Steve Ladurantaye, editor of CBC’s ‘The National,’ reassigned after cultural appropriation flap by Ben Rayner

May 17, 2017

Ladurantaye was among those who engaged in a Twitter conversation that was sparked by a contentious magazine article advocating for more cultural appropriation in Canadian literature.

Source: Toronto Star

The managing editor of CBC’s The National has become the third professional casualty amidst lingering fallout from a series of controversial remarks last week about cultural appropriation.

Steve Ladurantaye, who only joined The National in April, will be reassigned to the CBC’s “content experience” division, effective immediately, over his “inappropriate, insensitive and frankly unacceptable tweet,” announced Jennifer McGuire, the general manager and editor-in-chief of CBC News in a memo circulated internally Wednesday afternoon.

“This incident raised questions about CBC’s commitment to being a more inclusive and representative workplace in staffing, in leadership and in content,” she wrote, adding that “in the fall, we will meet with Steve to reassess his connection to The National going forward.”

Ladurantaye was among several journalists who engaged in a late-night Twitter conversation last week sparked by a contentious op-ed piece by Hal Niedzviecki in the Writer’s Union of Canada’s magazine advocating for more cultural appropriation in Canadian literature.

In the piece, Niedzviecki suggested “anyone, anywhere, should be encouraged to imagine other peoples, other cultures, other identities” and ventured that there should be an “appropriation prize” in literature.

Coming as it did in an issue of Write devoted to aboriginal authors, backlash against the piece was swift and merciless. Niedzviecki swiftly resigned from his position as the magazine’s editor and issued an apology.

Former National Post editor Ken Whyte, however, took up Niedzviecki’s cause on Twitter late Thursday night, posting that he would “donate $500 to the founding of the appropriation prize if someone else wants to organize.”

Ladurantaye replied that he would contribute $100. He later deleted the Tweet and apologized, saying “what I did was hurtful, and my apology is without condition.”

“In short, I wasn’t thinking. I didn’t stop to think,” he said in a string of tweets.

“That’s a problem. I need to address it. I didn’t stop to think about what it is like to not have my position or my power or my voice.”

Ironically, Ladurantaye — who previously worked for Twitter — warned against exactly such reckless online behaviour in a piece entitled “Twitter rules for journalists” for the J-Source website in 2013. Of the 26 rules outlined therein, No. 1 and No. 26 were: “You are one tweet away from being fired.”

The Walrus’s editor-in-chief, Jonathan Kay, was also a participant in the online rallying of support by white journalists to Niedzviecki’s cause during the same round of Twitter posts. He stepped down from his position at the magazine Saturday following an opinion piece of his own in the National Post defending the right to debate cultural appropriation. In an email to The Canadian Press, Kay said his interests as an editor no longer aligned with the priorities of the organization that produces the magazine.

Outspoken Inuk musician Tanya Tagaq, who has not shied away from calling out “Canadian journalists apologizing for flaunting their privilege like a pair of DDD breast implants” online on her own Twitter account in recent days, took the news of Ladurantaye’s reassignment as just one very small step in the right direction, but a step in the right direction nonetheless.

“Imagine systematic racism in Canada as a monolithic block of granite,” she said in an email to the Star, echoing a pair of tweets made earlier in the day.

“Indigenous people are trying to carve the image of safety, equality and basic human rights out of that stone. We must chip away one bit at a time. Concepts like appropriation and racial slurs may seem small or petty to someone who has never had to look at that stone, let alone carry it. Every small chip is a step closer to equality.”

Ladurantaye could not be reached for comment. In the CBC memo, McGuire said Ladurantaye has “made it his goal to better understand the appropriation issue from the perspective of Canada’s Indigenous people.”

Contacted on Wednesday afternoon, Chuck Thompson, the head of public affairs for CBC’s English services, issued the following statement:

“Jennifer McGuire has made a decision that the work of redeveloping The National needs the full attention and focus of the team, and that is not possible given the current circumstances. With that in mind, Steve Ladurantaye will now be stepping away from his role as managing editor of The National. In addition to taking the time necessary to reach out to Indigenous communities and other communities, Steve will work within other areas of CBC News to help evolve how we produce stories. In the fall, news management will meet with Steve to re-assess his connection to The National going forward.”

© Toronto Star