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Farewell Don Cherry & Goodbye to Free Speech in Canada

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Canadian hockey icon Don Cherry poses holding a Boston Bruin dog (Photo: Getty Images)
Canadian hockey icon Don Cherry poses holding a Boston Bruin dog (Photo: Getty Images)

Canadian Remembrance Day, November 11, 2019, got off on a bad start: Don Cherry, a long-time host on Hockey Night and Coach’s Corner, was fired by Rogers Sportsnet for what was considered an “inflammatory comment.”

For those non-Canadians, let me explain: Don Cherry is a Canadian icon. He’s also a man with a frank tongue, and he says it as it is.

What got Cherry into hot water? He used the words “you people.”

Cherry was speaking on Remembrance Day, a day in Canada where war veterans are honored and where it is customary for the public to wear red poppy pins in their memory.

Cherry said,

“You know, I was talking to a veteran, and I said, I’m not going to run the [annual Remembrance Day montage] anymore, because what’s the sense? I live in Mississauga, nobody wears, very few people wear a poppy.

“Downtown Toronto, forget it, downtown Toronto, nobody wears a poppy. And I’m not going to, and he says, wait a minute. How about running it for the people that buy them?

“Now you go to the small cities and, you know, the rows on rows you people love — that come here, whatever it is — you love our way of life, you love our milk and honey, at least you can pay a couple bucks for a poppy or something like that.

“These guys paid for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada, these guys paid the biggest price. Anyhow, I’m going to run it for you great people and good Canadians that bought a poppy.”

Mainstream media, politicians and some members of the public are in a hysterical frenzy over those two words (“you people”), spinning opinions and comments but not really looking at the actual context in which the remarks were made.

They are being called “offensive,” “divisive,” “despicable” and “inflammatory.”

But it’s all about the context!

Don Cherry spoke as a passionate Canadian – I wish more Canadians were so outspoken! We wouldn’t be in the mess we are in if they were.

Moreover, if we look at Don Cherry’s remarks in light of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s “black/brown face scandal,” it pales in comparison. Yet Trudeau was not asked to leave, was he?

Double standards, eh?

The Toronto Star ran a screaming headline: “Don Cherry Fired from Sportsnet for Toxic Rant.” Seriously? I didn’t find anything in what he said “toxic.” It was a reminder to show some loyalty to the land in which we live and call home.

Shireen Ahmed asks in a column in The Globe and Mail, “And how, precisely, does Mr. Cherry know there are fewer poppies being worn this year? And that immigrants aren’t donning them?”

As an immigrant to Canada and member of the South Asian community, I too have noticed that Remembrance Day goes quite unnoticed and unmarked in some immigrant communities.

By the way, Don Cherry did not use the term “immigrant,” but that is how it’s being spun.

Ahmed then goes on to invoke her Muslim heritage and speak about her family, her grandfather and all the things that Cherry did not say.

Irrelevant.

Let’s focus on what Don Cherry did say. He is absolutely right. All Canadians (and he did not single out any one community) should wear poppies to commemorate those who fought for our freedoms.

Fundamentally, these freedoms include the freedom to express an opinion.

But this freedom is fast eroding and becoming very selective. It concerns me because this muzzling of free speech brings back memories of living under martial law and dictatorship. These are coming back to haunt me in a very “democratic” way.

Oh, my fellow Canadians, I know marijuana is now legal, but what else are you smoking?

Since when has truth become toxic? Maybe that’s our problem: “You people” can’t handle the truth. So sue me. And while you’re at it, sue our former prime minister John G. Diefenbaker, as well, who famously said,

 “I am a Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong, or free to choose those who shall govern my country. This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and all mankind.”

 

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Raheel Raza

Raheel Raza is ​an adviser to Clarion Project. ​She is an award-winning author, journalist and filmmaker on the topics of jihad and sharia. She is president of The Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow, and an activist for human rights, gender equality, and diversity.

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