When the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation announced a few weeks ago that it was severing ties with their star broadcaster and host of immensely popular radio show, “Q,” I initially dismissed it as an over-reaction by a bureaucratic monster along the lines of when they grossly over-reacted by threatening to fire supremely talented on-air talent, Sook Yin Lee of “Definitely Not the Opera” fame, for her nude appearances in movie roles.
It was clear within a day or so that something was different here. First, Ghomeshi took the unusual step by responding immediately and publicly, identifying himself the transgressions he was being accused of and dismissing them as simply BDSM games that were consensual and safe. What was even more surprising was how CBC refused to hide behind the usual “We can’t comment because the the issue is under litigation” boilerplate. Within days, a large variety of CBC programs were reporting and investigating their own story. Then the Toronto Star reported it had been investigating sexual assault allegations against Ghomeshi by a larger variety of women. As I write this, nine courageous women have publicly come out and made allegations, three filing complaints with the RCMP. A senior executive producer of “Q” is on leave and details are being published about how CBC management abetted the alleged Ghomeshi sexual harassment against the the program’s female staff.
However the story ends up playing out, it is clear that CBC committed a giant breach by turning a blind eye to the accusations against their “talent” by his own program staff . They were that afraid of killing the Golden Goose, a critically acclaimed program picked up worldwide, quite a feather in the cap of an organization dying by a thousand paper cuts. All the investigations and reports by their own journalistic programs can’t hide that.
By ignoring, obfuscating, excusing and thus enabling Ghomeshi’s alleged behaviour, the CBC itself has breached the public trust a government-run cultural powerhouse should be expected to have. Nor are the CBC alone. Canada’s public institutions are rife with incidents of similar toxic cultures in the military, the RCMP and Parliament.