In a head-spinning example of corporate confusion, inconsistency and hypocrisy, CBC-Radio Canada is defending its use of the ’N-word’ four times on air, after it effectively ended prominent CBC journalist Wendy Mesley’s career for using it twice off air.
To add to the Kafkaesque nature of the situation, the CBC is using the same argument to defend its use of the word three times in French and one time in English during a radio broadcast on Aug. 17, 2020, that it rejected from Wesley when she used it twice, both in English, during staff editorial meetings in 2019 and 2020 for her show This Week With Wendy Mesley.
That is, given the context, the use of the word had no racist intent.
Adding to the fact the CBC has turned itself into a journalistic pretzel, is that the CBC’s use of the word on air was for the same reason Mesley used it in one of the two times she did off air.
They were both quoting the title of a famous 1971 book by Quebec writer and separatist Pierre Vallieres, which contains the word.
As described by the Toronto Library, Vallieres’ book, “compares the historical situation of French-Canadians to that of African-Americans at the height of the latter’s civil rights struggles.”
A Montreal resident complained to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) about the repeated use of the N-word on the show by radio host Annie Desrochers and columnist Simon Jodoin in August 2020, used in the context of discussing a campaign to fire a Concordia University professor for quoting the book’s title.
Almost two years later, the CRTC in a split decision released on June 30, ruled in favour of the complainant and ordered CBC-Radio Canada to publicly apologize for using the N-Word on its airwaves.
It instructed the CBC to address the issue online by July 29, where the show is still available, and to publicly apologize and report in writing by Sept. 27 on how it will address similar issues in future.
CBC brass responded by apologizing for using the N-word on air but is appealing the CRTC’s decision saying it overstepped its authority and is threatening the CBC’s journalistic independence.
Wesley publicly and profusely apologized in July 2020, for twice using the N-word during editorial meetings with the producers of her show, acknowledging she had particularly hurt racialized members of her staff, who had complained to CBC management.
The first time was when she referred to Vallieres’ book in the context of explaining her belief that many francophone Quebecers supported Bill 21 (the controversial law banning head coverings) because they see themselves as an endangered and oppressed minority in Canada.
The second time she used the N-Word was when she wanted to interview a Black CBC reporter on her show, who tweeted that she had been called the N-word while covering George Floyd’s murder by Minneapolis police officers.
Mesley was initially suspended from her show and a year later in July 2021, published a lengthy column in the Globe and Mail explaining that she had resigned from the CBC because while she knew she had made a terrible mistake, her intent was not racist and she felt the CBC had misled her and hung her out to dry during the controversy.
To say nothing of the fact the CBC is an irony-free zone.