Feds probe ‘disturbing’ tweets by consultant on government-funded anti-racism project

One of the things I learned when working under the Conservative government was to ensure we checked social media posts of those in leadership positions in groups applying for G&C funding. We learned this the hard way when political staffers would flag particularly egregious or overly ideological postings, thus removing the proposal from being considered.

And of course, this needs to be applied broadly and consistently across organizations and funding requests:

The federal diversity minister says he’s taking action over “disturbing” tweets by a senior consultant on an anti-racism project that received $133,000 from his department.

Ahmed Hussen has asked Canadian Heritage to “look closely at the situation” after what he called “unacceptable behaviour” by Laith Marouf, a senior consultant involved in the government-funded project to combat racism in broadcasting.

Marouf’s Twitter account is private but a screenshot posted online shows a number of tweets with his photo and name.

One tweet said: “You know all those loud mouthed bags of human feces, aka the Jewish White Supremacists; when we liberate Palestine and they have to go back to where they come from, they will return to being low voiced bitches of thier (sic) Christian/Secular White Supremacist Masters.”

Marouf declined requests for comment, but when asked about the tweet, a lawyer acting for Marouf asked for his client’s tweets to be quoted “verbatim” and distinguished between Marouf’s “clear reference to ‘Jewish white supremacists,’” and Jews or Jewish people in general.

Marouf does not harbour “any animus toward the Jewish faith as a collective group,” lawyer Stephen Ellis said in an email.

Last year, the Community Media Advocacy Centre received a $133,800 Heritage Department grant to build an anti-racism strategy for Canadian broadcasting.

Marouf is listed as a senior consultant on CMAC’s website and is quoted saying that CMAC is “excited to launch” the “Building an Anti-Racism Strategy for Canadian Broadcasting: Conversation & Convergence Initiative” with funding support from Heritage’s anti-racism action program.

He expressed gratitude to “Canadian Heritage for their partnership and trust imposed on us,” saying that CMAC commits to “ensuring the successful and responsible execution of the project.”

Hussen, who is based in the Heritage Department, said in a statement: “We condemn this unacceptable behaviour by an individual working in an organization dedicated to fighting racism and discrimination.”

“Our position is clear — antisemitism and any form of hate have no place in Canada. That is why I have asked Canadian Heritage to look closely at the situation involving disturbing comments made by the individual in question. We will address this with the organization accordingly, as this clearly goes against our government’s values,” Hussen added.

CMAC did not respond to a request for comment.

Irwin Cotler, a former Liberal justice minister who was appointed as Canada’s special envoy on antisemitism by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, said Marouf’s tweet referring to “loud mouthed bags of human feces” was “beyond the pale.”

Cotler said he plans to speak to officials working in the Heritage department on combating racism about the issue.

Shimon Koffler Fogel, president and CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, said Canadians “should be appalled” by his tweets.

“Canadian Heritage must review its oversight policies to ensure Canadian taxpayer dollars are provided to groups committed to cherished Canadian values and to combating racism, hate, and discrimination,” he said.

Source: Feds probe ‘disturbing’ tweets by consultant on government-funded anti-racism project

Feds announce four new passport service sites as backlog continues


Good service improvement move but will have limited impact on backlog. That being said, Service Canada data indicates progress compared to earlier months, although the number of applications is still greater than the number of passports issued.

Hopefully, ESDC/Service Canada and IRCC will publish monthly passport stats (applications and issued) on opendata as per other immigration and citizenship stats:

The federal government is adding new passport service locations across Canada as a backlog in processing applications continues.

Social Development Minister Karina Gould announced Wednesday that people can now apply for and pick up passports at Service Canada centres in Red Deer, Alta., Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., Trois-Rivières, Que., and Charlottetown, P.E.I.

That’s on top of five new locations added in July, and Gould expects to bring another seven to nine locations into the program soon.

“I think this is a really important and long-overdue change,” she said in an interview. “Those of us who live in more urban areas, we don’t realize that we’re so lucky to be close to a passport office.”

The additions should make it easier for people outside large centres to access services and ease stress on offices in regional hubs, she added.

No new federal money was required to make the change, Gould said. Resources come out of a revolving fund made up of passport fees. 

Gould said the current crisis and complaints over long wait times have accelerated the work but she was already looking at bringing passport services to more locations before the backlog.

She visited Sault Ste. Marie in April, before media began reporting on complaints over wait times. The local Liberal MP, Terry Sheehan, told Gould that people in the Sault had to drive seven or eight hours to Thunder Bay or Toronto to visit a passport office in person. 

Until Wednesday, there was no passport office on Prince Edward Island.

“So I was starting to already look at who is not close, and how can we fix this,” she said. “And then it became that much more acute.” 

Nearly 1.1 million applications for new and renewed passports have been filed since April as pandemic restrictions loosen and Canadians resume travelling. 

More than one-quarter of those hadn’t yet been processed as of early August.

Government statistics show the system is starting to catch up with demand, as the gulf between the number of passport applications each month versus the number of passports issued is getting smaller. 

Call centre wait times have gone down significantly and “triage measures” were implemented at 17 passport offices to mitigate in-person headaches.

Gould said 442 new employees were hired so far this summer and 300 are already trained and working.

But a large backlog remains.

In the first week of August, the number of passports issued within 40 business days of an application fell to 72 per cent from 81 per cent the week before.

That is largely because of mailed applications.

During the first week of August, passports from in-person applications were issued within the government’s 10-day service standard 95 per cent of the time, a rate that has remained steady throughout the summer.

For mailed applications the service standard of 20 days was met only 40 per cent of the time in early August, down from 53 per cent in late July. The government also warns it can take more than 13 weeks to get your passport by mail.

The overall numbers aren’t materially better than in June, when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was forced to respond to growing complaints and called the system’s performance “unacceptable.” 

The week of June 20, 76 per cent of passports were issued within 40 business days.

The processing times also don’t take into account the wait to get an in-person appointment and there are only a limited number of walk-ins available.

Proof of upcoming travel is required to get service within two months at offices with 10-day processing times, including those announced Wednesday.

Urgent services for people who can prove they need a passport within 48 hours are only available in bigger urban centres — Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Gatineau, Que., and Quebec City.

As the backlash over the wait times continues, some reports suggest Canadians are making “fake” travel plans to show to passport officers, then cancelling their flights once their application is in the queue. 

Gould said she’s not aware of this being a “widespread issue” but she has heard about it anecdotally. “I strongly discourage Canadians to do that. It’s unfair, it’s unkind and it’s unnecessary,” she said. 

Gould said at the morning press conference that the government failed to predict to what extent demand would sharply spike earlier this year. She insisted an unexpected glut of mailed-in applications is the main culprit in the passport delays.

Although she wouldn’t comment on the specifics of its deliberations, she said a cabinet committee stood up earlier this year — the Task Force on Services to Canadians — is looking at how to make sure that services under federal jurisdiction are being delivered in “a timely and effective way” that takes the toll of the pandemic into account.

Source: Feds announce four new passport service sites as backlog continues

Trudel: Les mots et leur contexte

Indeed. Context and intent are essential:

Cet été, le CRTC a fait fi de la loi qu’il a pourtant mandat d’appliquer et condamné l’usage d’un mot faisant partie du titre d’un livre sans même prendre la peine de considérer le contexte. Dans le même esprit, le festival Osheaga s’est senti tenu de s’excuser parce qu’un rappeur invité portait un chandail dénonçant le fascisme, mais… qui arborait une croix gammée… Ce refus de considérer le contexte des mots ou des images est l’un des principaux verrous à la mise en place de mesures pour lutter contre les propos préjudiciables en ligne ou ailleurs.

Tenir compte du contexte est une condition de la possibilité de débattre et de discuter. Les mots peuvent blesser, humilier ou exclure. Mais le refus de considérer le contexte d’énonciation d’un mot ou de la diffusion d’une image constitue une grave menace à la liberté d’expression. Il est impossible d’appliquer quelque règle limitant des activités expressives si on postule que le contexte d’énonciation d’un mot ou de diffusion d’une image est sans pertinence.

Les normes d’usage du langage reflètent les évolutions qui se manifestent sur le plan des sensibilités. Celles-ci reflètent les changements dans la reconnaissance de certaines réalités. Par exemple, en 2022, une personne raisonnable n’utilisera pas à tort et à travers des mots portant une charge douloureuse pour des personnes appartenant à des minorités raciales. Alors qu’au début du XXe siècle, certains mots aujourd’hui jugés péjoratifs étaient consignés même dans les documents officiels, il est admis de nos jours qu’une personne raisonnable doit les utiliser avec un minimum de précautions.

Il est légitime de critiquer quelqu’un qui fait le choix de s’exprimer comme on le faisait il y a plusieurs décennies en faisant fi des significations douloureuses de certains mots ou certaines images. Chacun a la faculté de faire des reproches à une personne qui s’exprime de façon maladroite.

Par contre, les autorités publiques ne peuvent punir que les propos contrevenant à une règle de droit, c’est-à-dire une règle connue édictée par les élus. La possibilité pratique d’appliquer les lois requiert de regarder le contexte des mots et des images. Lorsque la liberté d’expression a valeur constitutionnelle, il est essentiel de convenir des raisonnements par lesquels on détermine si un propos a dépassé les limites permises par les lois. Cela est impossible si on ne prend pas la peine de considérer le contexte d’énonciation d’un propos.

De fait, toutes les lois qui punissent ou interdisent des propos prescrivent de regarder le contexte d’énonciation. Au regard de la loi, il n’y a pas de mots ou d’images qui seraient interdits en toutes circonstances. Mais selon le contexte, l’usage d’un mot peut se révéler fautif au regard de la loi. Par exemple, la loi fait une différence entre le fait d’apostropher une personne en lui lançant le mot en n précédé du mot « sale » et le fait de citer le titre d’un livre comportant le mot.

C’est pourquoi l’appel à des sanctions pour avoir prononcé un mot ou exhibé un signe sans égard au contexte est un indice affligeant de la détérioration des conditions qui permettent d’appliquer les limites aux libertés expressives. C’est une entrave à la possibilité de débattre.

Cibler les propos malveillants

En quoi le fait d’accabler ceux qui s’expriment en dehors de tout dessein malveillant permet de faire avancer la lutte contre le harcèlement, l’exclusion et les discriminations ? Il est plutôt à craindre que cela contribue à légitimer les positions de ceux qui s’opposent à la mise en place de mesures proportionnées destinées à lutter contre les propos vraiment abusifs.

Ici et dans d’autres pays, les autorités publiques s’apprêtent à mettre de l’avant des mesures législatives afin de lutter contre le harcèlement et l’intimidation raciste, homophobe ou sexiste, notamment dans les environnements en ligne, où c’est un fléau. Certains sont prompts à crier à la censure aussitôt que de telles mesures sont mises de l’avant. On brandit en exemple les sanctions imposées ou réclamées à l’encontre de ceux qui font un usage parfaitement légitime de certains mots.

Dans une société qui reconnaît la liberté d’expression, il est essentiel de distinguer l’usage malveillant et les usages légitimes des mots et des images. Les lois limitant la liberté d’expression ne peuvent s’appliquer qu’en examinant le contexte d’énonciation des mots et de diffusion des images. Faire fi de cela conduit à censurer dès lors qu’une personne se met à affirmer que certains mots lui sont choquants. C’est incompatible avec la liberté d’expression.

Il est légitime de rappeler, comme on le fait chaque fois qu’éclate une controverse, que des mots sont associés à des souffrances et sont trop souvent utilisés dans un contexte malveillant. Mais pendant que l’on s’épuise à multiplier les condamnations pour des mots et des images pris hors contexte, les propos haineux — les vrais — continuent de sévir. Confondre les propos méprisants et ceux diffusés sans malveillance contribue à délégitimer la mise en place de mesures efficaces contre les propos vraiment préjudiciables. Ce sont les victimes de harcèlement raciste, sexiste ou homophobe qui paient le prix de ce refus de considérer le contexte des mots et des images.

Source: Les mots et leur contexte

CRTC CBC License Renewal: “equity-seeking communities” requirements

Of interest and thanks to Sarkonak for noticing this change and The Line for bringing it to wider attention.,

Significant change from softer encouragement to hard targets, one that suggests the government may adapt a similar approach to employment equity in the public service and possibly federally-regulated sectors (e.g., bank, communications and transport), even if the original policy based on self-declaration and annual reporting has resulted in a much more diverse public service.

I also think their caution that such overt political goals run the risk of undermining the perceived independence of the CRTC and the CBC, one that a future government may use for its own political priorities:

We at The Line have a confession: we don’t slavishly follow every item coming and going out of the CRTC — although it is becoming increasingly clear that we ought to. So we admit that we missed, in June, the decision that came from this regulatory body that renewed CBC’s broadcasting license for another five years. 

Because, frankly, this is usually pretty rubber stamp stuff. 

So credit where it is due, we must tip the hat to Jamie Sarkonak for noticing some pretty significant changes in this renewal notice. 

Jamie Sarkonak @sarkonakjThe CRTC @CRTCeng just imposed DEI requirements onto CBC programming. CBC must dedicate 30% of its independent programming budget to the following identity categories: Indigenous, language minorities, visible minorities, disabled, and LGBTQ. #cdnpoli crtc.gc.ca/eng/archive/20…


We read through the renewal notice ourselves and, yeah, she is correct. The CBC has a vague public mandate to inform and entertain Canadians for the purpose of creating a kind of shared national identity. Implicit in this mandate is the notion that the public broadcaster ought to broadly reflect and represent the Canadians who pay its bills. To that end, although previously the CBC could certainly choose to devote resources to “Canada’s equity-seeking communities” (and it certainly has!) never before to our knowledge has it been required to devote specific expenditure requirements to those communities as part of its license renewal. 

From the ruling: 

“As such, the Commission is imposing on the CBC the following requirements to ensure that equity-seeking communities are not only reflected in the public broadcaster’s programming, but that the programming is relevant to them.”

The CRTC is demanding a “fixed portion of independent programming expenditures directed to official language minority communities (OLMC), racialized Canadians, Canadians with disabilities, and Canadians who self-identify as LGBTQ2.” Additionally, it will grant a: “‘woman intersectionality credit’ to incentivize expenditures on productions produced by Indigenous Peoples, racialized persons, persons with disabilities, and persons who self-identify as LGBTQ2, who also self-identify as women.”

There are additional requirements for French language programming, of course. 

This line also caught our attention from the notice: 

“The Commission supports the Government of Canada’s commitment to renewing the relationship with Indigenous Peoples, based on the recognition of rights, respect, co-operation and partnership. On a broader level, the Commission also recognizes that Call to Action 84 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) tie into some of the objectives of the Broadcasting Act in that they refer to the reflection of Indigenous Peoples in the programming broadcast by the CBC.” 

The CRTC is demanding changes to the election of the CBC ombudsman to ensure he or she is “sensitive to issues surrounding Indigenous people, racialized Canadians and other equity-seeking communities.” 

It is also setting out “new expectations regarding the CBC’s Journalistic Standards and Practices to help ensure that journalists can provide relevant feedback and equity-seeking communities are consulted in any future review of the JSP.” 

(The JSP is basically the bible of CBC journalism and guides its employees in how it approaches reporting, analysis and opinion. The JSP has come under particular scrutiny in recent years when it was alleged that the expectation of “objective” journalism would distort how the outlet approaches racism. Attentive readers will note the obvious allusion to “moral clarity” here.)

Whether or not you agree with the outcomes being sought, what is clear is that the CRTC (which is appointed by the governor general, on advice of the privy council) is having explicitly political goals written into its license renewals. 

Now, don’t misread us, here. The CBC ought to be free to pursue equity goals in programming, or reviews of its JSP, or whatever it feels necessary to meet its mandate according to its own discretion. We happen think these outcomes are best exercised by trusted leaders and experienced producers who have the latitude to use editorial discretion, rather than by rigid quota or expenditure goals. 

To have these demands placed on it by an external regulator in order to fulfil the political goals of that regulator and, ultimately, its political masters, is playing with fire in the worst kind of way. 

For starters, one of the first pieces we ran here at The Line was from a documentary filmmaker who noted the ways in which diversity quotas shifted incentives in filmmaking. Just as students write to the test, quotas of this sort shift the focus in content production, forcing creators to produce content that checks a box, rather than fulfil a real audience desire. This creates a CBC that is dooming itself to be less relevant to the general public even as its relevance is growing more crucial thanks to the economic collapse of private media. The system is all the more insulting considering there is, in fact, a real audience desire for different voices and perspectives in our media landscape. 

(The Line can think of two such examples of CBC shows that were compelling and worth watching regardless of their diversity requirements: check out Sort Of and Trickster if you haven’t already. Unfortunately, the latter was cancelled when it was revealed that director Michelle Latimer was not as Indigenous as previously stated.) 

The second most obvious problem with all of this falls under the maxim “Do not give your enemies the weapons they will use to kill you.” In other words, having established this norm, do you not think that Prime Minister Pierre Poilievre, having done his damndest to stack the CRTC, will not do the same thing in turn? What is the CBC going to do when its license renewal is subject not to fulfilling the requirements of UNDRIP, but rather to concepts like “viewpoint diversity” and “journalistic objectivity,” as defined by Poilievre’s crew? The pendulum always swings back, friends, and it usually swings back harder when pushed. 

Source: The Line Dispatch 13 August

Nicolas: L’escalade du mot en n

More good commentary, with the practical suggestion of having a simple warning regarding language, just as programs provide warnings regarding violence, sex, and language:

Je serais incapable de dire quand on m’a lancé le mot en n au visage pour la première fois. Je sais qu’en prématernelle, l’insulte faisait déjà partie de ma réalité. Je sais aussi qu’au primaire, un élève avait décidé de me harceler de manière continue avec le mot, pendant plusieurs semaines.

Au début, l’enseignante à qui je l’avais dénoncé m’a demandé de l’ignorer : « Il cherche l’attention, c’est tout. » Ensuite, alors qu’on était en file à la bibliothèque de l’école, je lui ai crié d’arrêter. Là encore, l’enseignante m’a reproché — à moi, et à moi seulement — de faire du bruit et m’a conseillé de mieux gérer mes émotions. Quelques jours plus tard, l’élève a recommencé dans la cour d’école, à la récréation. Je lui ai foutu mon poing sur la gueule.

C’était la première (et la dernière) fois que j’utilisais la violence physique pour régler un problème. Je devais avoir sept ou huit ans. Là encore, c’est moi — et moi seulement — qui ai été punie par l’école. Mais mon message avait fini par passer. L’élève en question n’a plus recommencé. Il ne me restait plus qu’à vivre avec… tous les autres utilisateurs du mot.

Je me souviens que le coup de poing m’a prise moi-même par surprise. J’étais une petite fille très menue, et je ne savais pas que j’avais ça en moi. Avec le recul, je vois aussi qu’il y a eu toute une « procédure d’escalade », disons, avant que les choses en arrivent là. Le coup de poing n’aurait jamais existé si les adultes impliqués dans l’affaire avaient pris leurs responsabilités d’adultes plutôt que de me reprocher de trop tenir à ma dignité humaine.

Je ne raconte pas ce souvenir pour attirer l’attention sur ma petite personne ni parce que je me trouve particulièrement à plaindre. Au contraire : je suis assez entourée d’(ex-)enfants noirs québécois pour savoir que ce que je raconte est complètement banal. Et que des histoires comme celles-là, il en existe des milliers.

Même si le Québec d’aujourd’hui n’est plus celui des années 1990, bien des enfants continuent de recevoir ce mot à la figure — et toute une autre litanie d’insultes racistes — à l’école, dans la rue ou ailleurs. Ces incidents mettent bien sûr les parents d’enfants noirs dans des situations émotionnellement très difficiles à surmonter. Je ne compte plus mes amis qui m’ont raconté avoir eu à répondre aux questions de leurs très jeunes enfants, souvent d’âge préscolaire, au retour à la maison. « Maman, pourquoi ma peau est sale ? Papa, pourquoi est-ce que notre famille ressemble à des singes ? Maman, pourquoi est-ce que mes cheveux sont laids ? Papa, c’est quoi un n… ? »

Ces parents-là, ce sont des parents comme tous les parents. Des parents qui cherchent à protéger leurs enfants. Des parents qui, comme n’importe quel parent, peuvent écouter la Première Chaîne de Radio-Canada dans la voiture en revenant de la garderie.

Ces parents peuvent ne pas avoir envie de répondre, en plus de tout ce qui les préoccupe déjà, à un « Maman, Papa, pourquoi est-ce que le monsieur répète n… à la radio ? » Ou peut-être sont-ils eux-mêmes d’ex-enfants noirs bien de chez nous, qui préféreraient ne pas réentendre cet après-midi-là un mot lié à tant de souvenirs. Un simple avertissement en ondes leur permettrait de changer de poste — et ceux qui souhaitent écouter pourraient continuer à le faire.

On ne parle pas ici de censure, mais d’un simple avertissement. Vous savez, le genre d’avertissements que les journalistes font avant d’aborder des sujets difficiles en ondes depuis presque toujours. Le genre de précaution qu’on prend naturellement avant de montrer des images de guerre, de violence, des pensionnats pour Autochtones, de raconter dans le détail un crime sordide ou de parler de suicide. Ou même le type de périphrase qu’on utilise sans y penser avant de parler trop explicitement de sexualité à heure de grande écoute.

Les journalistes et animateurs des grandes télés et radios généralistes pensent toujours à leur public, qui inclut nécessairement des parents et leurs enfants qui les écoutent dans la voiture ou à la maison. On s’assure d’amener le public avec soi dans sa quête d’information. On choisit ses questions, ses mots et ses angles en fonction de ce qu’on imagine être les besoins et les sensibilités du public. Cette passion pour le public, elle nourrit l’amour du métier.

C’est une évidence, mais il semble qu’il soit nécessaire de le dire : les personnes noires, les parents noirs, les enfants noirs font partie du public.

Il semble que lorsqu’elles pensent aux familles à la maison, aux enfants dans la voiture, certaines personnalités médiatiques n’ont pas encore le réflexe de s’imaginer qu’ils puissent être noirs. Ou bien, peut-être s’imagine-t-on encore mal quelles sont les réalités de ces familles et de ces enfants au Québec.

Si ce souci du public incluait vraiment tout le public, il n’y aurait jamais eu de plainte au CRTC. L’ombudsman de Radio-Canada aurait pu régler la question à l’interne lorsqu’on lui a soumis la question, démarche qui là aussi n’aurait pas été nécessaire si l’émission Le 15-18 avait réagi autrement au courriel initial du plaignant.

La plainte elle-même n’aurait pas été nécessaire, d’ailleurs, si des personnes autrement sensibles aux vécus de bien des Afro-Québécois avec le mot en n avaient été présentes dans l’équipe de l’émission — non pas pour censurer la discussion, mais pour suggérer de faire attention à la façon dont on traitait le sujet.

On peut regretter la « procédure d’escalade », l’implication d’une structure fédérale telle que le CRTC, et ce qu’elle implique pour l’indépendance des salles de presse. Il faudrait aussi admettre que cette escalade n’aurait jamais existé si toutes les personnes impliquées à chaque étape de cette affaire s’étaient saisies autrement de leurs responsabilités, plutôt que de reprocher à un auditeur de trop tenir à sa dignité humaine.

Comment et pourquoi, donc, en sommes-nous arrivés à cette décision coup-de-poing du CRTC ?

Source: L’escalade du mot en n

Diversité et inclusion: malaise au sein de CBC/Radio-Canada

Of note, and the difference between Radio Canada and CBC:

L’hésitation de CBC/Radio-Canada à se prononcer sur la récente décision du CRTC concernant le mot en n s’inscrit dans un contexte de transformations plus profondes au sein de l’institution. Sous l’impulsion de la présidente-directrice générale Catherine Tait, la société d’État a accéléré depuis 2018 son virage diversité et inclusion. Mais dans la salle de rédaction du service français, certains dénoncent « l’obsession » de la haute direction pour les questions identitaires.

« C’est comme si on voulait nous imposer le contexte sociopolitique de Toronto à Montréal. À Toronto, le multiculturalisme, c’est une réalité. Alors qu’au Québec, je regrette, mais ce n’est pas un concept politique qui est partagé par tout le monde. C’est un concept qui fait débat et il faut rendre compte de cette réalité », résume une personnalité bien connue de Radio-Canada qui tient à garder l’anonymat par crainte de représailles.

Le Devoir a pu s’entretenir dans les derniers jours avec cinq employés de la société d’État qui s’interrogent sur certaines initiatives de la haute direction pour promouvoir la diversité et l’inclusion. Certains sont plus critiques que d’autres, mais ils s’entendent sur une chose : CBC/Radio-Canada doit absolument faire appel de la décision du CRTC, qui a blâmé la semaine dernière le diffuseur public pour un segment dans lequel le chroniqueur Simon Jodoin et l’animatrice Annie Desrochers ont cité à quatre reprises le titre du livre Nègres blancs d’Amérique, de Pierre Vallières. Le CRTC oblige entre autres Radio-Canada à s’excuser.

« Je ne me fais pas d’illusions. Je vois mal comment la haute direction de Catherine Tait pourrait faire appel de la décision du CRTC après ce qui s’est passé avec Wendy Mesley », anticipe l’une des personnes qui ont accepté de parler au Devoir.

Wendy Mesley, c’est cette animatrice vedette de CBC qui avait été suspendue pour avoir cité le nom du livre de Pierre Vallières lors d’une réunion de travail. Cette journaliste d’expérience avait dû s’excuser à la suite de cet épisode, avant d’annoncer sa retraite l’an dernier. « L’histoire de Wendy Mesley nous a marqués. Ça a beaucoup choqué à Montréal, et il y a comme une incompréhension. Bien sûr, on en parle entre nous, mais pas trop fort. Car veut, veut pas, il y a un climat de suspicion qui s’est installé depuis cette histoire », ajoute notre source.

Prioritaire pour la haute direction

Pour certains, l’affaire Wendy Mesley est le point de départ d’un malaise qui n’a cessé de prendre de l’ampleur depuis.

L’année dernière, une formation obligatoire sur les privilèges et les biais inconscients a soulevé l’ire dans la salle de rédaction du service français. On y disait notamment qu’il était stigmatisant de décrire un secteur comme un quartier chaud parce qu’il a un fort taux de criminalité. Un exercice « infantilisant », « digne d’un cours de pastorale », s’insurge une autre employée qui a suivi la formation.

« C’est un objectif très louable de vouloir plus de diversité, et effectivement, il faut plus de diversité à Radio-Canada. Mais le problème, c’est la manière dont on s’y prend », nuance-t-elle.

Certaines déclarations de la p.-d.g. de la société d’État, Catherine Tait, ont aussi fait sourciller dans les dernières années. Après la découverte de potentielles tombes anonymes sur le site de l’ancien pensionnat de Kamloops, cette dernière avait envoyé un mémo aux employés pour les inviter à observer un moment de silence de 215 secondes, une seconde correspondant à chaque enfant autochtone disparu.

À la suite du prononcé de culpabilité d’un policier pour le meurtre de George Floyd à Minneapolis, elle a aussi reconnu explicitement le concept de « racisme systémique » dans une lettre signée par quatre directeurs et conseillers sur les programmes de diversité et inclusion. « Le racisme systémique existe toujours au Canada et au sein de plusieurs de ses institutions, y compris son diffuseur public », écrivait Catherine Tait, qui a fait toute sa carrière au Canada anglais.

Est-ce le rôle de la dirigeante de CBC/Radio-Canada de prendre parti dans des événements qui font l’actualité et que les journalistes de la boîte sont censés traiter ensuite de la manière la plus objective possible ? Pour certains, les prises de position de la haute direction n’affectent pas la manière de couvrir l’information. Mais d’autres sont d’avis que la politique officielle de l’entreprise empiète sur la sacro-sainte objectivité journalistique.

« Sur le concept de racisme systémique, par exemple, il y a un malaise. On peut être pour ou contre, mais ce n’est pas à une entreprise de presse de reconnaître quelque chose que le gouvernement du Québec refuse de reconnaître », illustre une personne qui évolue au sein de Radio-Canada.

Inclusif ou objectif ?

Ce principe d’objectivité journalistique a d’ailleurs été revu du côté anglophone. En juin 2020, dans la foulée de l’assassinat de George Floyd, le rédacteur en chef de CBC a proposé d’ouvrir le débat sur les Normes et pratiques journalistiques dans l’optique d’offrir une couverture plus inclusive. « Nos définitions de l’objectivité, de l’équilibre, de l’équité et de l’impartialité — et notre insistance pour que les journalistes n’expriment pas d’opinions personnelles sur les histoires que nous couvrons — vont-elles à l’encontre de nos objectifs d’inclusion et de faire partie de la communauté et du pays que nous servons ? » s’interrogeait Brodie Fenlon dans son blogue sur le site de CBC.

Côté francophone, ce raisonnement suscite beaucoup d’appréhensions. Des voix se sont fait entendre à l’interne pour implorer Radio-Canada de ne pas suivre la même voie que CBC.

Deux ans plus tard, les normes journalistiques n’ont finalement pas changé en soi, indique Chuck Thompson, chef des relations publiques de CBC, mais leur interprétation, oui. L’exercice en cours pour rendre les pratiques journalistiques plus inclusives porte « sur la façon dont nous interprétons ces principes, et sur l’identification des obstacles qui limitent notre journalisme en excluant des perspectives, des points de vue ou des expériences vécues », confirme M. Thompson. « Ce travail couvre toute une gamme d’actions, des stratégies d’embauche et de promotion aux meilleures pratiques pour couvrir la criminalité et la police, en passant par de la formation sur les préjugés inconscients et l’inclusion. »

Deux solitudes

À l’automne 2020, l’affaire Lieutenant-Duval à l’Université d’Ottawa a aussi mis en évidence des visions divergentes entre Radio-Canada et CBC quant à l’usage du mot en n. Lors d’une rencontre de la haute direction le 14 octobre, Catherine Tait a demandé pourquoi une émission sur le mot en n avait été proposée sur une plateforme de CBC plutôt qu’en français à Radio-Canada, une discussion qui aurait provoqué de vives tensions.

Interrogé à ce sujet il y a plusieurs mois, le bureau de Mme Tait a précisé au Devoir une partie des propos de Catherine Tait pendant cette rencontre : « Je me suis demandé pourquoi cette émission était produite en anglais et non en français puisque [les personnes qui l’animent sont francophones]. Et elles m’ont répondu que l’émission aurait été différente en français, que la conversation sur le racisme n’est pas aussi avancée au Québec. Ce que je veux vous dire aujourd’hui, c’est que c’est notre moment à Radio-Canada, c’est une occasion en or, pour nous, en tant que diffuseur public de vraiment servir tous les Canadiens et d’assurer notre pertinence pour l’avenir », aurait-elle déclaré.

À l’heure de mettre sous presse, le bureau de Catherine Tait n’avait pas donné suite à nos questions. Radio-Canada pour sa part n’a pas souhaité réagir.

La promotion de la diversité fait partie des conditions imposées à la société d’État par le CRTC, l’organisme responsable de lui accorder une licence de diffusion, et ces exigences ont été rehaussées lors du plus récent renouvellement, en juin.

Source: Diversité et inclusion: malaise au sein de CBC/Radio-Canada

Paré: Le mot en n et les deux solitudes


Une fracture se dessine clairement entre le Québec et le reste du Canada à la suite d’un controversé jugement du Conseil de la radiodiffusion et des télécommunications (CRTC), qui somme CBC/Radio-Canada de présenter des excuses pour une chronique où a été cité à quatre reprises le titre du livre de Pierre Vallières, Nègres blancs d’Amérique.

En 2020, la journaliste vedette de CBC Wendy Mesley avait été suspendue pour avoir nommé le titre complet du même livre, non pas en ondes dans ce cas-ci, mais bien lors d’une réunion de production. Elle s’en est excusée, mais la tourmente ne s’est jamais estompée ; tombée en disgrâce, Wendy Mesley a fini par annoncer sa retraite l’an dernier.

Rien de tel au Québec, malgré le blâme du CRTC. Personne n’a publiquement exigé la tête de l’animatrice Annie Desrochers et du chroniqueur Simon Jodoin pour avoir prononcé en ondes le mot en n dans un échange en août 2020 où il était question de la saga autour de la professeure Verushka Lieutenant-Duval à l’Université d’Ottawa. Au contraire, les lettres ouvertes s’accumulent depuis la décision du CRTC pour implorer CBC/Radio-Canada de ne pas s’excuser et de plutôt porter la cause en appel.

« Wendy Mesley n’a ni plus ni moins été congédiée de CBC. Et à l’époque, il n’y a pas beaucoup de monde au Canada anglais qui s’en était scandalisé. Il y a eu une sorte d’acquiescement. Maintenant que cette histoire se produit au Québec, on peut très bien voir les deux solitudes », observe Marc-François Bernier, professeur au Département de communication de l’Université d’Ottawa.

Dans cette université bilingue, on a constaté le même clivage entre anglophones et francophones lors de l’affaire Lieutenant-Duval, ajoute-t-il. Rappelons que Verushka Lieutenant-Duval, qui y enseignait l’histoire de l’art, avait été sanctionnée pour avoir mentionné le mot en n. S’en était suivi un long battage médiatique, principalement au Québec, où plusieurs avaient exprimé des craintes pour la liberté universitaire. Dans la foulée, 34 professeurs de l’Université d’Ottawa, pour la plupart francophones, avaient publié une lettre ouverte pour s’insurger du sort réservé à Verushka Lieutenant-Duval.

« Plusieurs professeurs anglophones étaient d’accord avec nous, mais c’est beaucoup plus difficile pour eux de parler, surtout dans les départements de sciences humaines. Ceux qui veulent dénoncer ce genre de censure ont peur, car ils peuvent être la cible d’intimidation », avance Marc-François Bernier.

Réalités parallèles

Cette polarisation semble teinter aussi la manière dont a été traitée la récente décision du CRTC dans les médias. Au Québec, l’affaire fait grand bruit depuis plusieurs jours. La plupart des chroniques et des éditoriaux dénoncent avec vigueur le jugement du CRTC.

Mais le portrait est tout autre au Canada anglais, où l’affaire n’a pas donné lieu à une mobilisation extraordinaire de la classe médiatique au nom de la liberté d’expression. Dans les rares articles qui portent sur le sujet, le nom du livre de Pierre Vallières n’est jamais retranscrit dans son intégralité. Qui plus est, CBC a publié le jour même de la décision du CRTC une entrevue avec Ricardo Lamour, l’artiste montréalais à l’origine de la plainte, qui a par ailleurs été très peu cité jusqu’ici dans les médias québécois.

« Le N word a une lourde connotation en anglais, que le mot français n’a pas […]. Avec la traduction, il y a des nuances qui se perdent, et je pense que ce sont ces nuances qui ont échappéau CRTC », conclut Guy Gendron, ancien ombudsman de Radio-Canada.

Existe-t-il le même fossé culturel au sein de la haute direction de CBC/Radio-Canada, où se côtoient francophones et anglophones ? Chose certaine, la réaction officielle du diffuseur public se fait attendre depuis plusieurs jours. La société d’État réitère « prendre le temps nécessaire pour étudier la décision rendue par le CRTC », en insistant sur la « complexité de la question ».

Source: Le mot en n et les deux solitudes

Prominent Radio-Canada personalities urge broadcaster to fight CRTC N-word decision

Of course, there was bound to be a complaint. And equally, of course there would be a counter complaint. But context matters in the use of the N word after all Vallières used it to drive home his arguments of francophone Quebecers being second class citizens prior to the Revolution tranquille, just as the University of Ottawa Professor Verushka Lieutenant-Duval looked at how the word has been reclaimed by Blacks:

Black Montrealer who filed a complaint against Radio-Canada over the on-air use of the N-word says he’s disappointed but not surprised by the pushback against a recent CRTC decision ordering the public broadcaster to apologize.

Ricardo Lamour, a social worker and artist, filed the complaint with the broadcasting and telecommunications regulator after hearing a journalist and a commentator repeat the offensive word several times on air in 2020.

Some 50 Radio-Canada personalities said in an open letter published Monday in La Presse that last week’s CRTC decision in Lamour’s favour threatens journalistic freedom and independence and “opens the door to the dangers of censorship and self-censorship.”

“Also, if we are alarmed, it’s not only for us, at Radio-Canada, but for all communications companies regulated by the CRTC,” wrote the signatories, which included prominent news anchors, such as Céline Galipeau and Patrice Roy, and Guy A. Lepage, host of the talk show “Tout le monde en parle.”

Radio-Canada’s former ombudsman, a Quebec cabinet minister and groups representing journalists have also denounced the decision as a blow to freedom of expression or freedom of the press.

When asked if he was surprised by the backlash, Lamour quoted American author and activist James Baldwin, who wrote, “The power of the white world is threatened whenever a Black man refuses to accept the white world’s definitions.” Lamour noted that most francophone Quebec media figures are white and he questioned how many of the letter’s signatories are Black.

He said he was motivated to file a complaint two years ago after hearing two on-air radio personalities repeatedly use the full name of a book that has the N-word in the title, “without adequate warning and contextual discussion.”

Lamour had been waiting to go on air to discuss his work mentoring Black youth, and heard the comments in the Radio-Canada studio through a pair of headphones. He said he was troubled by the “careless and callous” use of the word.

“I found it offensive and upsetting,” he said.

He filed a complaint with the CRTC after first being told by Radio-Canada’s ombudsman that the use of the word in that specific context — quoting a book title — did not contravene the public broadcaster’s journalistic standards and practices.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission sided with Lamour. While it recognized that the word was not used in a discriminatory manner, it found the public broadcaster nevertheless violated Canadian broadcasting policy objectives and values.

Radio-Canada did not do enough to mitigate the effect the word could have on its audience, “particularly in the current social context and given its national public broadcaster status,” the CRTC decision read.

In addition to a written apology to the complainant, the broadcaster must also put in place internal measures and programming to ensure that it better addresses similar issues in the future, the CRTC said.

Signatories of the open letter in La Presse acknowledged that the N-word is “loaded,” but they said it is used rarely on air and only in a factual context “that is neither offensive, insulting or dehumanizing, which respects the journalistic standards and practices of Radio-Canada but also the intelligence of our institution and its employees.”

The province’s professional journalists association, the Fédération professionnelle des journalistes du Québec, denounced the decision as a “dangerous precedent that imposes upon media a censorship that is as exaggerated as it is unjustified.” Quebec’s culture minister also expressed concern over the decision, tweeting that it was a serious violation of freedom of expression.

Lamour says he sees the backlash against the N-word decision partly as a fight “to assert some rights to not be accountable” by broadcasters who are resistant to making the necessary changes to better reflect an evolving society.

“We’re not seeing some form of introspection here; we’re seeing offensive things,” he said.

Instead of fighting, he said, broadcasters should read the reasoning behind the decision and try to do better.

In an email, a spokesperson for Radio-Canada said the broadcaster was aware of the “wide range of opinions” on the CRTC decision.

“Radio-Canada acknowledges that use of the ‘’N-word’ is offensive; that’s why we have limited its use on our airwaves,” the statement read.

The broadcaster said it was still studying the decision and considering how it would respond.

Source: Prominent Radio-Canada personalities urge broadcaster to fight CRTC N-word decision

How CBC is diving deeper when it comes to newsroom diversity

While promotional, some interesting data of diversity within the CBC, both in the newsroom as well as management, highlighting the relative under-representation of the different visible minority and Indigenous groups. Also some interesting analysis regarding the diversity of people being interviewed (but not the thought diversity that is harder to measure and assess):

Soon after the news broke about the discovery of unmarked graves at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, we convened a small group of our leaders and Indigenous journalists from across the country to act as an advisory committee for the CBC division of News, Current Affairs and Local.

We knew the story would only grow. There would be more discoveries in many different parts of Canada in the months ahead. We knew there was important accountability and investigative journalism to be done, building on years of excellent work tracking Truth and Reconciliation in Canada. (See Beyond 94, for example.)

We were also aware of the pain and trauma our journalism could create, not only for survivors and their families, but for our own staff with ties to this terrible legacy.

The committee was quick to identify areas in which we could support our staff. We rolled out a special edition of our “Reporting in Indigenous Communities” training course to about 30 leaders and assignment editors involved in deploying people to cover the story. We connected with the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma at Columbia University to create a training program specific to the residential school story that will help our journalists understand trauma and how to approach people in affected communities, while also managing their own mental well-being.

And we created a dedicated residential school unit to ensure sustained, focused investigative journalism in the months ahead. The unit created an email tip line, wherearethey@cbc.ca, which received more than 200 messages in the first few weeks. It now has a toll-free number: 1-833-824-0800.

That early and proactive impulse to set up a committee and regularly consult with our Indigenous staff as this difficult story emerged resulted in greater sensitivity and understanding — and ultimately better, more nuanced journalism.

It’s a good example of what’s possible when a news organization like ours embraces the call for greater racial representation, equity and inclusion in everything it does, at every level. It’s a step forward on a long journey, with many more steps and undoubtedly years of hard work still to come.

We are 15 months into the cultural and social revolution sparked by the murder of George Floyd. As I’ve written before, this revolution swept news organizations the world over and resulted in some profound self-reflection about how we hire and promote, our core journalistic values and who defines them, and the stories, voices and perspectives we include — or exclude — as we cover the news.

To be clear, we started this important work long before May 2020 in many parts of our organization. We have always had a duty and responsibility to authentically portray this country and, as a result, the root of nearly every inclusion challenge we face are four key questions: Who’s at the table? Who’s speaking? Who’s missing? Who’s deciding?

Here’s a brief update on some of the work happening at CBC News, Current Affairs and Local to keep us on the path forward:

Newsroom diversity survey

We are participants in the Canadian Newsroom Diversity Survey led by the Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ). The results, expected this fall, will offer a comparative analysis of the gender and racial makeup of at least 170 news organizations in Canada.

CBC/Radio-Canada is an industry leader when it comes to tracking and reporting on equity and staffing, having done so since the 1980s. As a federally regulated Crown corporation, CBC reports annually on our overall staffing composition per the Employment Equity Act, but many of us want more detail.

Are we reflective of Canada’s demography in the voices you hear, see or read each day? What about behind the scenes? Does management look different from part-time staff? Can we get more detail about specific racial groups as opposed to broad Employment Equity Act definitions such as “visible minority” or terms like “people of colour”?

We saw a great opportunity to get some of these answers in the CAJ initiative.

The measurement is imperfect. For instance, our numbers — a now-outdated snapshot in time as of December 2020 — come from self-declarations on a “cultural census” that we ask staff to complete. Many employees are captured under the broad equity definitions, but they have not completed the cultural census declaration for various reasons, which means we are forced to report many “unknowns” when asked for specific information about ethnocultural identity. Our gender data is binary (CBC is in the process of changing that to include non-binary). Biracial and multiracial staff may self-identify with one or more of the available categories in the survey. How should they be more accurately represented?

Still, the data will offer a baseline and provide some clarity on where we need to focus our recruitment and promotion efforts as a news organization. Here are few of the topline results for CBC’s journalism division, with more detail to come in the CAJ release this fall:

On gender, our newsrooms skew female at all levels: senior leadership is 54 per cent female and 46 per cent male; journalists are 56 per cent female and 44 per cent male; supervisors are 59 per cent female and 41 per cent male; part-time staff are 60 per cent female and 40 per cent male.

Of senior newsroom leaders in management positions, 22 per cent are people of colour or Indigenous. Here are a few graphs that show breakdowns in more detail:

Journalists (full time):

Journalists (part time):


Senior leadership:

* Notes on Senior Leadership: As this is a relatively small group of leaders, we addressed inconsistencies in the CBC cultural census data with what we know to be our leadership. We tallied leaders identified under one of the five ethnic categories and grouped everyone else under uncategorized. 

JSP and inclusion

We are also months into a review of how our Journalistic Standards and Practices (JSP) — the framework that guides our journalism — are interpreted through the lens of inclusion. A staff-led consultation led to 65 recommendations. We are moving immediately on 20 action items and continuing consultations on the rest. Among the biggest commitments included in that first set of 20:

  • We will create an advisory group involving Black, Indigenous and journalists of colour to support the JSP office.
  • We will create a separate staff advisory committee with representation from various communities to consult and support ongoing changes to our internal language and style guide.
  • We will reinforce that lived experience and being a part of any one community does not constitute a conflict of interest when covering those communities. We will remind all that we value lived experience and community connections in our journalists because it helps us to broaden and deepen our journalism.
  • We will continue to hire and promote representation at all levels of our organization, including leadership and decision-making roles. We will exceed 55 per cent representation for new hires from three equity deserving groups (people of colour, Indigenous peoples and people with disabilities) in the year ahead.

Content tracking

In addition, more than 25 CBC journalistic programs have been involved in a staff-led content-tracking pilot project that tracks who appears on our airwaves and websites. Each team aims to identify at least three aspects: gender, race/ethnicity and whether or not the subject is speaking about their race or ethnicity. We are also tracking people who have publicly identified themselves as non-binary. Additional customized questions, such as the role of the guest on the program, can be added by the teams participating in this content-tracking project.

The results provide a baseline; a check on our assumptions and intentions around gender and racial equity. We learned, for example, that of nearly 5,000 guests counted across all the participating programs, 60 per cent were male. Hard numbers like that give our teams direction and ensure they course-correct. One consumer program saw that male experts appeared more often than females, for example, and the team made a concerted effort to bring more female guests onto their show.

We learned that 64 per cent of Indigenous guests and story subjects who appeared in our programs during the pilot spoke about their race and ethnicity, compared to 34 per cent of Black guests and story subjects. There is no right or wrong with these figures, considering how prominent the story of the Indigenous experience in Canada has been in recent months of news coverage. But the data forces us to self-reflect and discuss how we should incorporate the perspectives and experiences of these equity-deserving groups in all stories we are doing, beyond just issues related to aspects of their identities.

We aim to make this project a permanent, consistent practice across News, Current Affairs and Local. The staff leading this change have done extensive research and have years of experience in content tracking in Canada. They have already been asked to share their learnings with other newsrooms with similar efforts, including the BBC, NPR and many more.

What’s next?

We’ve come a long way. We have a long way to go.

The goal is clear: We will deepen our journalism and relevance to Canadians by broadening the perspectives at all levels of our organization and in the stories we tell.

Those four fundamental questions continue to guide us: Who’s at the table? Who’s speaking? Who’s missing? Who’s deciding?

Because as Canada’s public broadcaster, with one of the most trusted news services in the country, it is critical we are authentically and truly representing this country and all of its diversity.

Source: How CBC is diving deeper when it comes to newsroom diversity

Mesley: I made mistakes. But my departure wasn’t the solution to the CBC’s problem with racism

Context matters, as was the case of the UofOttawa professor (University of Ottawa professor at centre of controversy …https://www.theglobeandmail.com › canada › article-un…):

For almost 40 years, my name had a prefix: I was “the CBC’s Wendy Mesley.” And all that time I never wanted to be seen as an enemy of change. I’ve always tried to give voice to those who aren’t being heard; I’ve fought against the status quo my whole life. It’s why I got into journalism.

When I started out, there were few women in senior journalism roles. I was the first woman to cover the prime minister in CBC TV’s parliamentary bureau. Other women soon joined me. We fought for changes in coverage, and it happened because we saw things differently than men. It was the age of second-wave feminism, and we were told we could do anything. But women (and men) of colour did not receive the same openings, which meant many of their stories weren’t told and many of their insights weren’t considered. Today, change is happening, and I think much of it is good.

None of that matters now. I hurt people I never meant to. After a scandal last year, my prefix is now gone, the split with the CBC is official, and I have retired. The company gets a rebrand, and I go away.

But first, I’d like to do something I wish I’d been able to do long ago: Tell my side of the story, and finally talk about the two worst mistakes I made in my long and generally happy career.

After George Floyd’s murder last May, a Black CBC reporter tweeted that she had repeatedly been called the N-word. I was furious. I wanted to put her on the air to discuss that, and said so in a conference call with producers for The Weekly with Wendy Mesley.

During our discussion, I was so upset over what our colleague experienced that I stupidly filled in the N-word. Why? I’ve asked myself that question a thousand times, and I have no good answer. I was mad that she faced this kind of abuse. I can be very blunt. And I didn’t understand how any use of that word could hurt, regardless of its context. It was thoughtless and wrong.

One of the producers of the show was Black; another was of Asian descent. They went silent on the call. I was horrified I had hurt them and apologized, but the damage was done. I was told that bosses would be informed, and that there would be an investigation.

That would unearth an incident from months before while preparing another show on racism focusing on Quebec’s controversial Bill 21, which banned head coverings. After reflecting on the years I spent as a reporter in Montreal and Quebec City, I tried to make the point in an editorial meeting that many francophone Quebeckers feel like an endangered minority within Canada, and that they are victims of prejudice. I argued that this left less room for them to understand others, particularly people who weren’t like them. To make my point, I referenced the seminal 1968 book Nègres blancs d’Amérique, a Marxist analysis by the Francophone writer Pierre Vallières.

Again, I filled in the blank by saying the English title. To be honest, it didn’t occur to me to say “White N-words of America,” which is how the title appears in the translated English publication, except with the second word in the title fully explicit and uncensored.

All of this was leaked to the press. A storyteller became the story – even worse, I became a scandal.

The CBC suspended me. At one point, I thought I was going to be fired. Instead, I was punished and also ordered to take sensitivity training. The details of the investigation, I was told, were to be kept confidential. Eventually, I would be allowed to make a statement that would be vetted by my employers. It was made clear to me that the CBC would look after the story – and me.

Trusting them was my second big mistake.

The CBC did not offer me any public support. And I did not defend myself because I just wanted to return to work. In the midst of last year’s racial reckoning, I also felt it would have been wrong for me to play the victim card.

But my silence backfired as players on all sides used me as a cudgel to advance political interests. While some journalists offered public support, my most vocal defenders were free-speech warriors who wanted to make me a cautionary tale about the dangers of cancel culture. That distinction horrified me, because I’ve fought to cancel injustice my whole life. I resented being made a poster child of a movement I wasn’t part of.

I also believed my punishment would be proportionate, because people would come to understand there’s a difference between a reporter repeating a hateful remark with colleagues while in pursuit of a story, and a gleeful racist trying to draw blood.

I was wrong about that too.

Nature abhors a vacuum, and narratives can be filled in on blank slates. People assumed I’d been let go or retired in shame, and that because I had disappeared and not defended myself, the situation must have been even worse than it was.

And I believe the CBC had an agenda too: using me to distract or absolve themselves from their own underlying problems. A month after the murder of Mr. Floyd, as protests by Black Lives Matter activists swept across Canada, almost 500 current and former employees sent a letter to management “urging them to take action to dismantle systemic racism in the corporation.”

“The journalistic failures in the CBC’s coverage of this historic moment are the direct result of whose voices and experiences drive decision-making at the CBC,” the letter read. “The problem lies with white editors who dismiss pitches from non-white journalists as ‘biased’ or ‘unimportant’ because they might not appeal to a white audience.”

When the CBC’s licence came up for renewal at the CRTC that June, president Catherine Tait told the hearings: “We recognize that systemic racism exists in Canada and within many of its institutions, including its national public broadcaster. We are committed to combatting racism in all its forms.”

But I soon learned there had been at least three other cases at the network involving shows in which the N-word was allegedly used in meetings. While one was reported, the other cases seem to have disappeared internally – the broader questions of systemic racism swept under the rug – until I became a convenient device for cleaning up their brand. Even the corporation’s own ombudsperson concluded that it was “disappointing” that the network’s ensuing coverage of my actions “did not offer a wider variety of perspectives.”

After the cancellation of my show, I was offered another role that I saw as unreasonable. I asked whether we could find a mutually agreeable departure and was told that any such arrangement would require that I not discuss events of the last year. As a journalist who put a lot of people on the spot, and who hated being told “no comment,” that was never gonna happen.

I remain angry. I’m angry at myself for hurting people. I’m angry at the CBC for abandoning me because of two moments, instead of judging me by my whole career. I understand the mistake I made was serious and invited repercussions, but I also submit that using a particular situation to advance broader agendas is divisive and wrong.

I know it’s easier to say this as a white person, but I have long argued for journalistic objectivity, which is seen by some, reasonably, as reinforcing the status quo. But it doesn’t have to. Journalism should just be a search for the truth – all truths.

In 2005, when I had cancer, I saw a story I thought needed telling. I did a documentary about how I thought “big pharma” and cancer agencies weren’t doing enough to stop the spread of the disease. You could argue I was opinionated and not objective. I faced some criticism, but I was never accused of bias by my bosses. I think we need to listen to the accounts of Black and Indigenous journalists and other journalists of colour when they report being accused of bias for challenging the status quo.

I’m sad about how this has all played out. It’s certainly not how I’d hoped to bring down the curtain on my CBC career. But after a year of reflection and a whole range of emotions, I’m left feeling mostly disappointed, because this could have been handled so differently. It could have been a more productive process, in which the CBC used the moment to help foster greater dialogue about a difficult topic. Instead, it was all about blame, shame and regret. Had things gone differently, maybe my last story at the CBC could have been as meaningful as all the stories I’d told in the past 38 years.

Source: I made mistakes. But my departure wasn’t the solution to the CBC’s problem with racism