My complaint to the CBC Ombudsman on story of black man pulled over by RCMP

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Below is a copy of the complaint I have sent to the CBC Ombudsman. You can see my original post on it here:

I was troubled by a recent CBC article by Bridget Yard (“Bathurst man called ‘suspicious’ for reading on wharf” CBC News New Brunswick, Jul. 10, 2016) which I believe violated appropriate journalistic practices in favour of creating a sensationalistic story.

The article centers around a Bathurst man who was “pulled over and questioned by RCMP.” The significant paragraph reads:

“A Bathurst man says he was pulled over and questioned by RCMP while driving home from Stonehaven wharf, and was told it was because police received several calls regarding a ‘suspicious black man’ in a white car parked at the wharf.”

It is unclear from whom the quote in the above paragraph (“suspicious black man”) is coming from. Is it a quote from Louizandre Dauphin, the central figure of the story? Did Dauphin offer it as a direct quotation from the RCMP officer he dealt with?

The story proceeds to state that “RCMP said they were unable to provide comment on the incident, since no one was arrested or charged.” However, in a Canadian Press story on the same incident (“Black man stopped by police after reading near wharf in New Brunswick,” July 11, 2016) the reporter claims the RCMP stated “there was no mention of the occupant’s ethnicity or race” when asked about the incident. The reporter also states Dauphin claimed “race was never mentioned in the exchange with the officer.” I am troubled by the inconsistencies in Bridget Yard’s story. She seemingly, but ambiguously, quotes Mr. Dauphin quoting the RCMP officer making a statement about how the officer’s targeting of Mr. Dauphin was racially-motivated. She similarly claims the RCMP had no comment on the incident one way or another. Both of these claims are contradicted by the Canadian Press story, which claims the RCMP was, in fact, prepared to speak openly about the incident, and that Mr. Dauphin claimed the officer he dealt with “never mentioned” race in his exchange.

Ms. Yard’s story deliberately seeks to portray the incident with Mr. Dauphin as a signal that Canada features American-style tension between the black community and the police. Given the seriousness of this claim, I believe it is very important that the facts of any story offered to support that thesis be unambiguously clear. I believe Ms. Yard’s story badly fails that test due to its ambiguous quotations and information that is starkly contradicted by a competitor publication’s reporting.

A retraction must be issued and an explanation on how this story did not meet CBC’s journalistic practices.

Thank you

Dean Skoreyko

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3 Responses to “My complaint to the CBC Ombudsman on story of black man pulled over by RCMP”

  1. Deryk Says:

    Excellent letter! I wonder how this incident of shoddy reporting will be whitewashed by the CBC.

  2. James Lawrence Says:

    I suspect you will get a response much like mine (received today – August 8):

    Dear Mr. Lawrence,

    I am the Executive Producer of CBC New Brunswick. I am ultimately responsible for all editorial content broadcast and published by CBC in this province. I’m writing in reply to your email of July 14th to CBC Ombudsman, Esther Enkin. First, please accept my apology for the delay in replying.

    Your email concerns a story published on the CBC New Brunswick website on July 10, under the headline “Bathurst man called ‘suspicious’ for reading on wharf” which can be found at this link http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/nb-bathurst-reading-wharf-1.3672419. The story concerns a black man, Louizandre Dauphin, who felt he was racially profiled when he was pulled over and questioned by a police officer after spending a couple of hours reading in his car on the Stonehaven wharf.

    You suggest that the story is inaccurate, specifically in reporting Mr. Dauphin’s allegation that the police officer told him residents had reported concerns about a “suspicious black man.” You say the RCMP and Mr. Dauphin both “confirmed that colour/race was never mentioned during the incident/exchange.” You ask to be provided the source of information reported in the CBC article, and request a public apology and discipline for the reporter if the statement was fabricated.

    The statement was not fabricated. Mr. Dauphin, himself, publicly questioned whether the incident was the result of racism. He used the exact words “suspicious black man” in his description of the incident on social media.

    His Instagram post reads, in part: “I pull over and wait for him to approach. Thankfully, he is kind and respectful and asks me the usual questions; where I’m and where I’m going. He then proceeds to ask me if I was in Janeville earlier this evening. I tell him that I was at the Stonehaven wharf reading a book, pointing to the two books in the passenger seat. smiles and says that a few citizens in Janeville called the police because of a suspicious black man in a white car was parked at the wharf for a couple of hours.”

    Mr. Dauphin posted that description (according to the posts) within one hour of the event and included a photo of himself in the driver’s seat of his car with the red emergency lights of the police vehicle visible in the background. He repeated it in a subsequent telephone interview with the CBC reporter. The statement was then included in the published report.

    As you correctly point out in your email, Canadian Press journalist Alison Auld later reported that Mr. Dauphin told her “… race was never mentioned in the exchange with the officer.” In a follow-up story that was already being produced, CBC sought to clarify the discrepancy between what Mr. Dauphin appears to have told Canadian Press, and what he posted on social media and told CBC. However CBC was not able to contact Mr. Dauphin in order to ask about the discrepancy, nor were we able to contact the police officer who pulled Mr. Dauphin over on the day in question. The story did, however, quote an RCMP spokesperson who said the caller who complained of suspicious activity at the Stonehaven wharf did not mention race. The story can be found here. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/fredericton-woman-reacts-to-bathurst-man-stopped-by-police-1.3674083

    I believe it’s important to point out that, regardless of the exact wording used by the police officer, the fact that he was pulled over and questioned for having read a book in his car in a public place was upsetting for Mr. Dauphin. He clearly believed, at the time, that his race played a role in the events. And he wanted to use the opportunity to illustrate for Canadians, that the racial profiling and stereotyping that sparked debate and protests across the USA, occur in this country as well.

    The Instagram post I referred to earlier ends with this statement by Mr. Dauphin, “So, a black male, sitting in his car, reading a book is suspicious activity. Good to know. At this rate I may never leave my home again. #DangerousNegro.”

    It was entirely appropriate for CBC to cover Mr. Dauphin’s concerns and I believe it was done in a fair and accurate manner.

    I hope this addresses your concerns with the article. It’s my responsibility to tell you that, if you are not satisfied with this reply it’s your right to request an inquiry 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 email at ombudsman@cbc.ca.

    Sincerely,
    Darrow MacIntyre
    Executive Producer
    CBC News New Brunswick
    Fredericton


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