Source : Globe & Mail
Public broadcaster has responsibility to condemn racist remarks, Fournier says
QUEBEC -- The CBC and Hockey Night in Canada
commentator Don Cherry are not only promoting racist messages but also the wrong values about sports, Quebec Sports Minister Jean-Marc Fournier says.
Mr. Fournier has joined the long list of critics in Quebec who condemned Mr. Cherry's ethnic putdown on Jan. 24, in which he said that players such as the "Europeans and French guys" were "turning into sucks" for wearing visors on their helmets to protect their eyes.
"Sport is healthy. It isn't supposed to send you to the hospital," Mr. Fournier said yesterday. "It is fun. What I am saying to the CBC is that you should question these types of racist messages that are being conveyed and ask yourselves questions about the values attributed to sports within the context of a sports broadcast."
A public broadcaster has a responsibility to condemn racist remarks, he said, arguing that the CBC should not be allowed to "maintain prejudices toward certain communities such as the francophones and Europeans."
The minister added that Mr. Cherry's controversial remarks sends the wrong message to children and that the CBC has a duty to define better the type of social values it is seeking to promote.
He recalled how legendary Montreal Canadiens goaltender Jacques Plante was accused of being weak when he became the first NHL netminder to wear a mask.
"At the time, people said bad things about Jacques Plante. Is Mr. Cherry asking goaltenders to stop wearing a mask? Is that what he wants? Is that his values of sports?" Mr. Fournier asked. "The sport of mutilation, the sport that sends you to the hospital, is not the best formula. . . . Few people in contemporary societies share Mr. Cherry's visions."
It wasn't the first time Mr. Cherry made controversial remarks about NHL players from Quebec, especially francophones. But it was the first time his controversial remarks have landed him in the hot seat with the Commissioner of Official Languages, Diane Adam, who is investigating the matter.
Quebeckers have become weary of Mr. Cherry's anti-francophone remarks. He has even become the target of ridicule.
Journal de Montréal sports columnist Michel Beaudry has created a character called Clone Cherry on the all-sports network RDS. Using props, suits and makeup to make himself look as much like Mr. Cherry as possible, Mr. Beaudry recreates the Coach's Corner segment of Hockey Night In Canada with sketches that often suggest Mr. Cherry is ignorant of Quebec's culture and language. They have become a popular weekly segment on regular RDI hockey broadcasts.
In his column on Tuesday, Mr. Beaudry implored the CBC not to fire Mr. Cherry. "Don't smother what is a faithful reflection of a part of English Canada," Mr. Beaudry wrote. "Give him the chance to add more stupidities and to prove even more solidly that those who run the CBC are in harmony with their idol's remarks."
The CBC announced recently that it will put Coach's Corner on a seven-second tape delay to allow a censor to decide whether any of Mr. Cherry's comments should not be aired. The move has sparked an angry debate over state censorship and the right to free speech.
Réjean Tremblay, a sports columnist at La Presse, said that in doing so, the CBC adopted the worst solution possible.
"It is absolutely unbelievable and now we not only have to endure Don Cherry's racist and xenophobic comments on the CBC, we have to start a debate on censorship," Mr. Tremblay wrote, demanding that the CBC fire Mr. Cherry.
"If a racist is too dangerous to be allowed to take to the airwaves without censorship, it is simple, he doesn't have any business enjoying the privilege."
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