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No internal records about Premier Eby's social media mix-up

A erroneous message was posted by the premier's team on Jan. 27, International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
B.C. Premier David Eby. | Photo: Government of B.C./Flickr

Premier David Eby’s staff either kept no records or deleted the records that existed after his social media accounts errantly displayed a message about the national day against Islamophobia on the international day to remember Holocaust victims.

Eby’s Jan. 27 message on X, formerly Twitter, and Instagram said “we stand with the Muslim community throughout Canada on this sorrowful day of remembrance.” It should have run Jan. 29, the anniversary of the 2017 killing of six people at a Quebec City mosque.

In 2005, the United Nations declared Jan. 27 as International Holocaust Remembrance Day, to coincide with the anniversary of the 1945 liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp.  

A freedom of information (FOI) request sought copies of the schedule of Eby’s social media posts for Jan. 27-29, the approved text and related correspondence about the approval for each post, and copies of correspondence by email, text and Slack about the error and the correction.

The request asked for records to be found in the accounts of the NDP premier’s chief of staff Matt Smith and communications staff George Smith, Manveer Sihota, Bhinder Sajan and Jimmy Smith.

“Although a thorough search was conducted, no records were located in response to your request,” said the March 12 letter from Information Access Operations manager Cindy Elbahir. 

Eby press secretary Jimmy Smith said Friday that the issue on the final weekend of January was “handled by a number of phone calls to address the need to respond extremely quickly.”

As for the other information, including the approved wording and schedule of publication of social media posts, Smith said that those items would have been deemed transitory, or temporarily useful, and not required to be kept. 

“If there's no decisions that are made by statutory decision makers for records, then good records management includes clearing out drafts,” Smith said. 

While in opposition, the NDP slammed the BC Liberals for “triple deleting” records and promised new measures, including a duty to document law. However, officials in Premier John Horgan’s office were caught mass-deleting email. 

Horgan tried in 2021 to exempt the Premier’s Office from the FOI law, but the amendment was abandoned. The law, however, does threaten a fine of up to $50,000 for wilfully concealing, destroying or altering records in order to avoid complying with an FOI request.

Someone on Eby’s staff corrected the Jan. 27 mix-up and posted an apology on Eby’s account later that day. During a news conference in Ottawa two days later, Eby called the incident unacceptable and apologized to “anyone who was hurt by this error that was made.” He refused to discuss any related personnel matter. 

“We have taken steps to confirm the content of any of my public statements that are issued by social media before they are released,” Eby told reporters. 

Asked for details about the new measures and procedures, Smith declined to talk about them.

“I'm not in a position right now to divulge exactly how all processes work within the premier's office,” Smith said. 

Just over a week after the incident, Selina Robinson stepped down as Minister of Post-Secondary Education and Future Skills for comments she made during a B’nai Brith web conference that described pre-1948 Palestine as a “crappy piece of land.” Robinson, who is Jewish, had apologized and promised to take anti-Islamophobia training. 

On March 6, Robinson quit caucus and issued an open letter that accused several NDP MLAs of antisemitism. Eby has resisted calls from BC United and the Conservatives to conduct an investigation. 

Eby met with Jewish community leaders on March 8, the same day his Deputy Minister, Shannon Salter, sent a memo to government workers that said “we do not tolerate antisemitism in the B.C. Public Service.”

March 15 was the International Day to Combat Islamophobia. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a statement, but Eby did not.