Three days after Alberta Premier Danielle Smith unveiled an advisory council on multiculturalism, a member has resigned after the opposition party revealed his history of antisemitic social media posts, including Holocaust denial.
Smith announced the 30-member Premier’s Council on Multiculturalism on April 14, co-chaired by court interpreter Sumita Anand and University of Alberta women’s studies academic Philomina Okeke-Ihejirika.
The council includes lawyer Jackie Halpern, who sits on the board of directors of the Jewish Community Foundation of Calgary and previously served on the Calgary-Glenmore PC Constituency Association.
Until April 17, it also included Tariq Khan, a Calgary realtor who unsuccessfully ran for city council in the 2021 municipal election.
The Opposition NDP, which is running neck-and-neck with Smith’s UCP in next month’s provincial election, demanded Khan’s removal after revealing a 2018 letter from the UCP rejecting his candidacy that referred to a video where he called the Holocaust a hoax.
“As has been repeatedly made clear, we will take appropriate action to protect the Party and its many members from serious reputational harm. As such, I must inform you that the Nominations Committee has determined that you are ineligible to stand for a UCP nomination contest,” reads the letter from UCP executive director Janice Harrington, dated Oct. 26, 2018.
The opposition party also provided a screenshot of a 2014 Facebook post from Khan featuring an image of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with a Star of David on his head as he feasts on a child’s blood, captioned “Can’t get enough.”
Harrington’s letter also notes this “highly offensive image,” which “appears to invoke the pernicious anti-Semitic [sic] falsehood of the blood libel.”
More recent posts on Khan’s Facebook profile indicate continued involvement with the UCP. He posted a photo album from last year’s UCP annual general meeting, including a photo with his “great friends” Minister of Children’s Services Mickey Amery and Minister of Municipal Affairs Rebecca Schulz.
In an email to The CJN, two days after he submitted his resignation, Khan said he apologized to the Jewish community for “sharing a hateful post on my personal social media over 10 years ago.”
“At the time, I was new to social media and did not fully understand the consequences of my actions. I shared many posts that came across my social media feed without considering the impact it could have on others.”
Khan said he did not recall sharing a video that denied the Holocaust, but said he had always viewed it as “a real and terrible tragedy.”
Smith’s office told The Canadian Press that she accepted Khan’s resignation and condemns “all forms of intolerance and hate.”
Deputy Premier Kaycee Madu told reporters that the government intends to “close whatever gap that existed that made it impossible for us to catch this serious error.”
“We are humans. I think what is important is that when… it’s brought to our attention, we will fix the problem,” he added.
NDP leader Rachel Notley said Khan’s appointment was “beyond odd.”
“It’s either demonstrative of next-level incompetence from the premier’s office … or it’s demonstrative of a genuine desire to divide and discriminate and promote racism,” Notley said.
Jewish Federation of Edmonton CEO Stacey Leavitt-Wright didn’t respond to an email request for comment.
On Twitter, the federation shared an April 17 statement from Smith commemorating Yom ha-Shoah thanking the premier “for standing in solidarity with the Jewish community.”
Smith, a former broadcaster, newspaper columnist, school board trustee and corporate lobbyist, has been repeatedly criticized for her embrace of online conspiracy theories, especially those related to the COVID pandemic and vaccination.
In March 2021, she wrote a Calgary Herald column comparing mandatory vaccines to Nazi medical experiments during the Holocaust.
Shortly after she narrowly defeated former finance minister Travis Toews for the UCP leadership, she was revealed to have twice linked to a blog known to publish antisemitic material.
The links she shared, which were about digital banking and Russia’s war in Ukraine, weren’t themselves antisemitic, but elsewhere the blog references “Rothschild Zionism” and “global Jewish banking mafia families.”
In response to the CBC’s request for comment on the blog’s contents, Smith said antisemitism “has no place in society.”
(This story has been updated on April 19, to include a comment from Tariq Khan.)