MacLean Evades Issue of Cherry's Affront

By Walton, Gerald | Winnipeg Free Press, November 19, 2019 | Go to article overview

MacLean Evades Issue of Cherry's Affront


Walton, Gerald, Winnipeg Free Press


The firing of Don Cherry and the ongoing aftermath reveals deep divisions across Canadian society. He has been known for decades as someone who speaks his mind. Some even call him an “icon.”

His recent remark about “you people” resulted in his termination from Sportsnet as longtime co-host of Coach’s Corner. Targeting immigrants and newcomers to Canada, he ranted:

“You people… that come here, whatever, you love our way of life, love our milk and honey… These guys paid for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada.”

Cherry admitted that he should have used the word “everybody” instead of “you people.” Yet the phrase that followed — “that come here” — tells a different story. It leaves little question that his remark took aim at immigrants and newcomers, also made clear in his claim about “our” way of life.

Far from being an accidental slip of the tongue, “you people” repeats Cherry’s pattern of anti-immigration that goes as far back as 1990.

What Cherry seems to have forgotten is that immigrants and newcomers add significantly to Canada’s economy. In his entitlement to speak freely, he also conveniently neglected to mention that racialized minorities have fought for Canada, as have Indigenous Canadians.

On Saturday, during the first Hockey Night in Canada since Cherry’s removal from Coach’s Corner, Ron MacLean made veiled reference to Cherry’s ignorant and xenophobic remarks and their fallout, calling them “a situation,” adding that “there will be the possibility of this really bad, unexpected thing to do some good thing, I hope.”

Praise for Cherry followed. One wonders why he apologized in the first place if he chose to not spell out the nature of the problem.

Free speech is a cherished principle in Canada and opinions are passionate on whether Cherry’s ouster was justified or not. But should free speech be unfettered and total, as Cherry’s supporters might suggest?

As one person asked in a “streeter” interview: “What is the point of free speech if you can’t express a view?” Another warned: “It’s getting scary that we can’t say what we want in this country.”

The majority of Canadians believe political correctness has gone too far. What does that mean?

In the recent past, some people might have felt entitled to make racist, sexist, Islamophobic, transphobic or homophobic statements in their workplaces and, by and large, got away with it. For instance, Cherry once said: “Women in the National Hockey League. I think it’d be great. I think every dressing room should have one.”

In light of the #MeToo and #timesup movements, it’s doubtful Cherry would have kept his job if he had made such a demeaning remark today. …

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