursday.

Shandro’s department did not formally announce it had removed May as head of the commission.

Instead, it emailed to media late Thursday afternoon without comment a copy of the official cabinet order rescinding May’s job as chief and member of the commission.

The cabinet order contained no reasons for the decision or comment from Shandro.

The move comes after May’s newly-hired legal representation tweeted he would not be resigning. Calls for May to resign came after questions were recently raised over words he wrote about Islam in a 2009 book review.

Shandro requested May’s resignation on Monday after the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) and 27 other community associations sent a letter to the justice minister.

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May was appointed to a five-year term as chief of the Alberta Human Rights Commission by Shandro in July after serving as a member since 2019.

Read more: Alberta’s human rights commission chief asked to resign due to Islamophobic comments

May’s review of Israeli-British historian Efraim Karsh’s book Islamic Imperialism: A History on C2C Journal resurfaced in July after several community members expressed their concerns to the NCCM. Independent news outlet The Progress Report also wrote about the comments in July.

In the review, May called the religion “militaristic” in nature.

Since then, the NCCM said it tried to work with May multiple times to attempt to reconcile and build trust with Muslim communities. When May didn’t follow up as agreed, it prompted the NCCM to call for his resignation.

Read more: Senate public hearings on Islamophobia hears testimony from Muslims in Edmonton

May said he does not hold anti-Islamic views, and the editors of the book review said the essay makes it clear the offending comments were the views of the book author and not May.

May hired Toronto-based lawyer Kathryn Marshall, who tweeted on Thursday morning that he will not be resigning.

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“My client, the first openly gay chief of the Alberta Human Rights Commission, will not be resigning his position,” Marshall said in an emailed statement to Global News.

“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.”

On Friday, his lawyer said May will be taking legal action for what she described as his “unjust, unexplained and outrageous termination.”

Marshall said when the issue was first raised, May promised to meet with various community groups and individuals and “he kept his promise.”

She said more meetings were planned but “the NCCM unilaterally cut the process short.” Marshall said the government of Alberta was aware of this and still fired him.

“This is wrong, and should never have happened.”

Read more: Photographer draws attention to Islamophobia in Edmonton through photo series

Opposition NDP justice critic Irfan Sabir said it was “totally unacceptable” for the chair of the human rights commission to hold what he described as Islamophobic views.

“Tyler Shandro must have known about Collin May’s hateful views when he appointed him to the commission and when he named him the chair,” Sabir said in a statement following May’s removal.

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“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.”

Read more: Senate public hearings on Islamophobia hears testimony from Muslims in Edmonton

The NCCM declined Global News’ request for comment, saying it is not releasing a statement or conducting interviews at this time.

“We are currently monitoring the new developments and want to ensure we have all the information before doing any interviews,” said Said Omar, NCCM’s Alberta advocacy officer.

With files from Adam Toy, Global News and The Canadian Press

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