Alberta overturns appointment of Human Rights Commission chief in book review dispute

EDMONTON — The Alberta government has overturned the appointment of the head of its Human Rights Commission in a dispute over a passage in a book review that has been criticized as Islamophobic.

Justice Minister Tyler Shandro’s department has not officially announced that it has removed Collin May as head of the commission.

Instead, he emailed the media late Thursday afternoon without comment a copy of the official cabinet order canceling May’s job.

The Cabinet order contained no reason for Shandro’s decision or comment.

Earlier this week, Shandro publicly urged May to resign after a Muslim advocacy group said May broke a promise to meet with them over comments in a book review he wrote in 2009 and that they considered Islamophobic.

May refused to resign and instead hired a lawyer who announced earlier Thursday that May had done nothing wrong.

“My client, the first openly gay head of the Alberta Human Rights Commission, will not resign from his position,” attorney Kathryn Marshall said in a statement.

“The various public allegations that have been made about my client are false.

“My client has been targeted by politically motivated individuals and groups who are peddling a misleading interpretation of a book review he wrote 13 years ago.”

The statement does not explain which groups are targeting May or why May’s sexual orientation is relevant.

NDP Justice Critic Irfan Sabir said Shandro did the right thing.

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

May was under fire even before Shandro appointed him head of the commission in July.

At the time, critics pointed to the 2009 book review, saying it raised concerns that he was Islamophobic and therefore unfit to lead the commission to ensure Albertans are not discriminated against.

May responded in a July 7 statement, outright denying the allegations. He promised to meet with Muslim leaders in Alberta and “commit to continuing my personal education on Islam and all faiths.”

Things came to a head on Monday when the National Council of Canadian Muslims released an open letter accusing May of not meeting despite repeated attempts to contact him.

The organization garnered endorsements from 28 Muslim community groups calling on Shandro to order May to step down.

Hours later that day, Shandro’s office released a statement: “Minister Shandro has sought an explanation from Mr. May (about the NCCM criticism).

“After reviewing the explanation, Minister Shandro requested Mr. May’s resignation.”

The statement did not specify the conversation or what specifically triggered the call to quit.

Said Omar, spokesman for the National Council of Canadian Muslims, declined to comment on the cancellation of May’s nomination.

May, a Calgary lawyer, was appointed to the Human Rights Commission in 2019. In the past, he has written articles for C2C Journal, an online and print publication focusing on political, cultural and cultural issues. economic.

In June 2009, he reviewed Efraim Karsh’s book “Islamic Imperialism: A History”, which examines the cultural forces and attitudes that have shaped the religion.

In one part of the review, May notes that the book argues that “Islam is not a peaceful religion misused by radicals. On the contrary, it is one of the most militaristic religions known to man. , and it is precisely this militaristic legacy that informs the actions of radicals throughout the Muslim world”.

The National Council of Canadian Muslims focused on this paragraph in its review, calling it a “shocking” and stigmatizing stereotype.

May, and the editors of her article, fired back.

May, in his July 7 statement, said, “I want to make it clear that I do not believe in or accept the characterization of Islam as a religion or a militant movement.

C2C Journal editors George Koch and Peter Shawn Taylor, in a rebuttal posted on its site in July, said May had made it clear that this was the view of the book’s author, and not of his.

“Whether or not a reviewer agrees with an author’s position, he or she has a duty to convey the book’s thesis in good faith,” the editors wrote.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on September 15, 2022

Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

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