CFUN-AM re The John and JJ Show (Immigration Policy)

B.C. REGIONAL COUNCIL
(CBSC Decision 97/98-0422)
E. Petrie (Chair), S. Warren (Vice-chair), R. Cohen (ad hoc), H. Mack and D. Millette

THE FACTS

On October 15, 1997, The John and JJ Show, broadcast on CFUN-AM
(Vancouver), dealt, in part, with Canada’s refugee policy. The discussion was sparked
by the news that a man who had run over a young child and the mother, killing the infant
and seriously injuring the mother, had earlier been ordered deported from Canada due to a
misstatement of his criminal history prior to emigrating to Canada. The deportation had
apparently not occurred because China had not yet issued the necessary travel documents.
This revelation led to the following exchange between the hosts (a lengthier transcript of
the discussion on this topic is included in an appendix to this decision):

John:

Well the deportation order doesn’t mean anything anyway, I mean,there’s 18 months ago that he was ordered deported. … We’ve got this openarms, open doors policy. We’ll accept you if you’re being persecuted elsewherein the world and if you claim you’re been persecuted elsewhere in the world and theproblem is, is that along with legitimate claims we have all of these criminals. Othercountries foisting their problems on us, shipping people into this country. They’vealso just had this recent report on the large number of war criminals who apparentlyentering Canada under the refugee claimant policy. War criminals from Yugoslavia, warcriminals from Rwanda. What the hell are we doing in this country? This is insane.

JJ:

Well I don’t con.., a lot of things I don’t understand, and Ithink one of the great problems that we have when you’re bringing in people fromparts of the world, from a society that we don’t understand, from a culture wedon’t understand and speaking in language we don’t understand. I think theytap-dance through it. They get around us a lot easier because they present us with adilemma. France and Britain and the United States, and in some small part Canada, havebeen involved in wars in the Far East for many, many years and they never win them. Theynever win them because they don’t understand the Oriental mentality. So that’swhy they lose them. They should never have been involved in the first place. So whenyou’re dealing with somebody here who arrives on a boat or off an airplane, and says”I claim refugee status”. That person, as far as I’m concerned, if you wantthem, if you want to keep them, if you want to have that open door policy, then they gointo a holding tank until they’re checked out very, very thoroughly. It took them twoyears to find out that this man had been convicted of several criminal offenses. I wouldsuspect that someone who speaks Mandarin could be on the phone to China and find out a lotmore quickly than two years. You can pick up somebody and put them on an airplane to sendthem over and find out a lot more quicky than two years.

John:

Of course the point is that China didn’t want him back. So why…what incentive did they have to cooperate with our officials? Even when we order himdeported, they won’t give the documents to allow us to send him back ’cause theydon’t want him.

JJ:

Take him in, put him on a parachute and drop him.

John:

I think that’s an excellent idea.

JJ: That’s one way if you don’t want him back.

John:

I think that the parachute might be optional though, you know. You cando a low fly-over and let him jump out of the plane.

JJ:

Castro did the same thing with the Americans when he emptied his insaneasylums and his prisons and he put them on a boat and he sent them to Miami. And theyarrived as refugees and the Americans opened their arms. They put them in camps andeverything else and held them. But they were all the garbage. He just kicked them out ofhis country and said “America will take you.” And we’re the same thing, wejust accept anybody who comes in that front door. So, therefore, the legitimate refugee,the person who is really being persecuted in his or her country, the person who reallywants to contribute something to this country, is lumped into the same bin and into thesame category as all these useless types are, these criminals are. We have a tendency totake shots at them all and that’s wrong. But this kind of nonsense has to stop and Idon’t know where it’s going to stop or who’s going to stop it. You got anImmigration Minister who has got as about much guts as a chicken after Thanksgiving!

John:

[laughing] You suggesting Lucienne Robillard has been eviscerated? Ithink that was the suggestion!

JJ:

I think you might be right. There just doesn’t seem to be anycommon sense. All we’re asking here is a simple common sense, a little logic, alittle understanding. You take the good people, you kick out the bad people and youdon’t give them the benefit of the whole, of the wonderful laws of appeals that wehave in this country. You don’t allow them to have that benefit, because they’vebroken their oath. Their oath was that they are not thieves, they’re not convictsand, when you find out they are, then they don’t have any benefits, they’ve lostall benefits, they’re gone. I’m sorry, they’re gone. Stick them on a boat,do something with them and get them out of here. Don’t leave them on the street toallow them to run down a child and kill a kid. I mean, that’s totally unforgivable.And I hope you know, our problem is we don’t get a chance to question theseImmigration Officials across this microphone. We don’t get a chance to question theMinister of Immigration across this microphone. I’d like nothing better to have hersitting in that chair and say “All right, Madame Minister, here’s the story.Quit tap-dancing, quit riding around in circles and answer the questions so that thecitizens listening to this broadcast get some common sense. Go ahead and answer thequestion.” But you can’t get them in the chair because they don’t want toanswer the questions.

John:

Let me provide you with an analogy that automatically occurred to mewhen I looked at this story. That is that if other countries around the world said toCanada “We’ve got a bunch of garbage piling up, hazardous products, nuclearwaste material, all kinds of disgusting garbage that we don’t want to bury in our ownlandfills in our countries, so what we’re going to do, Canada, is we’re going toship all of our waste and hazardous garbage and crud to your country.”

JJ:

And put refugee on it. [laughing]

John:

Well, exactly. That’s exactly what they’re doing. Countrieslike China are shipping us their crud, their garbage, their hazardous waste. It justhappens that it’s hazardous human waste, in this case. People, criminals and such,they ship them over here; they come over here, they claim refugee status. We investigatethem, we find out that they are not true refugees and we order them deported and theyrefuse to take them back and that’s exactly what happened in this case with China.And I think your point of view of flying a plane over top and dropping them out, the onlypart I disagree with is possibly your part about putting a parachute on them. I think thatthat would be a waste of good money.

JJ:

I’m not that nasty. Let’s go tothe phones.

The same day as the broadcast in question, a listener wrote to the
Station Manager of CFUN-AM, copying his complaint on the CBSC. His letter stated:

This is in regard to the firsthalf-hour of the October 15 “John and JJ Show”. I want to draw attention tocomments made by the hosts which deserve your consideration as well as a review from theCanadian Broadcast Standards Council.

Reference was made to an open-door immigration policy that allows”garbage”, “refuse” and the equivalent of “nuclear waste”into Canada. Such an assertion may be judged irresponsible as it casts suspicion on allimmigrants.

Further reference was made to an “Oriental mentality” whosedifference from our own (whatever that might be) cost “Britain, France and theUS” the wars they fought in the Far East. The problem, according to your commentator,lies with people who speak other languages. One assumes he meant languages other thanFrench and English, thereby feeding the myth that minority languages are somehow notCanadian.

The broadcasters also proposed tossing selected immigrants from an airplane over their country of origin. Perhaps I am mistaken, but those words seem to carry a call to violence that exceeds community and broadcast standards.

Of no less concern, the residents of Cuban “insane asylums” discharged by force some years ago, were described as “garbage”. The message from your broadcaster is clear, those with mental illness, immigrants or otherwise, are trash and should be treated as such.

Alone, each one of these remarks encouraging hatred and violence would be enough to warrant review by the station and by the CBSC. Taken together, they make a compelling argument for the removal from air of the two broadcasters in question.

The Broadcaster’s Response

CFUN’s Program Manager responded to the issues raised by the complainant in a letter dated October 31, 1997. It read as follows:

This is in reply to your letter dated October 15, 1997 regarding the John and J.J. show of the same date. We appreciate you taking the time to express your views.

We are aware that in a medium like radio, misunderstandings can and do occur. I have reviewed a tape of the show in question and find the comments you made in the letter to be incongruent with those actually made by the hosts. I have clarified their remarks individually as follows.

“Oriental mentality”: J.J. was discussing the problems Canadians are having with people from other countries claiming refugee status. In the discussion, he merely referred to the difficulty white North Americans have with some of the cultural differences between themselves and Orientals. There was no comment that might have implicated minority languages are not “Canadian”.

…”tossing selected immigrants from an airplane over their country of origin”: John and J.J. were expressing their frustration, in a “tongue in cheek” manner, over the case of Wing Fu Hau, the Chinese national who entered Canada in November 1990 on a refugee claim. Within a couple of years, Canadian Immigration discovered Wing Fu Hau was not eligible to enter Canada because he was convicted of several charges of a nature severe enough to warrant a sentence of over 10 years. Accordingly, Wing Fu Hau was ordered deported in April 1996. During his stay in Canada, he became “well-known” to Vancouver police. A year and a half later, in October 1997, while he was still awaiting Chinese “travel documents” to effect his deportation, Wing Fu Hau, being a passenger in the back of a luxury car travelling in East Vancouver, reached over and began to strangle a child in the front seat. The woman driver urgently stopped the car, leaped out, grabbed the infant and began to run away. Wing Fu Hau then proceeded to jump into the front seat of the car, grabbed the steering wheel, and ran over the mother and child, crushing the infant between the car and a fence. He then ran over the mother a second time. The mother survived the attack; the child did not. A dangerous criminal, “well-known” to the police, ordered deported back to China was allowed to stay on Canada because of a loophole in the law and then committed murder. The hosts suggested a manner in which they might return […] a person to their mother country. They were definitely not issuing a call to violence.

“residents of Cuban ‘insane asylums’”: J.J. noted the example of how Fidel Castro sent many hard core criminals from asylums and prisons to the United States because he did not want them in his country, and the U.S. accepted them. J.J. went on to point out how criminals who enter Canada under the false pretence of a refugee status colour the people whose such claim is legitimate.

It is important to also note that J.J. is himself a visible minority, and the son of immigrant parents and any suggestion he feels that immigrants are “trash” is unfounded.

CFUN, John Hadley and J.J. Richards, take seriously their responsibility to discourage hatred and violence. Thank you for allowing us to clarify our position on the issues you have raised.

The complainant was unsatisfied with the broadcaster’s response and requested, on November 6, 1997, that the CBSC refer the matter to the appropriate Regional Council for adjudication.

THE DECISION

The CBSC’s B.C. Regional Council considered the complaint under the Code of Ethics of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB). The relevant clauses of this Code read as follows:

CAB Code of Ethics, Clause 2 (Human Rights)

Recognizing that every person has a right to full and equal recognition and to enjoy certain fundamental rights and freedoms, broadcasters shall endeavour to ensure, to the best of their ability, that their programming contains no abusive or discriminatory material or comment which is based on matters of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, marital status or physical or mental handicap.

CAB Code of Ethics, Clause 6 (News)

It shall be the responsibility of member stations to ensure that news shall be represented with accuracy and without bias. The member station shall satisfy itself that the arrangements made for obtaining news ensure this result. It shall also ensure that news broadcasts are not editorial. News shall not be selected for the purpose of furthering or hindering either side of any controversial public issue, nor shall it be designed by the beliefs or opinions or desires of the station management, the editor or others engaged in its preparation or delivery. The fundamental purpose of news dissemination in a democracy is to enable people to know what is happening, and to understand events so that they may form their own conclusions.

Therefore, nothing in the foregoing shall be understood as preventing news broadcasters from analysing and elucidating news so long as such analysis or comment is clearly labelled as such and kept distinct from regular news presentations. Member stations will, insofar as practical, endeavour to provide editorial opinion which shall be clearly labelled as such and kept entirely distinct from regular broadcasts of news or analysis and opinion.

It is recognized that the full, fair and proper presentation of news, opinion, comment and editorial is the prime and fundamental responsibility of the broadcast publisher.

CAB Code of Ethics, Clause 7 (Controversial Public Issues)

Recognizing in a democracy the necessity of presenting all sides of a public issue, it shall be the responsibility of member stations to treat fairly, all subjects of a controversial nature. Time shall be allotted with due regard to all the other elements of balanced program schedules, and to the degree of public interest in the questions presented. Recognizing that healthy controversy is essential to the maintenance of democratic institutions, the broadcast publisher will endeavour to encourage presentation of news and opinion on any controversy which contains an element of the public interest.

The Regional Council members listened to a tape of the program in question and reviewed all of the correspondence. The Council considers that the program in question does not violate any of the foregoing clauses of the CAB Code of Ethics.

The Content of the Program

It could not be every instance of discriminatory comment which would be found to be in breach of the “human rights” provision of the CAB Code of Ethics for, in a technical sense, every statement regarding an identifiable group is discriminatory. As this Council put the point in CFTO-TV re “Tom Clark’s Canada” (CBSC Decision 97/98-0009, February 26, 1998):

Early on, the Council recognized that Clause 2 of the CAB Code of Ethics requires a weighing of competing values. In CHTZ-FM re the Morning Show (CBSC Decision 92/93-0148, October 26, 1993) the Council noted that “it must balance the right of audiences to receive programming which is free of abusive or discriminatory material … with the fundamental right of free speech in Canadian society.” The application of this balancing act in various CBSC decisions evolved into an “abusiveness criteria”; i.e. the establishment of a “test” whereby a comment must not merely be discriminatory to constitute a breach of Clause 2, it must be abusively so.

In the CFTO-TV decision, the facts even bear some resemblance to those in the present case. In the earlier matter, the complainant had objected to Mike Duffy’s use of the vernacular expression “everyone and their dog” in connection with Canada’s immigration policy. The Council considered that the comments were not aimed at the Roma Gypsies who were involved in that immigration/refugee issue. It concluded:

This common slang phrase is customarily used to describe something as being non-restrictive, or all-inclusive, and would rarely, if ever, be understood as equating anyone to canine status. While on “first listening” one could recognize the potential for misinterpretation, a review of the transcript makes it clear that, in his commentary, Mr. Duffy was not using the phrase to describe the Roma gypsies or any other specific group of potential immigrants to Canada derogatorily, but rather the broad-minded or wide-open immigration policy itself, which, as he noted earlier, has “been part of our history.”

In this case, the Council notes that, while John and J.J. did not mince words in expressing their disgust with respect to the gruesome murder in Vancouver which resulted in part from the bureaucratic delays in executing the deportation of a Chinese national, they were also careful not to “paint with the same brush” all refugee claimants or immigrants, as is demonstrated in the following exchange with a caller named “Bob”:

Bob:

… The problem is that everyone that we deal with with an immigration problem happens to be Chinese. You don’t hear any of these names coming out of England, or Ireland or Belgium or we are just not letting these people into the country.

John:

Well, a lot of our immigration is Chinese, but we do have problems. In fact, there’s a controversy going on right now back in the Eastern part of this country of a criminal from … who was born in Scotland and has served time and now they’re wanting to deport him back to Scotland and the officials in Scotland are saying “we don’t want this scum back”. But he is not a Canadian citizen, he is a British citizen and he’s going to be deported. So it does happen in those cases. It just so happens, Bob, that here in the Lower Mainland, a huge amount of our immigration are Asian immigrants who are coming in, so, of course, that’s where a lot of the attention is focussed.

Bob:

Well, I think it’s also a question of them buying their way in and I think Canada has become nothing more than a glorified hooker.

John:

We sell our citizenship, don’t we? I mean that. If you look at the immigrant investor program, you can slice it and dice it any way you want, but the basic thing is, is what we say is, if you have want to invest money in our country, you can come here.

Bob:

Yeah, and if you don’t have any, huh, it doesn’t matter where that money comes from and of course that’s why we get the Triads and we get all the rest of it and the money is almost always drug money. Our dirty real estate money from Hong Kong.

JJ:

Yeah, we haven’t had the influx from Colombia yet, have we from the Colombia?

John:

Thanks, Bob. There’s an example of the vast number of innocent people being tarred with that brush that I spoke of. Because the few minority who abuse the system and make a bad example, you end up with people, such as Bob, who are left with an impression that all these people who come into the country are criminals. It’s not the case. It’s the small minority, but unfortunately then that’s the price they have to pay.

The Council considers that in the circumstances, John and J.J.’s discussion of Canada’s refugee policy, and of the specific case of Wing Fu Hau, did not cross the line into abusively discriminatory comment. Specifically, the Council considers that the hosts’ use of an analogy to “garbage” and “refuse” did not constitute a breach of the Codes. The analogy was not, in the Council’s view, used to discriminate against all refugees but rather to make the hosts’ point concerning flaws in Canada’s “open-door” refugee policy. The Council notes that, while freedom of expression has its limits in Canada, the freedom to criticize Government policies and practices is a core example of freedom of expression, in some senses the very root of that right in a democratic system. Unless, therefore, the exploiter of that right to challenge Government policies has overstepped another equally basic standard, such as, for example, the right of members of an identifiable group to be free from abuse, that right to challenge will be sustained. In this case, the Council finds that the exercise of their freedom of expression by the hosts, John and JJ, must outweigh any danger, as suggested by the complainant, that the references “cast suspicion on all immigrants.”

As to the “proposal” of dropping Mr. Hau out of an airplane over China, with or without a parachute, as a solution to the difficulty in obtaining travel documents from that country, the Council has no hesitation in saying that the statement is not, even if taken seriously, abusively discriminatory comment based on national or ethnic origin. The Council views this comment as directly related to the combination of Mr. Hau’s previous criminal record in China and the heinous acts alleged to have been committed by him vis-à-vis the infant and mother.

Finally, the complainant alleges that the hosts displayed some kind of bias against other people who speak “languages other than French and English, thereby feeding the myth that minority languages are somehow not Canadian.” There was also a suggestion in the complaint that the mere identification of an “Oriental mentality” and relating that to the loss of Asian wars by Western armies may have been inappropriate. First, the Council does not view the identification of another mentality or attitude as unreasonable, much less abusive. There are differences between nationalities as there are differences between genders. Broadcast standards require equal treatment but not blinders such that there cannot be a cognitive recognition of difference. To observe further that the general Canadian understanding of different national or continental cultural and linguistic matters may be less than full does not mean that Canadian society does not include, happily, persons of such international backgrounds. There was nothing unwelcoming or unaccommodating in the hosts’ attitudes. They were merely critical of Canada’s open-door policy. Their problem was with Mr. Hau and the Government policy which permitted him to remain in Canada, ultimately, it appeared, resulting in infanticide and grievous assault, not with the Chinese as an identifiable group or culture.

The related subjects of immigration and refugee policies are sensitive and provocative and the CBSC has occasionally found that broadcasters dealing with this area have overstepped the limits of the private broadcast standards which they administer. This is not such a case.

Broadcaster Responsiveness

In addition to assessing the relevance of the Codes to the complaint, the CBSC always assesses the responsiveness of the broadcaster to the substance of the complaint. In this case, the Council considers that the broadcaster’s response addressed fully and fairly all the issues raised by the complainant. Consequently, the broadcaster has not breached the Council’s standard of responsiveness. Nothing more is required.

This decision is a public document upon its release by the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council. It may be reported, announced or read by the station against which the complaint had originally been made; however, in the case of a favourable decision, the station is under no obligation to announce the result.