Langara College terminates instructor after she announced her reinstatement

President says Natalie Knight broke the conditions of her return following pro-Hamas comments



This story was originally published on Jan. 26, 2024. 

In a stunning turn of events, Langara College announced Friday it has terminated an instructor at the centre of controversy over publicly calling the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on Israeli citizens “amazing” and “brilliant.”

The announcement comes three days after English instructor and Indigenous curriculum consultant Natalie Knight declared at a rally she had been reinstated without discipline by the college. After marching onto the Langara campus with pro-Palestine supporters, she told students she had been vindicated. The college refused to confirm her reinstatement to students or media or issue any comment until Langara president Paula Burns issued a college-wide email Friday.

In the email to the Langara community, Burns said it was determined following an investigation that Knight’s comments in October were not clearly outside the bounds of protected expression and she could return to work. But following Tuesday’s rally, the college subsequently reversed its decision.

“The employee 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 of Langara College,” Burns said.

The president said while the college had agreed Knight could return to work, conditions were attached including that Knight would refrain from making any future remarks that could be interpreted as celebrating violence against civilians. In addition, she would comply with “the college’s policies and initiatives which support a safe, respectful, and inclusive learning and working environment.”

The Voice attempted to reach Knight for comment but had not received a response by the time of publication.

On campus Tuesday, Knight told the Voice she announced her reinstatement as a victory at the rally because people need to “know that you can have the right to speak out, and you can face repression, and still win.”

“They made it seem like I did something wrong,” she said. “So it can damage people’s sense of confidence. That’s why we wanted to come in and kind of announce that as a victory.”

In her email, Burns said the college takes seriously its responsibility to create a safe and respectful environment, free from discrimination.

“This is why we were very concerned about the events which unfolded at a rally on Langara campus this week,” she said.

At a rally in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery on Oct. 28, Knight called the Hamas attack an “amazing, brilliant offensive.” Her comments ignited immediate controversy, and she was placed on leave in November after a video of her controversial comments was widely shared on social media.

Those comments “did not and do not reflect the values of the College,” Burns said. “We condemned those comments.”

During Tuesday’s rally, Knight was vocal in front of Langara-49th Avenue Station, telling students she would return to the college this semester. Once the rally made its way onto campus, she did not speak publicly though she spoke to reporters. Knight told the Voice she had been prohibited from being on campus during her leave.

— with files from Mateo Muego

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