Hashtag #IStandWithHarsha shows support for former B.C. Civil Liberties Association executive director Harsha Walia

Several people have stepped forward to condemn the organization for parting ways with the longtime activist

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      The recent resignation of Harsha Walia as executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association has generated a fair amount of rumbling on Twitter.

      One of the challenges for those feeling disappointed in the organization is that this is being characterized as a "resignation".

      Therefore, it's hard to condemn the parting of Walia from the organization over a single tweet as a "dismissal" or "firing".

      But the reality is that the board of directors did not defend Walia for using a phrase—"burn it all down"—that's been employed many times in the past as a metaphor for dismantling structures of oppression against marginalized people. 

      It reminds me of something veteran journalist Zuhair Kashmeri told me shortly before his death in 2019.

      He stated that when mostly white organizations hire people from other cultural backgrounds who've experienced the negative aspects of colonialism directly, these organizations must make room for these employees to express this part of themselves.

      Kashmeri added that too often they don't do this, causing these employees to leave or to engage in self-censorship.

      That, in turn, reinforces the dominant cultural narrative within these mostly white organizations. 

      Kashmeri was making these comments in connection with newsrooms.

      In his view, creating a diverse newsroom meant accommodating employees whose viewpoints collide head-on with those of managers who've benefited from colonialism.

      But one could argue that it applies equally to nonprofit organizations engaged in trying to bring about positive changes in society.

      Walia was born in Bahrain, where, like in Canada (thanks in part to her efforts), the abuse of migrant workers has been extensively documented. Her 2013 book, Undoing Border Imperialism, offered a transnational analysis of how neoliberalism and globalization are coming together to exploit workers around the world.

      Below, you can read recent tweets by some of Walia's supporters, including some who believe she was fired.