CBC: Selective suspensions, selective viewpoints

A few days ago Christine St-Pierre, a french-language reporter at Radio-Canada (the CBC) was suspended after writing an open letter of support to our 2300 troops in Afghanistan.

So, why was St-Pierre suspended? We’re told that “Radio-Canada (CBC) employees are not allowed to express their opinions on controversial issues.”

St-Pierre wrote:

“We owe you all our respect and our unfailing support . . . dear soldiers, your tears are not in vain, your tears are brave,”

Even subscribers to the position “support our troops, just not the work they do”, would admit that St-Pierre’s support was hardly controversial as virtually every Canadian would claim to support our men and women in uniform.

But if that is the measure of controversy, let’s contrast this with another journalist that has expressed an opinion on another “controversial” issue. How controversial? How about the Iraq war? Who’s the journalist? None other than the Editor in Chief of CBC News, Tony Burman.

Flashback to the release of James Loney and Harmeet Singh Sooden by Iraqi terrorists insurgents…

Tony Burman writes,

“I wish I had been an invisible presence on that emotional Air Canada flight on Sunday that brought former Canadian hostage James Loney back home.

I would have quietly snatched those copies of the Globe and Mail and the National Post that the smiling flight attendant would have wanted to hand to an eager Mr. Loney hungry for Canadian news.

“Not a good idea,” I would have whispered. “At least not yet.”

My heroic action would have spared, or at least delayed, this returning Canadian from experiencing the triple whammy that these Saturday newspapers had in store for him.

* From the National Post: In an editorial, it criticized Mr. Loney’s Christian Peacemakers Team for being “either callous or woefully naive in their willingness to risk the lives of aid workers.”
* From columnist Margaret Wente in the Globe: “Just as Lenin and Stalin had their useful idiots — Westerners who strenuously defended Russia and denounced the West — so did Saddam, and so does Hamas.”
* From columnist Rex Murphy (a CBC colleague and friend): “It would have been an even more gratifying moment if it had been coloured by a more ready acknowledgement of the rescuers, and an equal willingness … to name the real villains of this sad episode.”

To “heroically” shield Loney from Canadian opinion and to claim it as such, itself constitutes an opinion, does it not?

CBC’s “top journalist” who is bound by the rules not to express opinion on controversial matters continues…

“But here in Canada, who really has the time for hand-wringing about people supposedly “being naive” or “unprepared” or not fast enough in “thanking” the military rescuers? Can any of us forget what is currently at stake in Iraq and throughout the region?

I suspect most Canadians have little patience for this. Most of us not only felt genuine relief and happiness about the rescue but, more profoundly, saw in these “peacemakers” something that was quite admirable, courageous — and classically Canadian.

What on Earth is Tony Burman talking about? I too was relieved to hear of the release of our fellow Canadians from terrorist insurgent hands, however, I might disagree with him on his point that these “peacemakers” were in Iraq doing something classically Canadian. Does the CBC have a mandate to define “Canadian”. Is our collective self-identity as such, as defined by Burman, the final word? If we disagree with Burman (and the CBC) on what it means to be “Canadian”, are we “unCanadian”?

Burman explains that to be Canadian, one must have “a desire to get involved. To help out. To make a difference even if it involves real personal risk. That’s what Canadians do, in very real terms.”

This is, of course, no better description of what our Canadian military is doing in Afghanistan. So, Tony, why was St-Pierre suspended while you get to define who we are as “Canadian”?

Of course, you see, for the editor in chief of CBC News to express the gospel from on high that Canadian values are rooted in “peacemaking” of the Christian Peacemaker Team variety, in opposition to American foreign policy, it seems to pass.

However, if a journalist expresses solidarity with Canadian men and women in uniform, this is contrary to the our Canadian code of culture as defined by the CBC.

Burman confirms,

“Not military conflict or conquests, but peacemaking and peacekeeping. Perfect? Of course not. But constructive and honourable? Yes.”

Burman concludes,

“Thank you, Mr. Loney,” I would have said. “Thank you for being part of the Canadian idea that this world will become a better place only if each of us does our bit in the best way we can. And you certainly did that. Welcome home.”

Mr. Burman, Canadians are trying to make this world become a better place and our men and women in Afghanistan are doing their bit in the best way they can.

Of course, this isn’t your view of what it means to be Canadian. In fact day-by-day this is more-and-more evident as Canadians tune in to CBC’s coverage of foreign affairs.

Mr. Burman, you ought to be suspended. There are enough double-standards at the CBC already aren’t there?