It's been two weeks since antiracist and anticolonial activist Harsha Walia resigned as executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association.
But the discussion about her departure continues on social media.
According to a tweet by Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East vice president Michael Bueckert, a group of 10 staff members posted a statement expressing support for Walia on July 30. The message was subsequently deleted.
No names were attached to the statement. Here's what it said:
We are a collective of 10 staff members at the BCCLA. We stand firmly against the BCCLA Board’s process and decisions in the past few weeks. They have been disrespectful, have shown susceptibility to political interference and external pressure, and have undermined the leadership and work of our Executive Director. The way that this has played out has gone against our values, our ethics, our beliefs, and the reasons that we joined the organization and believe in justice and accountability-seeking work.
As BCCLA staff, we stand in solidarity with Harsha Walia and condemn the targeted racism and misogyny directed at her. We understand Harsha’s decision to resign as ED was made with the careful thought and analysis that characterizes her. While Harsha resigned on her own terms, the Board created an environment that effectively pushed her out. This is an immeasurable loss for Staff and the organization. Harsha’s substantive policy and advocacy work, grounded relationships in service of community, impeccable financial literacy and management, the unprecedented increase in fundraising capacity and stakeholder relations, a dramatic improvement in employee wellness, focus on staff well-being, and strategic organizational development live on as her legacy. Harsha’s dedication and expertise during her outstanding tenure as BCCLA’s Executive Director are indisputable and will benefit and guide future leadership as we continue the work.
We unequivocally condemn ongoing genocide and settler-colonial violence. It is clear that the response in the past few weeks is intended to distract from ongoing confirmations of unmarked graves at former residential ‘school’ sites, and Canada’s genocidal colonialism and white supremacy. We join the call for deep systemic and structural change, and the dismantling of settler colonialism and all the institutions that uphold it. This work includes recognizing the intersections and linkages between settler colonialism on these lands and abroad, including Palestine. We stand in solidarity with UBCIC and reassert their call to action to the BCCLA Board to “take a closer look at who you are and what you stand for - we ask that you choose to stand with us, refuse to cave to racists and racism, and condemn colonialism and all its related, oppressive institutions.” We call on the BCCLA board to make themselves publicly accountable and repair the harm caused by their actions by addressing UBCIC’s concerns outlined in their Open Letter to the BCCLA Board, meeting the demands in the Open Letter from Legal Workers directed at the broader Legal Community, and by addressing concerns raised by Gidimt’en Checkpoint.
Moving forward, we are committed to doing our work, and doing it in a good way. We will continue to push for radical transformations of policing systems; uphold Indigenous rights, sovereignty, and self-determination; challenge settler-colonial violence; and fight for justice and dignity for all systemically oppressed peoples.
Three directors quit earlier this month
On July 21, Ayendri Ishani announced that she, Cat Hart, and Irina Ceric had resigned from the BCCLA board.
They too were disenchanted with the way Walia was treated after using the phrase "Burn it all down" in a tweet.
"The public reaction to the tweet was largely racist and misogynist in nature, driven by the fact that Harsha Walia is a woman of colour, and that people would rather derail an important conversation about residential 'schools' than deal with Canada's white supremacist history and its on-going impacts on Indigenous people," the former directors stated.
"While the BCCLA board initially expressed solidarity with Harsha and the intent behind her tweet, and many of us were devastated to receive her resignation, the process by which the board came to put out Friday's statements was deeply flawed and driven by external political pressure and threats to the organization's funding. We failed to prevent the harm caused by this process."