An instructor at Vancouver’s Langara College was dismissed due to remarks made at a pro-Palestinian rally in October

Natalie Knight (Screenshot: Langara Voice)

A faculty member of Langara College in Vancouver who celebrated the Hamas attacks against Israel on Oct. 7 has been dismissed from her position, according to a statement released by the college on Jan. 26.

Natalie Knight, an English instructor and Indigenous curriculum consultant at the college, had called the Hamas attacks, which killed close to 1,200 people, “an amazing, brilliant offensive” during a pro-Palestinian rally in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery on Oct. 28.

Nevertheless, Knight was not let go as a result of those comments but rather because of an appearance she made at a rally on Jan. 23.

Though Langara has not as yet publicly stated that Knight was the person who was fired, several media outlets and Jewish organizations have indicated that it was her.

Langara had condemned Knight’s original remarks glorifying violence against Israelis last fall—saying they do not represent the views of the college. However, the school decided at the time to place her on leave while it conducted an internal investigation. 

The college’s investigation concluded that Knight’s “comments were not clearly outside the bounds of protected expression.”

Knight was thus reinstated by the college this semester under the assumption that she would comply with the college’s policies supporting a safe, respectful and inclusive working and learning environment. Further, the college said she was “expected to take care to ensure any future remarks could not reasonably be interpreted as celebrating violence against civilians.”

While not naming Knight in its Jan. 26 statement, Langara said the person in question “proceeded to engage in activities contrary to the expectations laid out by the college and as a result this employee is no longer an employee.”

“Our province has seen reprehensible acts of hate and discrimination in recent months,” the college said. “We are focused on supporting those in our community who are living with immense pain over the continuing violence and tragic loss of life in the Middle East. Everyone deserves to feel safe in our campus community.”

The school newspaper, The Langara Voice, reported on Jan. 24 that Knight had spoken at a pro-Palestinian rally last Tuesday outside a metro station close to the Langara campus.

The paper quoted Knight as saying, “I’ve been reinstated as an instructor with no disciplinary actions, which means we won. It means we won. It means I did nothing wrong. It means none of you are doing anything wrong.”

In a photograph that appeared on the paper’s website Knight can be seen holding a sign reading, “There is one solution: INTIFADA, REVOLUTION.”

The Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of British Columbia and the Langara Faculty Association declined to comment. However, in a statement issued Jan. 26 they said that Knight’s dismissal violated academic freedom.

“While we understand that some members of the community may be offended and distressed by the remarks made at these demonstrations, the remarks, as evidenced by Langara’s own report, are clearly protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and do not constitute hate speech. It is shameful that a post-secondary institution would attempt to police protected speech under external pressure instead of supporting academic freedom and freedom of expression,” the faculty association said.

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) said it was pleased by Langara’s decision to dismiss Knight.

“Accountability matters, and this is a step that will help restore trust between the college and its Jewish and Israeli students, staff and faculty,” said Nico Slobinsky, CIJA’s vice-president for the Pacific Region.

“(Knight) demonstrably failed in her obligation as an instructor to create a safe environment for all students. By dismissing Knight, Langara College has acted to ensure the safety of its Jewish and Israeli community and taken a stand against antisemitism and the glorification of terrorism.”

Ezra Shanken, the CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver, said that while the organization supports freedom of speech and academic freedom, these must come within a framework that is safe, respectful and inclusive for all those engaged on campus.

“Having a supporter of terrorism working at any college or university is not only of grave concern to the Jewish community, but to all law-abiding Canadians. I want to thank Langara College for doing the right thing,” Shanken said.

In a video interview posted on Instagram on Thursday, the day prior to her dismissal, Knight said she was a member of United in Struggle, a Vancouver group that describes itself on its website as “committed to uniting workers, Indigenous peoples and the poor in our city against the common enemy who exploits and oppresses all of us: the big monopoly capitalist class and the state that serves them.”

Knight said in the interview, which appeared to have been recorded in November, that the “ruling class, Zionists and imperialists” – in addition to pressure from the government of British Columbia – were behind the efforts to have her removed from her faculty position.

Throughout the interview, Knight did not seem to demonstrate any indication of toning down her unapologetic support of the Hamas attacks.  

In 2020, Knight organized anti-pipeline protests in Vancouver which blocked roads and occupied the offices of key politicians in the province.

Langara said the office of provost at the school will soon be reaching out to the college community and work with those who have been impacted by recent events.  The school expressed a commitment to creating, through programming and supports, “an environment that will allow us to learn, grow, and begin to heal.”

Founded in 1965, Langara is an independent public college located in Vancouver’s Oakridge neighbourhood.  It provides university studies, career studies and continuing studies programs and courses to more than 23,000 students annually.