Langara Faculty Association and federation of faculty unions disappointed at Natalie Knight’s termination

Contrary to college’s claims, LFA and FPSE say instructor’s return had no conditions

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By JACOB ARON LEUNG

This story was originally published on Jan. 29, 2024. 

Hours after Langara College announced the termination of controversial English instructor Natalie Knight, the Langara Faculty Association (LFA) and the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC (FPSE) said they were “surprised and disappointed” at the decision.

The LFA and FPSE called Knight’s termination “arbitrary” and deemed no “fulsome investigation or due process” had been conducted around the events that led to her firing on Friday.

Knight’s reinstatement

Knight, who has come under fire since publicly calling the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on Israeli citizens “amazing” and “brilliant” at a protest downtown, was placed on paid leave later that month. According to the LFA and FPSE, she was reinstated on Jan. 18. The same day, the Voice reached out for comment to the college regarding Knight’s employment status and whether she would be returning from leave but was told there were no updates. Meanwhile, the LFA said it could neither offer an interview to the Voice nor discuss the topic.

Posters calling for Knight’s return to work began appearing around campus and online in the days leading up to the Jan. 23 rally.

The march

With the college remaining silent about the decision, Knight announced her reinstatement at a rally that marched from Langara-49th Station onto campus. There, she called her reinstatement a victory, saying it validated that she had done “nothing wrong.”

Two days later, Selina Robinson, B.C.’s Minister of Post-Secondary Education and Future Skills, tweeted her displeasure at Knight’s reinstatement.

“I am disappointed that this instructor continues to have a public post secondary platform to spew hatred and vitriol,” she said on X, adding that she had met with Langara officials to express her concerns for the college and broader communities. Robinson said they all “agreed that everyone deserves to feel safe.”

Knight fired

The next day, the college announced Knight’s termination, saying she failed to meet the conditions attached to her return. The college statement said while an investigation had determined that Knight’s comments in October were “not clearly outside the bounds of protected expression” and that she could return to work, Knight’s conditions of return included refraining 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.”

However, according to the college, she immediately breached those conditions.

“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,” Langara president Paula Burns said in her statement.

The college’s decision to terminate Knight came on the same day as the United Nations’ International Court of Justice delivered its interim ruling ordering Israel to do everything in its power to avoid killing Palestinians, causing them serious harm and any acts of genocide in Gaza, but fell short of ordering a ceasefire. The ruling also called on Hamas, which controls Gaza, to release hostages taken in the Oct. 7 attack.

The Voice reached out to the college, which did not have a comment by end of day. Calls to Knight, Robinson, the LFA and FPSE were not returned by publication deadline.

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