Dumont is a talk show hosted by Mario Dumont and broadcast on V Mondays to Fridays at 11:00 pm. On the episode of October 20, 2011, Dumont had as his guest Martin Pelletier to discuss current news events. The two men talked about the Commission of Inquiry into the Granting and Administration of Government Contracts in the Construction Industry (Commission d’enquête sur l’octroi et la gestion des contrats publics dans l’industrie de la construction – Charbonneau Commission), which had been appointed by the provincial Liberal government. In the course of that dialogue, they had the following exchange regarding the Quebec Liberal Party (a fuller transcript of the segment can be found in Appendix A, available in French only):
Pelletier: Mario, polls are still indicating that the lobotomized 25% watching us will vote Liberal. Does it take a bunch of brainless idiots or losers to still vote for a party? –
Dumont: People are entitled to their opinion!
Pelletier: Well, of course, they’re entitled to their opinion!
Dumont: Some people in Quebec are Liberals, they’re afraid –
Pelletier: Well yes, they’re Liberals, but it’s pathetic at this point –
Dumont: They’re afraid that Canada will split up, they’re afraid that Canada will be separated, and they see anything other than Liberal as a threat. There is that issue in Quebec.
Pelletier: Immigrants, Anglos and people on life support.
Dumont: That being said, it’s not impossible that there might be a few among Liberal supporters in the 125 ridings, and I encourage them to do so, to say what they think when they attend a political convention.
The CBSC received a complaint dated October 20 about this broadcast (the full text of all correspondence can be found in Appendix B, available in French only). The complainant expressed his view that the comments about people who vote Liberal were [translation] “racist, hateful and defamatory” and should not be tolerated on television. The station sent a letter to the complainant on November 14 in which it asserted that [translation] “Mr. Pelletier is well-known for his clear-cut opinions” and that the purpose of the program is to stimulate discussion and reflection on the topics discussed. The complainant submitted his Ruling Request that same day and wrote back to the broadcaster. He reiterated his view that this [translation] “racist opinion” should not be allowed to be broadcast.
The Quebec Regional Panel examined the complaint under the Human Rights clause of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics and Equitable Portrayal 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 Equitable Portrayal Code, Clause 2 – Human Rights
Recognizing that every person has the right to the full enjoyment of 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, gender, sexual orientation, marital status or physical or mental disability.
The Panel adjudicators read all of the correspondence and viewed the program which is the subject of this decision.
This program aired on the eve of the Quebec Liberal Party’s convention and also in the wake of the announcement that the Charbonneau Commission (in its original format) (Commission of Inquiry into the Granting and Administration of Government Contracts in the Construction Industry) had been appointed. The Commission was originally given very limited powers and had been set up after several months of heated debate in the public arena.
After making several caustic comments on the Charbonneau Commission, Pelletier first took issue with [translation] “the lobotomized 25% watching us [who] will vote Liberal,” adding that [translation] “Does it take a bunch of brainless idiots or losers to still vote for a party?” Those comments were followed by an exchange with host Dumont who suggested that part of the electorate is probably concerned with Canada splitting up. Pelletier added: [translation] “Immigrants, Anglos and people on life support”.
The majority of the Panel was of the view that there was no connection between Pelletier’s two comments on people who vote for the Quebec Liberal Party. Pelletier’s first remark was a broad-brush approach lumping 25% of Quebec voters in the same basket by calling them lobotomized and losers.
When Dumont intervened, pointing out that some voters are afraid that Canada could split up, Pelletier went on to say [translations] “immigrants”, “Anglos” and “people on life support”.
According to the majority of the Panel adjudicators, Pelletier’s second comment referred to Dumont’s intervention, that is to say that those who are concerned with Canada splitting up are immigrants, Anglophones or elderly persons, and was not related to Pelletier’s first comment in which he called 25% of Quebec voters “losers” and “brainless idiots”.
While two adjudicators did see a link between Pelletier’s two comments and dissented strictly on that aspect, they were both of the opinion that, even if connected, these comments were not abusive or unduly discriminatory.
The Panel adjudicators therefore concluded that the broadcast of the program Dumont on October 20, 2011 violated neither Clause 2 of the CAB Code of Ethics nor Clause 2 of the CAB Equitable Portrayal Code.
In all CBSC decisions, the Panels assess the broadcaster’s response to the complainant. The broadcaster certainly need not agree with the complainant’s position, but it must respond in a courteous, thoughtful and thorough manner. In this case, V responded to the complainant, adequately explaining its view of the broadcast. The broadcaster met its obligations of responsiveness and nothing further is required in this regard in this instance.
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.