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EDITORIAL: Don Cherry’s deeply revealing words (Nov. 2019)

December 9th, 2019 · 1 Comment

Don Cherry made it easy for Rogers’s-owned Sportsnet to fire him on Nov. 11. His attack on newcomers for not wearing symbols of allegiance (the poppy) advances a very non-Canadian agenda that is entirely contrary to the values that our soldiers and allies fought for over several wars.  It’s not so much that times have changed and Cherry’s views have failed to evolve, but that we believe Cherry is advancing views that were never very Canadian. The fact that he was fired on Remembrance Day is the real tribute to those troops.

This long-standing face of Canadian hockey has represented, unabashedly, a right-wing, nationalistic, white male-centred viewpoint that divided the world into “us” and “them”. A Nov. 9 televised rant on Coach’s Corner went on the attack against “you people” who come to Canada and in Cherry’s view must toe the line and wear poppies on Remembrance Day. 

No elected official, of any stripe, has come to his defence. Cherry’s words were so inappropriate and divisive, they really cornered conservatives who would normally have stood by him. Even the Royal Canadian Legion, which one might think of as “poppy obsessed”, tweeted “Mr. Cherry’s personal opinion was hurtful, divisive and in no way condoned by the Legion”.  Every moment of peace we have in Canada is a testament to the veterans who have fought and to those that have fallen. We live without fear of oppression and have freedom of choice.  The choice to not wear a poppy for whatever reason, ignorance of the tradition, disagreement about whether or not it must be worn on one’s lapel at certain times of year, should not be imposed by Cherry or others, otherwise the choice is not real. His comments lead to inciting hate towards identifiable groups and the possibility that the poppy itself might become a fascist symbol, which would negate the very honour we seek to bestow upon veterans because those were not the values they fought for. 

Cherry’s view is as objectionable as Quebec demanding by law that people NOT display any symbol of religious affiliation. He tried to clarify his comments following his firing by saying instead of “you people” he meant “everybody”. That does not jibe with the rest of remarks that were “you people … that come here, you love our way of life, you love our milk and honey, at least you can pay a couple of bucks for a poppy, these guys paid for the way of life that you enjoy in Canada”. He also singled out Toronto and Mississauga, whose populations are now majority non-white. Even if we give him the benefit of the doubt and allow that he was speaking not only about Syrian refugees but also families of “Scottish and Irish” descent, a real stretch, this still smells like an entirely assimilationist regime seeking to impose a totalitarian view of a one-colour world that should be long gone, and really should never have existed in a country consisting mostly of immigrants of many origins and traditions. 

Cherry and his online supporters touting their own intolerant views have argued his freedoms have been taken away but they have taken the principle of freedom of speech and have twisted it and demeaned it in such a way that it is no longer meaningful. Freedom of speech is not freedom from consequences. And now, Mr. Cherry, your long career of rants is bookended in disgrace for essentially being very non-Canadian.

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Tags: Annex · Editorial · Opinion

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