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Course Correction by CBC: Peter Mansbridge No Longer A Patron of the Controversial Mother Canada Project

July 5th, 2015

According to the website of the controversial Never Forgotten war memorial proposed for Cape Breton Island, the name of Peter Mansbridge, the CBC’s Chief Correspondent and anchor of The National, has just been removed as Honourary Patron of the so-called Mother Canada project.

(Note: Later this Sunday afternoon, CBC’s national radio call-in show Cross Country Checkup will debate “What makes a good monument and praise-worthy public art?” with specific reference to the Mother Canada project.)

Mansbridge’s appearance as a project supporter for many months was, to say the least, unusual as controversy over the memorial grew across the country.

It broke the CBC’s very clear rules on preserving journalistic impartiality.

 Section 2.2.17 …  Corporate Policies ….. Independence and impartiality are fundamental to CBC/Radio-Canada’s credibility. Not only must the Corporation be independent, impartial, fair and honest, but it also must be perceived as such. It is essential that CBC/Radio-Canada not take a position on controversial issues.

  Section 2.2.3  … Conflict of Interest Procedures and Guidelines 16 .. Employees may not take a stand on public controversies if CBC’s integrity would be compromised.

Nonetheless, given the long battle to convince CBC management to order a complete ban on paid speeches by its journalists, it is still troublesome that Mansbridge was given permission to act as a supporter of this project in the first place.

War memorials around the world have long spawned public furor over who is remembering what and why, and where memorials should sit.

These controversies often last years and they can stay nasty.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC.

The Yasakuni Shrine in Tokyo.

The Valley of the Fallen in Spain.

The Bomber Command (as in “Bomber Harris”) Memorial in London.

Right now, the proposed Monument to the Victims of Communism in Ottawa has everyone from the Chief Justice of Canada to architects to immigrant groups to politicians at all levels trading barbs.

What were CBC executives thinking when Mansbridge first asked for permission to become an Honourary Patron of the Mother Canada project?

(CBC commentator and host Rex Murphy is also an Honourary Patron of Mother Canada. As a freelancer, Murphy is technically exempt from the CBC’s rules on journalistic impartiality. But until a few hours ago, as the author pointed out to CBC Editor-in-Chief Jennifer McGuire last week, he was described as “Journalist CBC News.” He is now a “Freelance Journalist” with no mention of the CBC.)

In recent months, the Mother Canada controversy has been covered by newspapers, the web, TV and radio stations across the country.

According to the CBC’s website, the story has appeared on local CBC television and radio across the Maritimes and nationally, on As It Happens and The Current on CBC Radio.

As of this posting, Sunday afternoon July 5th, according to CBC.ca, the Mother Canada controversy has yet to appear on the network’s flagship national TV news program The National.

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