Race relations board member says she’s been fired for criticizing Islam


OTTAWA _ The federal government has fired a member of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation board over comments about Islam.

Christine Douglass-Williams lost her job this week at the arm’s-length government agency, whose mandate is to combat racial discrimination.

Her termination follows a review begun last summer over concerns about her writings on the website Jihad Watch, including a post where she warned that people are being duped by seemingly moderate Muslims and another calling the passage of a House of Commons motion condemning Islamophobia a “victorious day for Islamic supremacists.”

Douglass-Williams had first been appointed to the board in 2012, and was reappointed in 2015. Her term was to expire next year, but the government terminated it on Tuesday.

“Why? Because I dared to criticize political Islam,” Douglass-Williams said in an email to The Canadian Press.

“I make a distinction between those who practice Islam in peace and harmony with others, and those with an agenda to usurp democratic constitutions, demand special privileges over other creeds and who advocate the abuse of women and innocents as a supremacist entitlement.”

She called her removal a “dishonourable decision” on the part of Heritage Minister Melanie Joly, who oversees the foundation, and accused her of acting “at the behest of questionable sorts.”

Neither the Privy Council Office nor Joly’s office would comment directly on Douglass-Williams’ firing, citing privacy concerns.

However, Joly spokesman Simon Ross said in an email: “The country’s leading organization dedicated to the elimination of racism and the promotion of harmonious race relations, the Canada Race Relations Foundation, must have a board that recognizes the importance of diversity and inclusion in our society.”

The foundation was launched in 1997 as part of the settlement the federal government at the time reached with Japanese Canadians over their internment in Canada during the Second World War.

It holds workshops and roundtables across the country on combating racism, and also funds research into Canadian attitudes towards multiculturalism, immigration and other issues.

A spokesman for the board did not return a call for comment.

Appointees to the foundation’s board, like many arm’s-length organizations, serve “during pleasure,” meaning they can be removed at the discretion of the government.

The National Council of Canadian Muslims had been one of the groups that raised concerns about Douglass-Williams and they welcomed the government’s decision.

“This is an appropriate corrective measure taken by government to address Ms. Douglass-Williams’ disturbing public record _ a record that goes against the CRRF’s core principles and functions, as a federal Crown Corporation, of combating racism and discrimination in Canada,” Kashif Ahmed, the chair of the council’s board said in an email.

Several people had written letters to Joly in support of Douglass-Williams, including Robert Spencer, the founder of Jihad Watch. The website describes itself as “dedicated to bringing public attention to the role that jihad theology and ideology play in the modern world,” but critics routinely assail it for being anti-Muslim.

Spencer has said his work is devoted to freedom of speech and human rights and that Douglass-Williams is being smeared by association. On his website in September he wrote that no solid proof had been offered that what she’s written isn’t true.

“I invite you to read all of Ms. Douglass-Williams’ published writings at Jihad Watch, and you will see that there is no reason for anyone who is concerned about racism and about preserving pluralistic societies to be concerned.”