In response to a viewer’s complaint that a CBC radio program had discriminated against people of British descent, a CBC director has said that racism against white people “doesn’t exist.” 

The complaint focused on a June 30, 2021 airing of CBC Vancouver’s radio show The Early Edition, where a guest had complained that schools were named after “Lord so-and-so or Queen this or Sir whatever.” 

According to a review by CBC Ombudsman Jack Nagler last week, the complainant had accused journalists on the program of ridiculing people of British heritage who had schools named after them.

“I found the whole segment to be demeaning of my British heritage. It was clearly racist and I expect an apology,” the complainant wrote. 

In response, CBC British Columbia director Treena Wood replied by dismissing the concept of “reverse racism” and saying that racism against white people and so-called privileged groups is not a real thing. 

“I understand and appreciate that conversations around colonialism and the nature of settlements in Canada can be difficult ones, but I respectfully reject your opinion that this segment was racist,” wrote Wood. “The common and accepted sociological understanding of racism is that so-called “reverse racism” against privileged groups, especially white people, doesn’t exist. Racism must involve a privileged group showing prejudice against a historically underprivileged group.”

Wood pointed to a blog post by the activist group the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion to justify her claims. 

Despite Wood’s selective position, the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal, defines racism as a “belief that some people are better than other people because they belong to a particular race or ethnic group,” and racial descrimination occurs when someone treats others badly, denies them a benefit, harasses or insults based on race, colour, ancestry or place of origin. 

In fact, the tribunal ruled in a landmark 2018 case that a resort owner had engaged in racial discrimination when he fired seven white employees. 

Following Wood’s response, the complainant had requested a review from Nagler. 

“Are ALL Canadians equal or are they not? So am I to read into this response that it is OK to make racist remarks or jokes as long as the recipient is of British heritage and white?” the complainant wrote. 

In his review of the complaint, Nagler agreed with Wood’s characterization and ruled that the program and the conduct of participants didn’t breach the state broadcaster’s policy. 

“It was in the public interest to understand just how many school names might warrant scrutiny, and where those schools are. I know that you did not claim this to be a problem, but I want to remove any scintilla of doubt in case anyone should feel that CBC’s investigation was itself irresponsible or problematic,” wrote Nagler.

“Finally, I find it difficult to comment on your assertion that had a CBC host said “Chief Whatever” instead of “Sir Whatever,” it would have been seen by all to be an example of racism. As always, context would be key, and I can’t give you an honest evaluation of a hypothetical. All I know is that in the real-world case of this radio segment, I found no breach of policy on the part of CBC’s journalists.” 

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