UNBC sent out a terse press release late Friday, announcing that UNBC board of governors chair Aaron Ekman has been relieved of his duties effective immediately.
No reason was provided for the move but advanced education minister Anne Kang issued this statement:
“Our government and the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) are deeply committed to tackling racism and hate in all its forms. We have high standards for public appointees, and racist and discriminatory comments from public appointments to post-secondary institutions will not be tolerated. I am removing Aaron Ekman from his position.
“We will continue supporting universities and colleges as they work to provide top-quality education and build safe and inclusive communities for students and staff.”
In its statement, UNBC added that it "is firmly committed to the principles of equity, diversity and inclusion. The university community has come together frequently over the past year to confront and discuss issues of race, discrimination and systemic inequalities; comments that hinder those important conversations are contrary to the university’s values."
UNBC board vice-chair Andrew Robinson has been named interim board chair.
UNBC ended their statement by stating "the university will not comment further on the matter."
Ekman, who was born in Terrace, became involved in the labour movement while working in construction. In 2009, he was elected the president of the Prince George and District Labour Council and in 2011 he became the founding president of the North Central Labour Council. In 2014, Ekman was elected secretary-treasurer of the B.C. Federation of Labour and served two terms.
Ekman served on the UNBC board of governors as a provincial appointee since May 2018 and was named board chair in July 2020.
The 15-member UNBC board is responsible for the management, administration and finances of the university. The board includes UNBC's president and chancellor, eight provincial appointees and five elected members – two students, two faculty members and one staff member.