A federal labour arbitrator has ruled that the CBC "acted improperly" by dismissing an employee in relation to a tweet posted soon after Don Cherry's infamous “you people” Remembrance Day poppy rant.
The tweet, posted on an employee's personal account, blasted the CBC for giving Don Cherry a platform during Saturday NHL games, and implied that “black and brown kids don't enjoy hockey” because of the kind of racism broadcast weekly on Cherry's Coach's Corner.
Former Winnipeg CBC reporter Ahmar Khan was let go after tweeting:
It it long due time for Don Cherry's Coach's Corner to be cancelled.
His xenophobic comments being aired weekly are deplorable.
You know why black and brown kids don't enjoy hockey? Because of the deep-rooted racism, which we get to hear EVERY. SINGLE. WEEK. on national TV.
Cherry was fired by Rogers Sportsnet for the poppy comments, made during a broadcast of Hockey Night in Canada shortly before Remembrance Day in 2019.
“You people… 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," Cherry said.
According to Blacklock's Reporter,
“I can’t take the brown skin off me,” Khan later told managers. Khan is a Canadian of Pakistani ancestry. “White journalists at the CBC (express opinions) all the time, but nothing is ever done,” he said.
Khan was ordered to deleted the tweet, his employer citing the CBC’s Journalistic Standards And Practices code, which requires “impartiality and integrity” in employees' social media posts. A producer in Winnipeg told Khan, “You have shown the audience your bias... In the future I suggest you pitch a story about it, instead of reacting online. You will reach a wider audience this way.”
With four months left on his temporary employee contract, Khan was not fired for the tweet itself, but rather for leaking the story of the incident to both Canadaland and a reporter for Maclean's. It was discovered that Khan had leaked the story when a colleague went through his private files after Khan remained logged in on a company computer.
Arbitrator Lorne Slotnick has now ruled that the grounds for firing Khan amounted to a “minor indiscretion”:
“Many people might find it ironic, even amusing, that a news organization that, as with any other major news outlet, is alerted to significant stories by sources who are granted anonymity, would be surprised and indignant that one of its own employees used the same technique to give a story about the CBC to another news outlet,” wrote the arbitrator. “I am one of those people.”
Slotnick ordered that Khan be rehired to make up for the remaining months on his contract, and also be given four months' compensation.