CKAC-AM re an episode of Doc Mailloux (Financial Difficulties)

quebec regional panel
(CBSC Decision 05/06-1405)
M.-A. Murat (Vice-Chair), B. Guérin, D. Meloul, G. Moisan

the facts 

Doc Mailloux was (at times material to this broadcast) an open-line radio program hosted by psychiatrist Pierre Mailloux and his co-host Janine Ross. The program aired weekdays on CKAC (Montréal) from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm. The hosts and callers discussed topics related to psychology, sociology and similar disciplines, occasionally inspired by a current news story or social phenomenon. 

The question of the day on the episode of April 4, 2006 was “Have you ever had to use a food bank?” The more pertinent dialogue follows (a more complete transcription of the dialogue can be found in Appendix A, in French only). Although the discussion focussed primarily on financial difficulties that Quebec families face, at one point, Mailloux made reference to the situation in Haïti: 

[translation]

Doc Mailloux: It’s like Haiti. When you’re ready to help Haiti, give me a call. I’ll have, I’ll have things we can do. First off, where Haiti is concerned, you have to send over shipping containers of Depo-Provera. That’s first and foremost. Contraception first. And then you send over Haitian nurses and you inject the little girls from eleven on up in the butt, and you understand? Contraception first. Then we bring in food, and refrigerators, something. 

Following a number of calls dealing with the question of the day, the hosts spoke with Marie-Claude who compared the spending habits of her mother and father: 

[translation]

Doc Mailloux: Your parents were spendthrifts, good consumers, eh?

Caller Marie-Claude: My mother is, yes, but not my father.

Doc Mailloux: O.K.

Marie-Claude: My father is a very frugal man.

Doc Mailloux: O.K.

Marie-Claude: Um, each cent is spent, but he knows on what it was spent.

Doc Mailloux: O.K. Your mother was rather wasteful, not too gifted?

Marie-Claude: Yes. Yes.

Doc Mailloux: There are loads of those. Not all women. Some women are amazingly frugal, but some others aren’t too gifted. It makes no damned sense.

Mailloux later returned to the question of Haitians, only this time to those who live in Montréal: 

[translation]

Doc Mailloux: And speaking of those houses, Hochelaga, or Hochelaga something this morning on TV. They were showing how they’re cleaning up the neighbourhood. So the poor, maybe we should take a broom to them from time to time and tell them to clean themselves up.

Caller Francine: Well, that’s right.

Janine: Right.

Doc Mailloux: You know, the mayor said well, he said well we’re cleaning up, but you need to make an effort too. No, no. When are we going to quit, quit kowtowing to the poor?

Francine: But sir, poverty is a thing you cultivate.

Doc Mailloux: You know, when are we going to quit, when are we going to be able to say to the Haitians: “Start by cleaning up your own shit”?

Francine: That’s right.

Doc Mailloux: You know. Contraceptives. They’re cleaning up the shit that’s out in the open, and then we’re going to bring you food, and then we’ll try to help you.

Janine: Thank you very much, Francine. Thank you; have a good day.

Doc Mailloux: No really, this weak-kneed approach is just beyond me.

The discussion returned to issues of savings and, as a related issue, hunger. 

[translation]

Doc Mailloux: Ten percent of Canadians do not eat enough to satisfy their hunger.

Janine: That’s huge. And the others can’t make ends meet.

Doc Mailloux: But –

Janine: Because the, the, when you reach what is called the endpoint, the budget for groceries, it’s astronomical.

Doc Mailloux: Janine, we are now at 30%. With that no account one there, 30%; that’s one out of three.

Janine: And I’m telling you that we’re not even in the trend. Do you know –

Doc Mailloux: But, one out of three; fuck the trend! Janine we have a problem, because that’s a huge number of human beings.

The dialogue turned to social workers and then to the sponsorship scandal. During the latter part of the discussion, the host admitted that he had not paid taxes for many years. 

[translation]

Janine: I took steps, just last week.

Doc Mailloux: Go on.

Janine: There is someone experiencing some big problems.

Doc Mailloux: Yes.

Janine: Um, the first lady social worker, everything went really well, number one. Then, the second one explains that well, the file has changed hands because well, this person isn’t sufficiently, isn’t sufficiently needy, or whatever; it hasn’t been established. So, I said, “What, are we going to leave these people in the street?” Because that’s; they have no more income, they have nothing. In the street? She says, for some of them it’s their destiny, Madam. [Doc Mailloux laughs] You have to accept it.

Doc Mailloux: Janine! I would have booted them in the ass.

Janine: Holy crap, we’re –

Doc Mailloux: My missing leg sometimes itches to –

Janine: It makes no sense.

Doc Mailloux: Hey. Even though she’s a woman, there are limits to idiocy.

Janine: But it’s; I said “Are you serious?” In any case.

Doc Mailloux: That crazy woman, that crazy woman, she was serious, Janine.

Janine: That’s for sure.

Doc Mailloux: I’m telling you.

Janine: That’s for sure. She has no other resources. Some people have a lot of trouble.

Doc Mailloux: When I say that there is a percentage of female social workers, well it makes no damned sense. Please, open your eyes.

Janine: Because there’s misery in the streets.

[.]

Doc Mailloux: You know, the, the, swindlers aren’t all poor, I would rather –

Caller Maurice: [???].

Doc Mailloux: You know, it’s easy for us to say. It’s easy since the sponsorship scandal.

Maurice: Of course.

Doc Mailloux: But there are plenty of swindlers in suits and ties, it’s not even funny. [Janine laughs]

Maurice: You know?

Doc Mailloux: Don’t ask yourselves why Mailloux didn’t pay any income tax for 30 years. Ha, ha, ha.

Janine: Because you set up a company, Pierre.

Doc Mailloux: I said, you can’t swindle a swindler.

Later in the episode, there was a discussion about an article that had run in La Presse on the worsening of the circumstances of Blacks, particularly young Blacks, in the United States. 

[translation]

Doc Mailloux: There’s something I would like to share with you.

Janine: Yes, O.K., yes.

Doc Mailloux: With all due respect to Carole, there’s something, there’s an article. Look, it made the, it made the front page of La Presse, um Sunday, Sunday morning.

Janine: Yes, yes.

Doc Mailloux: And it’s entitled “The Backward Slide of Young American Black Men”.

Janine: Yes.

Doc Mailloux: It’s an article by Richard Hétu, and it’s important to discuss this, because it ties in with our topic today. Um, there is a backward slide. There’s a sociologist, um a great, an eminent sociology professor at Harvard, um, who claims, and it’s very troubling. They have just discovered that in the United States, the, the status, the level, of young American Black men had regressed significantly since 2000, in the last five years.

Janine: Pierre, all these figures are mind-boggling. I’m, I’m sorry, but we’ve been told exactly the opposite in the last month or so.

Doc Mailloux: Yes.

Janine: So, Harvard; is it on a particular sector? To what did their limit their study?

Doc Mailloux: No, no, but it’s what he’s saying –

Janine: Yup.

Doc Mailloux: There is supposedly an avalanche of studies in the United States that show –

Janine: Yes.

Doc Mailloux: – that the situation of the Blacks is worsening in the United States, particularly for young men living in cities.

Janine: Yes.

Doc Mailloux: O.K.?

Janine: Yes.

Doc Mailloux: Young Blacks living in cities, young Black men living in cities, their situation has worsened. And they have, for example, on the level of, in 2000, 65% of the young men, of Blacks under the age of 20 who had interrupted their studies –

Janine: Yes.

Doc Mailloux: – were jobless. In 2004, four years later, 72 % of young Black males who had abandoned their studies were jobless, compared to 34% for White males and 19% for Hispanic males.

Janine: Yes.

Doc Mailloux: Well, wait a minute. There’s something going on here. You understand?

Janine: Well something is going on for sure.

Doc Mailloux: The, the other point, um is [age?]

Janine: But, does he identify -?

Doc Mailloux: I’ve already discussed that.

Janine: What’s -?

Doc Mailloux: I’ve been called a racist; you’re going to get it right in the face.

Janine: No, Pierre, how is it identified? You say, there must be a reason. Did the study explain -?

Doc Mailloux: No, no, he doesn’t know. No, no. It’s; there is a difference between a fact and the explanation for that fact.

Janine: O.K.

Doc Mailloux: There is no explanation for the fact. It’s a surprise, a very nasty surprise. Moving along, the increase in the rate of incarceration isn’t any more reassuring. In ’95, 16% of young Black men aged 20, that were not, that were not pursuing higher education, were in prison.

Janine: Yes.

Doc Mailloux: O.K.?

Janine: Yes.

Doc Mailloux: In ’95, ten years later in 2004, it’s 21%.

Janine: By 72%, is that right, who dropped out.

Doc Mailloux: No, no, it’s 21% of young Black males aged 20 who weren’t going to school.

Janine: That’s right. You just said 72% had dropped out in 2000, so that would be it, it would correspond; 72% drop out, and then there are 21% according to the latest figures in your data? Who –

Doc Mailloux: No. There is no connection. It’s another aspect.

Janine: No connection, ah, O.K.

Doc Mailloux: It’s another aspect. This was the rate for; the other one is the employment rate, O.K.?

Janine: Yes.

Doc Mailloux: Seventy-two percent, O.K., of young Black men who dropped

out –

Janine: Yes.

Doc Mailloux: – are without employment.

Janine: O.K. That’s it.

Doc Mailloux: While among White males, 34% of Whites who left school are working; only 34% of them are not working.

Janine: And it’s even better among Hispanophones.

Doc Mailloux: And, and, the Hispanophones aren’t going to school, but they’re working. No explanation. Fasten your seat belt as I continue. On the topic of incarceration, because in the United States, I’ve said before and I repeat, that among incarcerated prisoners, one out of every two prisoners is a Black man, while the US population is 12% Black. You have to agree that there is a problem somewhere. It’s all well and good to fool around, but there are problems and it’s having damned consequences. So, those are the figures for the slammer. Among men in their thirties, among men in their thirties, six out of ten Black men who had dropped out of high school had been in jail at least once.

Janine: Hmm. And we’re talking 30 year-olds, Pierre; those are men who have reached an age to have children.

Doc Mailloux: Yes.

Janine: They’re potential heads of families.

Doc Mailloux: Sixty percent who did not go far in school end up in, were in the slammer at least once.You know, it really is quite mind-boggling. Now, during the same period, the crime rate was going down in most large American cities.

Janine: Meaning?

Doc Mailloux: Hunh?

Janine: What does it mean? Give us a conclusion after all that.

Doc Mailloux: Well, they’re conducting more studies. Young Black men are proud of who they are.They are one of the proudest ethnic groups in the United States.

Janine: Good.

Doc Mailloux: So, can you explain that to me? It’s important to say it, Janine, do you understand?

Janine: Well, of course.

On the following day, a complainant wrote the CRTC, which forwarded the complaint to the CBSC (the full text of all correspondence can be found in Appendix B, available in French only): 

 [translation]

1- The host made racist comments about Haitians by calling them dirty people who don’t pick up their garbage in Montréal neighbourhoods. 

2- The host incited violence against women by calling them fools and saying that in a given situation he would be hard pressed not to boot their asses. 

3- The host incited civil disobedience by boasting that he never paid income tax for 20 [sic] years. 

The Director of Human Resources and Corporate Affairs of Corus Radio Québec responded on April 30. That letter said, in pertinent part: 

[translation]

The CBSC has asked us to answer your e-mail in which you express your concerns about comments made by Doctor Pierre Mailloux during his program Un Psy à l’écoute [sic], broadcast on CKAC April 4, 2006.

As you know, CKAC-AM’s service programs, commentaries, open-line shows and discussions on various issues, including public interest issues, target an adult audience.

Your e-mail sets out your concerns with respect to the program Un Psy à l’écoute. More specifically, you maintain that the host made racist comments by calling Haitians dirty people. You also say that the host incited violence against women by calling them fools and saying he would be hard pressed to refrain from taking certain undignified actions toward them. And, you maintain that the host incited civil disobedience by saying that he never paid income tax for 20 years.

With respect to your first point, you refer to the comments made by Dr. Mailloux in a discussion on poverty and the means of helping the poor. As you probably know, Dr. Mailloux often expresses very definite opinions on several social and political subjects. In this case, he was expressing his personal opinion on the cleanliness of certain people in need of help. We very much regret that the host resorted to this form of language that may be offensive with respect to an ethnic group in particular.

That being said, we sincerely regret that the comments made during this broadcast offended you or that you perceived them as being racist. Please be assured that CKAC’s policy has never been to discriminate in any way against any group or part of a group. While we recognize that it is important for commentators and guests to refrain from making abusive comments about any group, we are of the opinion that this is not the case in this situation. This was a case of exercising freedom of speech and many listeners may not be in agreement.

[.]

With respect to your second point, this concerns a comment about the reply given by a female social worker concerning a case she was handling. Dr. Mailloux’s comments referred to that specific case. He was therefore not calling all women “fools”, but in fact commenting on the reaction of one individual in particular. Even though it was a brutal comment, the host was characterizing the answer given by that social worker, rather than the individual herself. It often happens that in the course of a conversation, the use of euphemisms in relation to comments made does not mean that the individuals are themselves the target of those characterisations. Some will say that certain things or ideas are foolish without the term extending to the individuals involved. It is true that the host declared that he would be hard pressed to refrain from an undignified act toward women giving the same response as the social worker in question. Here again, we believe this is a figure of style or a caricature that does not constitute actual incitement to violence against women. In one of its decisions, the CBSC noted the distinction between comments that are made and the potential for believing that the individual who made the comments was in fact inciting violent acts: “[.] to say the least, the Council does not consider this isolated comment to be more than an unpleasant, tasteless, juvenile comment, but not a genuine
pre-meditated attempt to encourage the commission of a criminal offence”.

With respect to your third point, you have no doubt often heard Dr. Mailloux explain, other than on CKAC’s airwaves, that by setting up an
agri-food production company some years ago, he was legitimately able to avoid paying income tax. In returning to that theme here, his main objective was to express a political opinion on what he considers to be a balance between services given to citizens and the income tax they are required to pay. While we may or may not agree with the host’s political comments and observations, we do not believe that given the context in which this occurred, this constituted incitement to civil disobedience. It was, rather, a political comment expressed with irony. 

Dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s response, the complainant filed his Ruling Request on May 18. Some additional correspondence regarding procedural issues not germane to the substance of the complaint was exchanged by the complainant and the CBSC. 

 

the decision 

The Quebec Regional Panel examined the complaint under the following provisions of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics and the CAB Violence Code:

 

CAB Code of Ethics, Clause 2 – Human Rights 

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

CAB Code of Ethics, Clause 6 – Full, Fair and Proper Presentation 

It is recognized that the full, fair and proper presentation of news, opinion, comment and editorial is the prime and fundamental responsibility of each broadcaster. This principle shall apply to all radio and television programming, whether it relates to news, public affairs, magazine, talk, call-in, interview or other broadcasting formats in which news, opinion, comment or editorial may be expressed by broadcaster employees, their invited guests or callers.

 CAB Code of Ethics, Clause 9 – Radio Broadcasting 

Recognizing that radio is a local medium and, consequently, reflective of local community standards, programming broadcast on a local radio station shall take into consideration the generally recognized access to programming content available in the market, the demographic composition of the station’s audience, and the station’s format. Within this context, particular care shall be taken by radio broadcasters to ensure that programming on their stations does not contain: 

(a) Gratuitous violence in any form, or otherwise sanction, promote or glamorize violence;

[.]

(c) Unduly coarse and offensive language. 

CAB Violence Code, Clause 7 – Violence against Women 

7.1 Broadcasters shall not telecast programming which sanctions, promotes or glamorizes any aspect of violence against women. 

The Panel listened to a recording of the broadcast of April 4 and reviewed all of the correspondence. The Quebec Regional Panel concludes that portions of the broadcast are in breach of some of the foregoing provisions.

 

Limits of Race-related Commentaries

In another decision of even date, this Panel has dealt with the treatment by this host and broadcaster of the issue of race-related commentaries. In CKAC-AM re an episode of Doc Mailloux (Money) (CBSC Decision 05/06-1379, December 11, 2006), it summarized the Council’s position on race-related commentaries in the following terms: 

It has long and consistently been established by CBSC Panels that it is not just any mention of the groups identified in the Human Rights Clause of the CAB Code of Ethics that will fall afoul of the prohibition contained in that Clause. It is only those mentions that are abusive or unduly discriminatory that are prohibited there. Moreover, genuine political or historical observations, or opinions based on political or historical events are likely to survive scrutiny, although care must be taken by broadcasters to ensure that such content is not excessive. There is no doubt that the CBSC will look closely at statements that could have the effect of abusing, or unduly discriminating against, individuals on the basis of their race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion or the like since they tread in delicate societal territory. In the view of the Panel, there is, in the area of human rights, much at stake. Abusive comments pierce souls rather than skins. They do not just offend; they harm. Flippant, thoughtless or heedless in the mouth of the speaker, such comments become weighty and painful in the ears of the affected. Consequently, the CBSC Panels examine such complaints with the measure of the impact very much in mind. 

In applying the principles relating to the broadcast of political or historical observations some years ago, in CHOM-FM and CILQ-FM re the Howard Stern Show (CBSC Decisions 97/98-0001+, October 17 & 18, 1997), this Panel (together with the Ontario Panel) held: 

Those comments relating to the state of radio in Canada, the use of English in Quebec, the value of French culture, Canada as an appendage of the United States, the role of the vanquished French in Vichy France, the issues relating to separatism, and so on, are the host’s opinions and, unless utterly and irresponsibly uninformed […] they are his to espouse. […] It is the view of the Regional Councils that these political and historical comments fall squarely within the bounds which freedom of expression is meant to protect. 

In the matter under consideration here, the Panel finds that the discussion of the worsening situation of young Blacks in the United States was, on this occasion, handled factually, dispassionately and fairly. Rather than drawing conclusions about the Black community, the host drew conclusions about the problems faced by the Black community. While the underlying information resulting from the study was undeniably innately difficult or unpleasant, the host made no inferences about the community it related to. His observations were, this time, without sweeping negative inferences; they were unprovocative. They fell squarely within the limits of dialogue acceptable under the broad principle of freedom of expression. 

The same is not true of the host’s commentary about Haitians on this episode. At one point he said: 

[translation]

Doc Mailloux: You know, when are we going to quit, when are we going to be able to say to the Haitians: “Start by cleaning up your own shit”?

Francine: That’s right.

Doc Mailloux: You know. Contraceptives. They’re cleaning up the shit that’s out in the open, and then we’re going to bring you food, and then we’ll try to help you.

The Panel finds that comment insulting, degrading and abusive, and in clear violation of Clause 2 of the CAB Code of Ethics

The complainant also raised the issue of Mailloux’s comments about women. The CBSC dealt with similar complaints in the aforementioned Howard Stern Show decision. In that case, the CBSC Panels observed that the host referred to his female callers and guests as “dumb broads”, “fat cows” and the like. The Panels found a breach of Clause 2 in that case, noting that “Women […] are entitled to the respect which their intellectual, emotional, personal and artistic qualities merit. No more than men. No less than men. But every bit as much as men.” 

While Stern’s negative characterizations of women were arguably more consistent and recurrent, the Quebec Panel nevertheless considers that Mailloux’s remarks in this broadcast constituted derisory comments levelled at women. He used the word “crazy” to describe a female social worker simply because he disagreed with her approach and he suggested that such “idiocy” was typical of most women. This language showed a level of disrespect and intolerance that was in violation of Clause 2 of the CAB Code of Ethics

With respect to the complainant’s allegation that the host incited violence against women by suggesting that he would have “booted them in the ass”, the Panel notes that it is unclear whether Mailloux, in using the word “them”, was referring to the female social workers or to the persons who received counsel from those women. Consequently, the Panel makes no ruling on that portion of the complaint. 

 

The Use of Coarse Language 

In CKAC-AM re an episode of Doc Mailloux (Money) (CBSC Decision 05/06-1379, December 11, 2006), referred to above and decided this very day, this Panel also dealt with the issue of coarse language. In that decision, the Panel referred to CKAC-AM re an episode of Doc Mailloux (Adolescent Sexuality) (CBSC Decision 05/06-1104, June 30, 2006), where this Panel found that “fourrer” [English approximate equivalent: “to fuck”] was a word that fell squarely within the level of unduly coarse or offensive language. More pertinently perhaps, in CKAC-AM re an episode of Doc Mailloux (Trisomy 21) (CBSC Decision 05/06-0642, February 3, 2006), this Panel considered the use of the word “fuck” in a discussion of persons with Down Syndrome during the course of the afternoon to be in breach of Clause 9(c) of the CAB Code of Ethics. The Panel considers that the use of the word “fuck” here is correspondingly in breach. 

 

Advocacy of Tax Avoidance? 

The Panel does not share the concern of the complainant with respect to the host’s apparent non-payment of taxes for 30 years. In the first place, it is not clear that it is true that he did not pay taxes during that period of time, as he averred. Second, the Panel considers it entirely possible that the host was just trying to appear “smarter” than his audience or colleagues in asserting, whether true or not, that he had “gotten away” with something. Third, his co-host attributed the assertion to Pierre Mailloux’s having organized himself via corporate mechanisms in such a way as to legitimately arrange his affairs so as to pay little or no tax. The bottom line is that the Panel does not find any breach of Clause 6 in his statements with regard to his fiscal arrangements. 

 

The Consequences of Repetitive Breaches 

Where a broadcaster appears to have committed three breaches of the same codified standard or member responsibility, it is the practice of the CBSC to advise it publicly of this fact and to require a written commitment of compliance for the future. For this step to be taken, the third breach must have occurred in a time frame that would have given the broadcaster information about the CBSC’s rulings on the issue of the breach prior to the third broadcast. In the matter under consideration, the third breach did not occur within those time-lines, so no such order is appropriate. Such a breach did, however, occur in a decision of even date rendered by this Panel, for which discussion see CKAC-AM re an episode of Doc Mailloux (Childless by Choice) (CBSC Decision 05/06-1671, December 11, 2006). 

 

Broadcaster Responsiveness 

It is the practice of all CBSC Adjudicating Panels to assess the broadcaster’s responsiveness to the complainant. Although it is, of course, the case that the broadcaster need not agree with the complainant, it is expected that its representatives charged with replying to complaints will address the complainant’s concerns in a thorough and respectful manner. In the matter at hand, the Panel considers that the response of the Directeur des Resources Humaines et des Affaires corporatives to the complainant was focussed closely on each of the issues he raised in his original letter of complaint. As a result, the response successfully fulfilled the broadcaster’s obligation of responsiveness. 

 

Decision announcement 

CKAC is required to: 1) announce the decision, in the following terms, once during peak listening hours within three days following the release of this decision and once more within seven days following the release of this decision during the time period in which Doc Mailloux was broadcast; 2) within the fourteen days following the broadcast of the announcements, to provide written confirmation of the airing of the statement to the complainant who filed the Ruling Request; and 3) at that time, to provide the CBSC with a copy of that written confirmation and with air check copies of the broadcasts of the two announcements which must be made by CKAC. 

The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council has found that CKAC has breached the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ Code of Ethics in its broadcast of the Doc Mailloux episode of the afternoon of April 4, 2006. By broadcasting degrading and abusive comments about Haitian people and derisory comments about women, CKAC breached Clause 2 of that Code, which prohibits the broadcast of abusive or unduly discriminatory comments about people on the basis of their national or ethnic origin, or their gender. By broadcasting coarse and offensive language, CKAC also breached Clause 9(c) of the Code, which prohibits the broadcast of unduly coarse language at a time of the day when children can be expected to be listening to the radio.

This decision is a public document upon its release by the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council.