Friday, 15 November 2019

Paperback's Pondering's: On Canada's Idolization of Don Cherry and his Racism

Today's post is going to be EXTREMELY different from anything I have ever done. It's not even book related. But, if you're from Canada, this story has been the main headline for the past week, and I have so many opinions about it that I need to get out. I decided to take a page out of Cee @ Dora Read's book and get start writing about social justice issues that I care about, whether book related or not. So, let's get started:

For those of you who have no idea what's been going on, basically Sportsnet (one of the main sports networks in Canada) fired Don Cherry, a sports commentator who has hosted Hockey Night in Canada's Coach's Corner every Saturday for over 30 years. Basically, Don, now 85 years old, has a segment every Saturday night during the intermission for the NHL hockey games that feature Canadian teams. The broadcast airs nationwide, and he comments alongside his partner Ron McLean on hockey news, how the teams are playing, but he is also well-known for his dedication to veterans and his speeches on the Saturday before Remembrance Day. He basically became a Canadian icon, and a lot of people grew up watching him every Saturday. Myself included.

Growing up, I thought Don was kinda funny. I didn't really pay attention to what he said hockey-wise, but he always wore funky suits, and I thought he was just a cool symbol of Canadian culture. But when I got older, I began to recognise that the stuff he was saying seemed a little bit outdated, and offensive. Soon I began to see him as he really is: a racist bigot.

Last Saturday, so right before Remembrance Day, Don went on a rant, critcizing immigrants who come to Canada looking for "the land of milk and honey," but don't wear poppies. He called immigrants "you people," and he cited Mississauga, one of the most culturally diverse cities in Canada, as being one of the places in which he never sees people wearing poppies.

*for those outside the commonwealth, most commonwealth countries wear poppies up until Remembrance Day as respect for veterans.

Don never apologized for his actions, and people were outraged, myself included. How dare he state that immigrants, who may be coming here with absolutely no knowledge on Canadian culture, have no respect for veterans? How care he criticize culturally-diverse cities, while praising the "small towns" where nothing has changed. We know what you mean there Don, you mean small towns with all-white populations.

I also found it interesting that he seems to know who "immigrants" are just by walking the streets of Mississauga. Are you just assuming, Don, that if you see a brown person without a poppy, that they are an immigrant with no care for Canadian customs? You're not thinking of the fact that maybe their poppy fell off, or they're wearing a different coat, or they're wearing it under their coat? Of course you're just assuming, because you have a racist mindset, and a vendetta against anyone who isn't from the small-town white Canadian life you seem to champion.

The main argument from his defenders, is that he is an 85 year old icon who shouldn't be fired after all these years for one mistake. But, the truth is, that Don has made plenty of mistakes in the past. He has constantly made fun of European hockey players who react when getting hurt, calling them soft. He has championed that getting hit in the head is just "part of the game," and that concussion protocol isn't needed. He has perpetuated toxic masculinity within the sport. I don't care how many episodes of Coach's Corner I have watched in the past, I will certainly feel better not seeing him on my tv.

I'm also very pissed off that he decided to take the poppy, a cherished symbol of remembrance, and use it to perpetuate racism. However, this is a trend that I have been seeing with a lot of Canadians nowadays. For some, the poppy is now a symbol of how "good" of a Canadian you are. Wearing one automatically gets you the stamp of approval in the Canadian books. I feel like I'm being judged if I forget to wear mine, and especially if you are brown, not wearing one immediately puts a target on your back.

And, some people choose not to wear one for personal reasons. Some people don't wear it because they feel as if it glorifies war and militarism. Some First Nations people and other people of colour choose not to wear one because of the history of mistreatment both before and after the war against their people. It's a personal choice, and by not wearing one, it does not say anything about your status as a "good" Canadian, and it doesn't say anything about your respect towards vets. To me, you can still be respectful and appreciative of veterans without having something pinned to your coat. There are other ways to show your appreciation. And Don has no right to judge anyone for that.

I'm happy he was fired. He has consistently preached a white, nationalistic agenda, and his opinions are outdated and wrong. I just saw today that he was interviewed by Tucker Carlson on Fox News, so that should tell you everything you need to know about Don Cherry. I think it is about time somebody put him his place, and I don't think he receives any pass just because he was idolized by so many Canadians. If anything, I think that the fact that he is 85 years old, and still got fired, is a good example of how racism is not excusable at any age. He should not be excused just because he is from an older generation.

Good riddance, Don. My Saturday's are a lot nicer without you in them.

Emily @ Paperback Princess


  1. I'd love to leave a long comment, but I should be writing a paper ;)
    First of all, I clicked on this post so quickly that I am surprised I didn't injure myself. So please know, if you feel strongly about a topic and want to discuss it, you have my 100% support.
    Second, I completely and totally agree with everything you have said. Personally, I didn't grow up watching him regularly, but I have always thought he was an a**hole. I have never really understood why he was allowed to get away with half of his garbage, but I am so glad that people have put their foot down and had enough.
    I am a person who always took Remembrance Day very seriously. I have always seen it as a day of respect, and of mourning. I wear all black, and I usually am a presenter or performer in a ceremony somewhere in my city, although the past few years I haven't been. This year, I wore my poppy for one day. I lost it on my way to work one day, and did not get another one. Why? Because my grandfather, a veteran, died this month. I decided that for me, the mourning of soldiers as a whole felt like I was not acknowledging my private grief. Sorry I'm not a good enough Canadian for you, Don Cherry, but I wouldn't have changed my choice for anyone.

    1. that my idea of a short comment?

    2. Any length of comment is appreciated haha! I didn’t even realize that you are a fellow Canadian! Glad to know you feel the same way.

      My family are huge Toronto Maple Leaf fans, so Saturday night hockey viewing is a given. I have watched so many Coach’s Corner segments over the years, that now I am honestly feeling quite guilty that I gave him viewership all these years.

      Wearing a poppy is such a personal decision and it doesn’t determine anyone’s respect/dis respect towards veterans. Helping the less fortunate, providing support to vets who are going through tough times, and taking a moment on Remembrance Day to reflect, are all better markers to me of someone respecting the freedom that veterans gave us.

    3. I understand your feelings of guilt, but I also want to remind you that you aren't responsible for what you grew up with as normalized. I'm not sure that that statement makes sense, but essentially, it's what you do with the knowledge now that means more.
      Thank you, I appreciate that. I feel the same way. I think a lot about intent rather than action. Someone might do something that is technically not the most polite or respectful, but if I at least can see that their intent to be good is clear, then how can I be offended? I don't celebrate Hanukkah, but if someone wishes me a happy one, I will take that sentiment lovingly.
      And yep, southwestern Ontario, so we're probably relatively close to each I imagine?

    4. We probably are close to each other! I know that Don Cherry was normalized in a lot of households. I think evolving to realize that he isn’t the Canadian icon everyone thought him out to be, has really helped me to formulate my feelings about this topic. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Shayna!

  2. What with being in Italy, I didn't know anything about Don Cherry and this latest incident until now. But I loved how well-articulated your post was, and I couldn't agree more with everything you said. Especially "Some people don't wear it because they feel as if it glorifies war and militarism. Some First Nations people and other people of colour choose not to wear one because of the history of mistreatment both before and after the war against their people" and "If anything, I think that the fact that he is 85 years old, and still got fired, is a good example of how racism is not excusable at any age." Frail old people must be protected, but their mistakes shouldn't be excused - especially since, in this case, they're not born from ignorance, but from hatred disguised as respect for veterans.

    I'm going to highlight this post in my next Tooting Your Trumpet installment, BTW 😉.

    1. So glad you're going to feature this one! It's a favourite of mine for the month too!

    2. Thanks Roberta! So glad you liked the post :) I definitely think that we should respect our elders. However, when elders have extremely old fashioned views that are offensive, then they absolutely should be held accountable. They do need to realize that times have changed!

  3. I think it's amazing to see you share your opinion on topics you feel passionate about, regardless if they relate to books or not! And I love this post.

    The whole 'if you don't wear a poppy you aren't true Canadian" thing reminds me of how the political right in Hungary also has some very strong ideas about who is a true Hungarian, and of course, being white is at the top of that list.

    I think it's a very typical thing to have a beloved celebrity make mistake after mistake and be super-problematic, and have people ignore that... until the celebrity does something HUGE and at that point their supporters will still say "it was ONE mistake" when it really wasn't.

    What you described makes me sad, because you point out that you grew up on his show - you realized that he was racist, but I'm sure there are kids, teens, and adults who won't realize it, and instead this guy being so liked and accepted will further convince them that being racist is okay and normal.

    1. Oh there are still tons of people supporting him, because of his status in Canada. I think a lot of hockey fans just can’t except the fact that he is so hateful. But, he has rallied the far right in Canada for a long time, at some points while we were unknowing. It was only at this moment when everything really clicked. It truly was the last straw. (Although if I had it my way, I would have liked to see him gone before this incident as well). Thanks for the comment, Veronika!

  4. *punches air*

    You freaking rock Em!!!

    (And thank you for the shout-out you sweetheart!)

    First off: I know nothing of Canadian hockey-ness. So I've never heard of this dude.

    This problem is one we've had in the UK for years - we have racist organisations like the EDL and Britain First using the poppy as a thuggish way of pushing their agenda for the 'real' English (it's usually the English - occasionally British, I will admit. All of us have jerks, but you only have to look at the number of St. George's Flags to see where the bulk of these a**es come from.)

    Back when my parents were young, the slogan was 'where your poppy with pride' - which... with sorrow, yes. With honour, yes. With thanks and gratitude, yes. But war was not and never will be something to be proud of (ofc, you can be proud of the *actions* of individuals/small groups within war - but war as a whole? Not something to be proud of.)

    I haven't worn the poppy in years. Not because I don't support the sacrifices made by the armed forces - I do, and I have given money in memory of my grandmother's uncle who was killed in WW1 - but because I hate the *expectation* that I will wear a poppy. I hate the pressure that people are put under to wear poppies. I hate the fact that from mid-October, you will not see a single person on a live broadcast *without* a poppy, because of the fear of complaints. IT SHOULD BE A PERSONAL CHOICE. If it's not a personal choice, and/or if it's used to promote racism and bigotry, it's a dishonor to all those who served - of which there have always been diverse members.

    A quick note, re: concussion and head injuries. They are SO dangerous! We've been having similar conversations in the UK with football and (especially) rugby - it's not something to be taken lightly, and can have long-term effects, including an increased risk of stroke, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and other neurological conditions. None of those things are fun to have, and none of them are worth a pi**ing contest between 'macho' dudes. *sighs*

    Ok, this is essay-length again! (See what happens when you rile me up? ;) ) This is a great post Em!!!! Well done! <3 <3 <3

    1. *wear your poppy with pride - not where. This is what happens when I get over-excited, clearly! ;)

    2. No problem Cee! Thanks for inspiring me to speak my truth :D I do wear a poppy but it is such an expectation in my society that I think we should get rid of. It has been used time and time again as a symbol that means less about rememberance and more about status.

      Totally agree with you on concussions. This guy basically says that a hockey player should just get up and carry on if hit in the head. He promotes such a toxic masculinity agenda.

      Glad you’re excited about this topic!

  5. I'm glad they fired him. I'm so sick of people spouting this garbage. 85 or not. I'm not Canadian but I am a hockey (and Red Wings fan being from Michigan) and I've seen him before but didn't know a lot about him, but yeah... that stuff's gotta go.

    1. I think a lot of people had such an issue with his firing because they grew used to seeing him on tv every Saturday. But, change is always good, especially when his ideas are so outdated!