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Alberta justice minister asks human rights chief to step down after calls from Muslim community

Alberta's justice minister has asked for the resignation of the province's chief of the Alberta Human Rights Commission just months after he assumed the position.

Lawyer Collin May was appointed chief of the commission in May this year, after three years of being a member. He was to begin his duties as chief effective July 14 and serve a term of five years.

On Monday, the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) released a letter it sent to Justice Minister Tyler Shandro signed by 28 Muslim organizations and mosques in Alberta calling for May's resignation over comments he made in a book in 2009.

May reviewed Israeli-British historian Efraim Karsh's book "Islamic Imperialism: A History," where he said Islam was not a "peaceful religion misused by radicals" but is "one of the most militaristic religions known to man."

"It is precisely this militaristic heritage that informs the actions of radicals throughout the Muslim world," May added in the review.

Despite the Islamaphobic comments, Said Omar, NCCM Alberta advocacy officer, said organizations remained committed to helping May meet with Muslim leaders so he "could reflect on his actions."

"Dates were put forward to Mr. May to meet with leaders of Alberta's Muslim community," Omar said. "He declined those dates. Then we proceeded to ask Mr. May to provide us with dates he would be available to meet, and unfortunately, Mr. May did not follow up."

"We have learned that Mr. May was also issuing demand letters threatening to sue his critics," the NCCM said. "We believe this is not conducive to building trust and mutual understanding."

The NCCM said it does not ask for "resignations lightly" and is not interested in promoting "reactionary culture wars," but May's behaviour "cannot" be tolerated while holding the position of chief of the human rights commission.

Omar told CTV News Edmonton in an interview that Islam is premised on the notion of forgiveness and redemption.

"Many of the Alberta Muslim community members have reached out to us and they were very shocked and disappointed that Mr. May expressed stereotypical views about Islam that no one holds to," he said.

Joseph Dow, Shandro's press secretary, told CTV News Edmonton that in July, May committed to meeting with Alberta Muslim community leaders.

After receiving the NCCM letter saying May had not met with them, Dow says, the province requested an explanation from him.

"After reviewing the explanation, Minister Shandro has asked for Mr. May's resignation," Dow added.

No further information was available from the province.

"In a time where brazen attacks on Muslims in Alberta have been growing, specifically targeting Black Muslim women wearing hijab, Mr. May's decision to threaten to sue his critics, while simultaneously suggesting outreach with Alberta's Muslim communities, have been extraordinary and shocking," the NCCM said.

Irfan Sabir, the NDP justice critic, said in a statement that Shandro "must listen" to the Muslim community.

"May was given an opportunity to apologize and make amends for these hateful views, but refused," Sabir said. "Instead, he threatened legal action against his critics."

"Muslims in Canada are targeted for harassment, assault, and murder purely because of their faith," Sabir added. "The views expressed by Collin May perpetuate hatred and are completely unacceptable for the chair of the Alberta Human Rights Commission."

CTV News Edmonton reached out to Alberta's Human Rights Commission for a response. Top Stories

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