CBC finally responds to my complaint filed with Ombudsman on military’s bin Laden skit video coverage


To read my original complaint see earlier post here

Dear Mr. Skoreyko:

Thank you for your e-mail of November 11 addressed to Kirk LaPointe, CBC Ombudsman. At the end of November last year, CBC/Radio Canada President and CEO, Hubert T. Lacroix, named Esther Enkin to succeed Mr. LaPointe. That appointment took effect on January 1 of this year.

Since THE NATIONAL falls in my remit, I would like to reply. Please accept my apologies for the delay in doing so.

You wrote to draw our attention to shortcomings you find in a report broadcast on the November 8 editions of the program. The report by CBC News national correspondent Tom Murphy concerned a video prepared by members of the Canadian Forces featuring a short skit with a man in brown face paint dressed up as Osama bin Laden’s brother, “Eugene”.

Let me begin by saying that I sincerely regret you are disappointed in CBC, but – and I say this with respect – your view here is not one I share. Please allow me to explain why I say that.

Members of CFB Greenwood’s Air Maintenance Squadron made fun of themselves in the videotape through a series of vignettes and skits, including the mock interview with Osama bin Laden’s brother. It was commissioned and approved by squadron officers and was played more than two years ago at a formal mess dinner. Although some officers who saw it thought it was offensive and ordered it to be destroyed, late last fall a copy of the video was sent to CBC News in Halifax.

The mock interview with an unidentified woman acting as television interviewer was short, but in one clip shown in the report the character in brown-face and fake beard says, “What do you think I’m doing here you silly infidel? I’m driving one very nice taxi.” [He walks off camera and shouts] “Hey kid – get away from that car bomb, I mean taxi. It’s very dangerous”. At another point he named a woman of South Asian descent who works on the base as his niece and says she helped him come to Canada. (The woman, who had not been consulted, complained and received apologies from everyone involved.)

The CBC News report said the Canadian Forces members behind it intended the video to be funny, a humorous take on their work and activities.

Others, Mr. Murphy found, have different views. The head of the Islamic Association in the Maritimes said, “The typical Muslim means terrorist. This is typically the kind of stereotype that I think a great number of Muslims would find rather offensive”. Well-known comic Shaun Majumder, who has played Osama bin Laden in skits on CBC Television’s This Hour Has 22 Minutes, said he didn’t think it was funny, adding that comics are “not trying to win hearts and minds. That’s not our responsibility. Our Canadian military is.”

Defense Minister Peter MacKay said the video featured “inappropriate content and poor taste.” Lt.-Gen. Yvan Blondin, head of the Royal Canadian Air Force said the skit is “inappropriate and culturally insensitive”. He said the Canadian Forces has zero tolerance for acts that do not respect other cultures and religions, and said he “expressed his apologies to those who may feel offended”.

What lies at the heart of the notion of fairness in journalism is the equitable expression of differing points of view on controversial matters. Simply, we expect CBC journalists to report the facts accurately and to elicit comments and opinions from those who are involved in the events they are covering.  With that information, viewers may be reasonably expected to evaluate the comments, test them against each other and the facts, and decide whose “truth” to believe.

With respect to the specific points you raised, it is inaccurate to suggest CBC News delayed the story until just before Remembrance Day. We did not. Since it involved Canadian Forces members, we asked Canadian Forces headquarters in Halifax for their views. Two military police officers viewed the video at our office. The Canadian military subsequently said they were ordering what they called a full investigation. With a response from the Canadian Forces, we broadcast the story. We would not broadcast it without one. The timing was unrelated to Remembrance Day.

The subject matter is also unrelated. One squadron’s effort at humour for a mess dinner, however well intentioned, stands or falls on its own. The Canadian Forces – and Canadians – will reach their own conclusions about its appropriateness. That has and should have no impact on the solemn ceremonies held across the country three days later to commemorate the sacrifices of Canadian military personnel

It is facile and inaccurate to suggest the report is hypocritical in that it did not disclose that Mr. Majumder and CBC Television’s This Hour Has 22 Minutes have produced skits about Osama bin Laden.  Members of the Canadian Forces are held by their own organization to a higher standard than civilians. Mr. Majumder’s comments imply that. Comics may well – and may even be expected to – test society’s standards, members of the military are not. Quite the contrary, as Lt.-Gen. Blondin pointed out, the Canadian Forces respect other cultures and religions and has “zero tolerance” for acts that do not.

Your reference to Mr. Majumder’s Twitter account and “#whitepower” is unclear. I have reviewed his tweets for November 10 and 11, which include an exchange with Ezra Levant, conservative political activist and author, but I do not see that hashtag. Nor do I see anything that “inferred” he feels Canadian soldiers belong to such a group. What is abundantly clear in those tweets is Mr. Majumder’s consistent support for the Canadian Forces and Canadian Forces personnel and the high regard in which he holds them.

Thank you again for your e-mail. I hope my reply has reassured you of the continuing integrity of our program and CBC News.

Finally, it is my responsibility to tell you that if you are not satisfied with this response, you may wish to submit the matter for review by the CBC Ombudsman. The Office of the Ombudsman, an independent and impartial body reporting directly to the President, is responsible for evaluating program compliance with the CBC’s journalistic policies. The Ombudsman may be reached by mail at Box 500, Terminal A, Toronto, Ontario M5W 1E6, or by fax at 416-205-2825, or by e-mail at ombudsman@cbc.ca.


Mark Harrison
Executive Producer
Box 500, Station “A”,
Toronto, Ontario
M5W 1E6


20 Responses to “CBC finally responds to my complaint filed with Ombudsman on military’s bin Laden skit video coverage”

  1. andycanuck Says:

    Shouldn’t the CBC strive to have standards as high as the CF’s?

  2. fhl Says:

    wow!!!!! unbelievable

  3. Stan Says:

    They lost me at ‘blah blah blah..”.

  4. dmorris Says:

    “With a response from the Canadian Forces, we broadcast the story. We would not broadcast it without one. The timing was unrelated to Remembrance Day.”

    Of course they wouldn’t Dean,and I’m surprised you would think so!

    No Canadian member of the MSM would EVER hold a story back for partisan reasons, even IF the story was about the health of a Canadian politician aspiring to the Prime Minister’s office.

    What the f*** is wrong with people today,they have to make a mountain out of every little,insignificant thing! The video tape should have been chucked in the wastebasket,and the entire episode forgotten long ago.

  5. gerry from gta Says:

    Qu’el surprise — CBC is in self protect mode — what did you expect from a socialist bureaucracy? 🙂

    gerry from gta

  6. Bec Says:

    Well, I don’t, won’t and cannot be bribed to watch or listen to this network that I am forced to support through my tax dollars.
    The letter posted above just reinforces that position. One can just hear the condescending part of the brain matter at work, the reworking of words to get that point across.
    I can just imagine the tea-cup with the pinkie out, nose in the air and the numerous rolled eyes as this was written because that is how it sounds and the freedom of letters/e-mails/tweets/etc VS human contact. That I believe is the downfall of all communication.

  7. Liz J Says:

    Appears you got spewed with a healthy dose of verbal diarrhea.

  8. john Says:

    “…it is inaccurate to suggest CBC News delayed the story until just before Remembrance Day. We did not”


    Write to Ford of Canada. It is a major advertiser with the CBC’s only commericailly successful TV show – Hockey Night In Canada. Tell them that due to the absurd betrayal of public trust by the CBC you cannot in good concience do business with a company that supports this agencey.

  9. Thucydides Says:

    Enclose that letter with every letter you send companies that advertise on CBC when you explain why you won’t be doing business with them again. CC your member of Parliament as well

  10. Guffman Says:

    So if I get this right, Majumder’s okay to poke fun at Muslims because he’s a licensed CBC comedian, but if CF members at an internal (not public) function use the same humour, they’re racist, insensitive, and stereotyping muslims as terrorists. And of course, when consulted, humour expert Mr. Majumder didn’t think the CF skit was in good taste, but his Obama Bin Laden skits are hilarious, I’m sure. CBC hypocrisy at its best.

  11. Moe Says:

    I want to thank you Dean for standing up for the integrity of Muslim Canadians that have suffered and are still suffering prejudice and discrimination since 9/11. CBC is Canada’s national news agency and as such they should be compelled to adhere to the rule of law regarding multiculturalism and religious sensitivity. It has been bad enough that the so called sun news network Ezra Levant defamed the Muslim people many times through his biased and subjective opinion by causing harm to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him.)

    Many Muslims came to Canada to seek a better life and to have the freedom of religion and cultural practices. Instead, we Muslims face persecution as seen by this CBC stunt and Ezra Levant. The sad irony here is that Ezra does not work for a government sponsored agency but is greatly supported by people who have persecuted Muslims for centuries. CBC on the other hand is a government sponsored entity that is openly defaming and persecuting Muslims.

    Thank you one again for being a patriot of freedom and defending social justice and addressing the Islamaphobia that is overwhelming in Canadian society.

    • Bec Says:

      This comment doesn’t help anyone. In fact it make zero sense and only inflames people. Not most on this site because they are normal debater but this statement could even rile NORMAL Canadians (which was probably the intent?)…….. unlike who is ever behind a stupid statement like this one. Unbelievable!

    • Scott M Says:

      I agree Moe, after all it should be crime to insult “the religion of peace”. Why people should be killed or have various parts of their body removed for defaming the Koran or the Prophet (peace be upon him). One only needs to look to Pakistan, (a bastion of religious tolerance and freedom if there ever was one) to see that the myth of the “Islamic Terrorist” is one that is perpetuated by…..Muslims

      • john Says:

        Moe, you are not persecuted. So quit whining about it.
        You say, “Many Muslims came to Canada to seek a better life and to have the freedom of religion and cultural practices”.

        Fine, then maybe you should practice your freedoms and SHUT UP about other people practicing theirs (ie: freedom of speech). You are not hard done by so get the hell over it.

        I am sick to death of hearing newcomers to this country bitch and complain and bad mouth people here the instant your foot gets in the door. If Canada is such an intolerant hell hole then maybe you should have immigrated to somewhere else. You STILL CAN you know. Feel free.
        Moe, if this is the extent of your contribution to the debate then shut up & go find something useful to do (like packing your suitcase).

    • Milt w Says:

      Feelings hurt by free speech. Easiest cure Moe is pack up and leave . I actually chocked up or upchucked ,whatever, at the “integrity” part. I always figure if you come to any country as a citizen than you should drop the hyphenated BS. Your either Canadian or still in the scope of chief spence and her tweets.

  12. Ian Says:

    The best line in the letter was, “simply, we expect CBC journalist to report the facts accurately…” You mean not hide embarrassing facts about liberals or their supports like they ways do?

  13. jmw Says:

    Moe, are you for real? Your real persecutors are your radical Muslim kin! When was the last time a Christian or Jew or ANY Canadian for that matter, beheaded a Muslim or drowned their daughters in a river for “honour’s” sake? You would never do that, you say? Then why are you and 99% of your fellow Muslims so silent in failing to protest similar atrocities? You can always go back to where you came from. Failing that, Canada’s laws are based on Judeo-Christian principles and ethics –integrate or leave and please take all semblance of Sharia law with you. It does not belong in a western liberal democracy.

  14. Bubba Brown Says:

    Wilfrid Laurier ideas on Immigrants and being a Canadian in 1907.

    ‘In the first place, we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes a Canadian and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin. But this is predicated upon the person’s becoming in every facet a Canadian, and nothing but a Canadian… There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is a Canadian, but something else also, isn’t a Canadian at all. We have room for but one flag, the Canadian flag… And we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the Canadian people.’

    Wilfrid Laurier 1907

    Fit in or F*** Off !
    Bubba Brown 2013

  15. Jen Says:

    Afghan women and girls were led by the Taliban to an OPEN ARENA (BLOOD-BATH ARENA) to be BE-HEADED.
    A Mosque with innocent people inside in Iraq was blown to bits by a suicide bomber. I can go on…

    There was not one rally around the world for these innocent souls.
    Yet, one hair on the head of a taliban detainee was touched and the entire world exploded.

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