Abusive and Unduly Discriminatory Comments about an Identifiable Group Breach Private Broadcaster’s Code of Ethics

Ottawa, March 30, 2005- The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning comments made about immigration and immigrants on the Doc Mailloux show broadcast on CKAC-AM (Montreal). On the December 2, 2003 episode of the program, the hosts and callers discussed the issues of immigration and the integration of immigrants into Quebec society. A complainant alleged that the host “made nasty comments, tainted with insulting racism of the first order.”

Doc Mailloux is an open-line radio program hosted by psychiatrist Doctor Pierre Mailloux and co-hosted by Janine Ross. The program focusses on discussion about public affairs. On the challenged episode, Doctor Mailloux criticized immigration policies and immigrants in general for bringing the negative aspects of their cultures to Canada and for failing to fully integrate into Canadian society. The Quebec Regional Panel observed that this type of commentary may be offensive to certain groups, but that the host was free to espouse such views under the principle of freedom of expression.

In the skin of the person affected by words, there are sometimes stinging barbs that are, when viewed on a more detached and objective basis, only political observations or commentaries. Thus, for example, there may be comments made relating to overall Government immigration policy that understandably trouble immigrants […] Occasionally, therefore, comments about which “interested” groups are sensitive amount to no more than historical or political perspective. From time to time, though, there may, of course, be comments that, although prickling thinner skins, are abusive or unduly discriminatory and, consequently, do not meet the codified standards of Canada’s private broadcasters.

The majority of Mailloux’s remarks addressed the pure policy aspects of the immigration issue and, although the host’s views on the subject appeared very conservative and uninviting, they were not in breach of any broadcaster Code. One of the host’s remarks, however, constituted a negative characterization of a particular religious group which the Panel found abusive and unduly discriminatory and thus contrary to the Human Rights clause of the CAB Code of Ethics. The Panel stated that it

fully appreciates that Pierre Mailloux holds a strong opinion on the question of immigration and that he is prepared to share it readily and in forceful terms with his listeners. It also acknowledges that, as unpleasant as the host’s attitudes may be to some members of various immigrant communities (as well as the many more generous and receptive Quebeckers and Canadians), by virtue of the principle of freedom of expression, he is entitled to speak against the prospect of wide-ranging immigration. […]

When, however, he holds identifiable groups up to ridicule and disrespect by making abusive or unduly discriminatory comments, he crosses the line of entitlement and loses the benefit of the shield of free expression. […] The bottom line is that the Panel considers that the host is entitled to espouse his chauvinistic intolerance until such time as his disrespect leaks into individual races and nationalities, as it did when he referred to the Sikhs as “a gang of bozos” (translation).

Canada’s private broadcasters have themselves created industry standards in the form of Codes on ethics, gender portrayal and television violence by which they expect the members of their profession will abide. In 1990, they also created the CBSC, which is the self-regulatory body with the responsibility of administering those professional broadcast Codes, as well as the Code dealing with journalistic practices first created by the Radio Television News Directors Association of Canada (RTNDA) in 1970. More than 550 radio and television stations and specialty services from across Canada are members of the Council.

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All CBSC decisions, Codes, links to members’s and other web sites, and related information are available on the CBSC’ss website at www.cbsc.ca. For more information, please contact the CBSC National Chair, Mme Andrée Noël CBSC Executive Director, John MacNab