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Leaders’ Debate in English | The moderator was not impartial, decides the Press Council



The English Leaders’ Debate moderator, Shachi Kurl, offered an “opinion, not a proven fact” when she asked Bloc leader Yves-François Blanchet why he denies “racism” in Quebec in defending “discriminatory” provincial laws, the Press Council ruled on Tuesday.

According to the organization, “the term racism used in this context is an opinion and not a proven fact, contrary to what the moderator suggests”. The complaint was lodged against Kurl and against the English network of Radio-Canada, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), by Julie Lapierre.

“Even though Kurl was able to speak for a section of the population, she does not specify it and evokes racism as if it had been demonstrated. However, within the framework of a debate of the leaders, the public is entitled to expect that the moderators treat in an impartial way the leaders invited to debate”, insists the Council in its decision.

In September 2021, the main interested party had sparked controversy, in the midst of the debate of the leaders in English, on the airwaves of CBC. “You deny that Quebec has problems with racism. Yet you defend laws like Bill 96 and Bill 21 that marginalize religious minorities, Anglophones and allophones. Can you help Canadians living out of province understand why your party supports these discriminatory laws? she had asked Mr. Blanchet.

In the process, the Bloc leader had accused Mme Kurl for calling his province racist. Prime Minister François Legault also demanded an apology. In fact, most of the other federal party leaders had spent the next few days answering questions about whether they agreed with Kurl about Quebec laws.

Against the backdrop of “Quebec bashing »

In the days that followed, Kurl had defended his remarks in an open letter published in The Globe and Mail. She maintained that her question had “given Mr. Blanchet the opportunity to talk about secularism to people outside Quebec”. “He could have shared the Quebec perspective with the rest of Canada. He chose not to,” she said.

On Parliament Hill, in Quebec, the affair even led to the unanimous adoption by the National Assembly of a motion demanding an apology from the host. Quebec elected officials had all condemned the expression of a form of “Quebec bashing “.

The Federal Debates Commission also recognized that the debates in the upcoming federal election should have a simpler format and better moderation to focus more on what the leaders say than on the questions asked of them. “The 2021 debates failed to the extent expected to inform voters about the policies of the various parties,” acknowledged the Final Report of the Leaders’ Debates Commission on Televised Events.

With The Canadian Press

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