By Esther Enkin for the CBC
The complainant, Carman Miller objected to a reference that it’s hard to spot Canadian flags in Quebec. He thought it was inaccurate and amounted to Quebec bashing. It was a passing reference in an article about the results of a survey of Muslims in Canada. In its context, I did not see it as negative or a violation of policy.
You were “shocked to read the gratuitous, misleading [and false] statement” in Neil Macdonald’s column reacting to the publication of a survey of Muslim Canadians in Canada. The purpose of the survey was to probe the relationships with Muslim Canadians and the rest of the Canadian population. The sentence you objected to did not refer to Muslims, but rather Quebec. The column, entitled Survey of Muslim Canadians, rebuts lazy generalizations with hard data focused on the results of the survey, which indicated Muslims identify strongly as Canadians, as well as with their religion. In the course of the piece, Mr. Macdonald made reference to Quebec by saying: “Try to find a Canadian flag in Quebec, for example.” You characterized that statement as “Quebec bashing”:
One would have to be wilfully blind [or worse] to fail to find a Canadian flag in Quebec. Nor are his biased comments on Quebec more founded. He may not like Quebec but he ought to ground his criticism on fact rather than fictions.
You thought this statement “effectively creates or is designed to create” a negative image of the province. You said this causes “needless tension” and contravenes the mandate of the CBC. You thought that an apology was in order.
Chris Carter, the Senior producer of the Politics section of cbcnews.ca responded to your complaint. He pointed out that this was one line in an essay and was “almost an aside in this article.” He pointed out that the column was an analysis of the results of a survey of Muslims in Canada prepared by the Environics Institute. He explained that if taken in context of the entire column and its thesis, that the Muslim community was like many others in Canada, including Quebecois. He reminded you that Mr. Macdonald characterized Canada as a country which is the “multi-culti community of communities.” He added that the paragraph was not framed as criticism of Quebec, and that this is clear from the context of the piece. He mentioned that the reference to flags was a “rhetorical device” and added that he did not say there are no Canadian flags in Quebec. He used the phrase to make a point of Quebecois’ distinct sense of themselves. He told you he did not draw the conclusion that it was in any way a negative observation:
I note as well that this article was an analysis piece, clearly marked as such, and was intended to offer some thought-provoking context to the facts of the Environics survey of Muslims in Canada. Mr. Macdonald’s writing may be provocative at times, but that is mainly with the goal of being interesting and in bringing about a different way of looking at the cold numbers of the survey. Mr. Macdonald succeeds in doing that, I believe. And looking at the full context, I don’t believe an apology is needed or warranted.