Race Baiting at the Globe and Mail

   19 May 2009, late morning

Last week Christie Blatchford wrote an article about the protests against the war in Sri Lanka. The article was all sorts of bad. I decided to complain to the Globe and Mail. The Globe and Mail published several responses to Margaret Wente’s article, which was far better written, but didn’t post anything in response to Blatchford’s piece. This is disappointing. Thankfully, we live in a world where I don’t need the Globe and Mail to publish anything for me.

Please excuse me if you are not the person this should be directed to. As far as I can tell, the Globe and Mail does not have some sort of ombudsman.

Christie Blatchford wrote a lovely opinion piece (May 12, 2009 – Whose rights are really being trampled?) about the recent protests held by some Tamils in Toronto. There is so much I find offensive in the article I will not waste your time discussing it all. Instead, i’ll touch on the following sentence:

“We live in a country where we don’t even know how many of our fellows are Tamils from Sri Lanka, but are simultaneously asked to accept on faith that they are properly and legally here and to extend to them every privilege conferred by Canadian citizenship”

I have re-read the Globe and Mail articles on the Critical Mass protest that ended up on the Gardiner. Strangely, no one questioned whether those protesters were illegal immigrants. Perhaps at that time no one thought it was pertinent? I would love to know why it was pertinent this time.

Ms. Blatchford seems to be unaware that there are plenty of Tamils who were born in Toronto. She seems to subscribe to the notion that your skin colour makes you a perpetual immigrant. Many of the university students protesting are going to be children who were born and raised in the city. Tamils have been in this country for a long time now, long enough to have children and grandchild who have been born and raised in Canada. The implication that everyone just hopped off a boat and marched downtown is a little bit ignorant. Putting that aside, refugees and landed immigrants also have the right to free assembly, to protest, etc.

Finally, Ms. Blatchford uses the pronoun “we” through out this article. I am curious who she is referring to. As a Tamil Canadian, a Torontonian, do I get to join her club? I have my doubts.

It’s 2009: I expect more from the Globe and Mail.

thank you for your time
Ramanan Sivaranjan
[Sent 14/05/2009 / Response: Probably too sarcastic to get a response]

I don’t subscribe to the Globe and Mail anymore, but my friend still does:

Dear Mr. Greenspon,

I am writing to ask that you review the Globe and Mail’s policy on the editorial oversight of columnists, especially in light of Christie Blatchford’s May 12, 2009 article on the Tamil protests in Toronto titled “Whose rights are really being trampled?”. As a subscriber to the Globe, I have valued your newspaper for its sense of journalistic quality and standards. In this case, however, I was stunned and disappointed that you and your editors allowed Ms. Blatchford’s piece to be published. That decision greatly diminishes the reputation of your newspaper and its editors.

The Globe has a right and duty to publish a diverse selection of opinions on topics like the Tamil protests. I don’t expect to agree with everything you publish. But Ms. Blatchford’s column was so offensive and such a clear incitement to anti-immigrant racial hatred that I was genuinely shocked that the editors at the Globe considered it fit to print.

On May 13, 2009, the Globe published a column on the same topic by Margaret Wente titled “Tamils deserve straight talk”. I disagree with much of Ms. Wente’s column, but recognize that her piece is an excellent example of how to add meaningfully to an important discussion. When referring to the Tamil protesters she does not conflate them with all Tamils in Canada. When making a contentious point, she references actual people and verifiable facts, not “her friends” or “many Torontonians”. At no point does she casually accuse an entire community of being in the country illegally or of violating vague, unwritten but fundamental covenants. Nor does she reference an undefined, but implicitly white, “we” while making a point.

In my view, the Globe and Mail should publish an apology, or a retraction, or a clarification for printing Ms. Blatchford’s column. At the very least, I think that you and your editors should take a moment to reflect on the damage you have done, both to your readers and to the Tamil community in Canada. As a member of both of those groups, I hope
that you can revise your editorial policies to ensure that this mistake is not repeated.

Thanks for your time.

Respectfully,
[writer’s name removed]
[Sent 14/05/2009 / Response: Nothing]

And so on.

I am writing to express my extreme disgust and disappointment with Christine Blatchford’s article on Tuesday May 12, entitled “Whose rights are really being trampled?”

Her article was racist and offensive. I will not claim to understand the complex situation in Sri Lanka, nor will I offer support or condemnation for the Tamil protestors in Toronto – this is beside the point. When Ms. Blatchford states, without hesitation, that immigrants (citizens or otherwise) do not have the same rights to protest as those born in this country, or that they some how agreed to an unwritten contract when they moved here to keep quiet about the political situation “that drove then here in the first place,” or that the number of Canadian flags one waves is an indication of their dedication to Canada – that is racist.

When she states that the /real /issues Toronto is dealing with is “not rage about traffic snarls, not racism, not a failure to understand the complexities of the civil war in Sri Lanka or its attendant loss of life” but the exact numbers of Tamils that live in our City – that is frightening.

Given the diverse nature of our City, Torontonians are often faced with the challenge of dealing with complex and often disturbing global issues. It would be nice if the Globe and Mail could serve as a forum for enlightenment, discussion and debate rather than sanctioning and enticing xenophobic fears.

Thank you,
Kelci Gershon
Toronto, Ontario
[Sent 13/05/2009 / Response: Nada]

If anyone else wrote to the Globe and Mail about this, please let me know. I’d love to collect letters about this article.

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Comments

  1. I am amazed that the Globe didn’t publish one letter about her article. How is that possible?

  2. I’ve been absent for a while, but now I remember why I used to love this blog.

    Thanks , I will try and check back more often. How frequently you update your site?

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