Nfld. & Labrador

Muslim groups call for MUN to take action against 'Islamaphobe' doctor and systemic racism

A letter signed by four provincial and national Muslim associations says Zachary Kuehner violated several professional standards, and criticizes MUN's response to questions.

National and provincial groups voice concern over Zachary Kuehner and MUN's response

A letter signed by four Muslim associations says a doctor accused of making racist comments violated several professional standards. (Memorial University)

A letter signed by four provincial and national Muslim associations says a doctor accused of making racist comments violated several professional standards, and criticizes Memorial University's response to the incidents.

Zachary Kuehner, a second-year resident at the school, came under fire for his use of the word "Islamophobe" in his Twitter bio, and for arguments about the Black Lives Matter movement.

A group of undergraduate medical students wrote a letter to the school to express their dismay. Now the National Council of Canadian Muslims has spearheaded a letter to the dean of medicine, Margaret Steele.

"Given the circumstances, it is clear that Dr. Kuehner does not meet the professional standards of training as a family physician," says the letter. "His blasé and clear identification of himself as an Islamophobe leads to a reasonable apprehension of bias against members of the Canadian Muslim community."

Zachary Kuehner's Twitter profile has drawn the ire of undergraduate medical students at Memorial University who wrote a letter to the dean of medicine about his use of the word 'Islamophobe' and other social media comments. (Twitter)

The letter is co-signed by the Muslim Medical Association of Canada, the Muslim Association of Newfoundland and Labrador, and Addressing Islamophobia NL.

In messages to CBC News earlier this week, Kuehner denied being racist or bigoted in his views, and said his comments were taken out of context. He declined an invitation to provide context, saying he would have no further comment until an investigation had been completed.

The MMAC letter highlights specific policies at Memorial University and the province's college of physician and surgeons that the groups say were violated by Kuehner's comments.

Those guidelines include regulations on social media that state a physician cannot post things online that could be harmful to patients or co-workers, or be deemed unprofessional.

The full letter can be viewed here:

The letter also takes issue with Memorial University's response to the students' letter and media requests that followed.

Nowhere in Steele's initial response to CBC News did she mention racism or bigotry. When asked why, a spokesperson for the dean said it was because she couldn't comment on this specific case.

MMAC asked MUN to issue a followup statement condemning all forms of racism, commit to zero tolerance of "explicit or implicit racism," and a commitment to mitigate further racism through facultywide training.

"Given the situation, systemic change is needed," the letter states. "Such change could perhaps be accomplished through collaboration with groups that have built longstanding relationships at MUN in this space like Addressing Islamophobia in NL project or through the Muslim Association of Newfoundland and Labrador."

Steele did release a public statement on Friday, condemning racism of all kinds — namely against Black, Indigenous and Muslim learners.

"We value every individual regardless of race, color, gender, religion or ethnicity. This includes Black, Indigenous, people of color and Muslims. We have been committed to and have prioritized a culture of excellence which respects and values everyone," the statement reads.

"Regarding the issue raised this week with respect to one of our learners, the faculty of medicine is dealing with this issue in accordance with its policies and procedures."

Steele reiterated the school cannot comment on an individual case and must respect the privacy and complainants and the recipients of complaints, but said it was "active within university procedures."

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