The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

25 September 2007

Bruce Allen Sikh Headgear Flap, CKNW Talk Radio, British Columbia


Over Headgear Comments, Canadian Host In Hot Water

Again pointing to stark differences between free speech on the American airwaves and the relative lack of it in PC- happy Canada, a British Columbia- based talk radio commentator is under fire for asserting that immigrants to his nation ought to follow the same laws as everyone else. Will the country's counterpart to the FCC step in to silence him?

Bruce Allen, a commentator on Vancouver's CKNW- AM, is known for an edgy style in a land where that is rarely tolerated. He's also a relatively famous rock promoter who has managed acts such as Bryan Adams, Loverboy, Martina McBride, Anne Murray and Michael Buble.

But since 13 September, Allen has been known primarily for his criticism of Sikhs and other immigrants who insist upon special exceptions based on religious and cultural beliefs.

From the CBC's coverage:

"If I didn't know any better, I'd say there has been a lot of immigrant bashing going on in recent months,'' Allen told listeners during a commentary that aired on Sept. 13.

He was referring to recent incidents that included complaints from the Sikh community after Passport Canada declined to issue passports to three Sikh children because they insisted on wearing religious headgear when they were having their pictures taken.

"If you're immigrating to this country and you don't like the rules that are in place, then you have the right to choose not to live here,'' Allen said during his broadcast.

"But if you choose to come to a place like Canada, then shut up and fit in … these are the rules. There's the door. If you don't like the rules, hit it. We don't need you here. You have another place to go: It's called home. See ya!"

In an interview with CBC, Allen said his comments cannot be seen as "race-bashing,'' or "hate-mongering.''

But a number of Sikhs disagree.

Harpreet Singh, himself a radio commentator, is one of at least 11 people to write a complaint to broadcast regulators.

While in America, Allen's comments might seem relatively mundane, in Canada, outbursts of free expression can lead to legal and other sanctions. Already, Allen has narrowly dodged a bullet after calls were unsuccessfully made to remove him from the organizing committee for the 2010 Olympics, which are to be held in British Columbia.

According to news reports today, his neck was saved only because of vast connections in the music world and the potential to bring major- league talent to the games. Also helping his case: under pressure from an angry PC mob, Allen has chosen to apologize for daring to disagree with them. From the Globe and Mail:

Outrage over Mr. Allen's comments has been building, with particular anger from B.C.'s Indo-Canadian community, in light of the announcement late last week that the music-industry veteran will be one of 10 members of a team that will design ceremonies and live entertainment at the Olympics.

Harpreet Singh, host of a two-hour nightly call-in show on the Vancouver-area station Radio-India, said he fielded 200 to 250 calls on the issue on Friday and Saturday. Listeners are angry about Mr. Allen's comments, and his continued place among Olympic organizers.

Mr. Singh said he doubted VANOC's position yesterday would cool things down, suggesting Mr. Allen's comments raised concerns about whether he would be open to acts in 2010 from ethnic communities that are part of Canada.

Ms. Smith-Valade said Mr. Allen will work with VANOC on coming up with presentations that celebrate diversity.

"He has communicated his regret over the controversy and he has reconfirmed and emphasized that he shares our goal of showcasing [Canada's] culture and diversity through the ceremonies," she said.

According to the Vancouver Province, a local tabloid newspaper, CKNW listeners are mostly backing Allen over his statements:

Tom Plasteras, program director at CKNW, said that the station has received a lot of listener feedback.

Plasteras said about 75 per cent was in favour of Allen's commentary "or at least supporting his right to say it."

"It's hard to fire an editorialist for doing an editorial," he added.

A spokeswoman at Allen's Gastown offices said the promoter would not comment on the controversy.

"He's said what he had to say," she said.

From here, the big question is whether the CRTC, Canada's version of the FCC, will take action against CKNW and Allen for daring to deviate from the country's politicially correct playbook. The agency reports it has already received a number of complaints.

While the country's dollar may have finally achieved parity with ours, it has a long way to go in the free speech department.

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  • Keep up the good work...other Canadians feel and think the same as you. Glad your station agreed to keep you on.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 03 March, 2008 20:13  

  • I don’t care what language the New Canadians sing our national Anthem in as long as they respect our flag and country. We let the Quebecer’s sing it in (gutter) French which we have been forced to listen to, forced on us with out a vote. Although they want to be a country of their own we are required to speak their language (in other words abide by their laws), respect their language as no other and if we don’t out come the language police, so much for democracy. We also must provide more assistance to their province than any other province. If and when they become their own country they still expect to have the same perks as true Canadians with out contributing to it. They want the pensions, the currency and everything else that so many new(immigrants) and life long Canadians have and are working hard for.. Knowing our current and previous governments they will give them what they want. Why should they contribute when they get more than the “have not” provinces? So I would rather have a true immigrant singing our National Anthem in their language. If this gentleman (and I use the term loosely) does not like our diverse country then he should move out of the country to say China or Russia for example or too the Country of Quebec.

    By Blogger great one, at 16 March, 2008 17:34  

  • I must say out here in the Ottawa area, I frankly had not heard about this issue with Bruce Allen until I received an email proported to be from the Royal Canadian Legion....

    I need to do some research to learn what was actually said. However, I too believe that if someone comes to Canada they must abide by the laws of the land and become part of Canada. We really don't need any more groups trying to figure out how to make it "just like home"!!

    As for singing the national anthem, let's keep it in the two official languages please. If we don't we will not have a national anthem; and we know how long it took to get one in the first place!!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 02 June, 2008 20:56  

  • I agree with Bruce Allens comments 100% No other country/people in the world would accept or tolerate what is happening here.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 17 October, 2008 11:39  

  • If an immigrant's homeland is so good, then they should stay. When they come to Canada, they need to embrace what this Country was built upon. My ancestors were immigrants and when they came here to enjoy the freedom, they adapted to the Canadian culture.It is realy sad to see our politicians bow to these requests instead of standing up for what the majority of Canadians believe in.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11 January, 2009 19:39  

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