Accuracy important in reporting discrimination

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My comment is in response to your article, published on April 3rd, “Bennett booted from Tory leadership for racially charged tweets.”

There has been much media coverage of Bennett’s tweets and the reaction that followed. My intention is not to feed the debate further, but to clarify some misused words in recent weeks.

We, at the Newfoundland and Labrador Human Rights Commission, were pleased to see the premier condemn the controversial messages, and to see that the proper procedures were followed in investigating and subsequently acting on the offensive tweets.

Messages referring to Muslim women and children as potential “trolls” not worthy of public trust are unacceptable in a democratic, free society, where we strive towards the protection of human dignity and respect for all community members.

Newfoundland and Labrador’s Muslim women and children are as deserving of our trust as any other resident of the province.

The local media coverage, not limited to The Telegram, has been referring to Bennett’s tweets as “racially charged.”

It is important to note that the repeated references to race were misplaced — in this instance, the tweets were discriminatory and were an example of Islamophobic language (irrational mistrust and fear of Muslims).

Muslims are not a race — there are Muslims of all races, just as there are Christians of all races.

To be Muslim is to belong to the religion of Islam, but a Muslim can be African American, Asian, Caucasian and so forth.  

Misused terminology confusing race and ethnic origin with religion has happened before.

In a Telegram commentary in January 2010, Mount Pearl Mayor Randy Simms erroneously used the words “racial profiling” when calling for a segregationist security process in Canada’s airports that would see the creation of dual security lines, one for non-

Muslims and another for Muslims, as his idea for preventing future terrorist attacks.

Simms’ proposal was discriminatory on the ground of religion, but it had little to do with race.

Discrimination can encompass religion, ethnic origin, sex, race, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and 12 other prohibited grounds of discrimination, as listed in the Newfoundland and Labrador Human Rights Act.

The Newfoundland and Labrador Human Rights Act recognizes that every individual in our province is free and equal in dignity and rights, regardless of differences such as race, religion or ethnic origin.

It is up to every one of us to ensure that human rights are respected and protected in Newfoundland and Labrador.

A respectful, well-informed and dignified exchange of ideas is all it takes for that to happen.

Referring to issues by precise and clear vocabulary ensures that we can be well-informed when something is discriminatory or simply in poor taste. Newfoundland and Labrador media play an integral role in this matter.

 

Remzi Cej, Chair,

Newfoundland and Labrador

Human Rights Commission

Organizations: Newfoundland and Labrador Human Rights Commission, Newfoundland and LabradorHuman Rights Commission

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Mount Pearl, Canada

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  • Morris
    April 09, 2014 - 16:26

    ( THIS IS AN AMENDED COMMENT- PLEASE DO NOT PUBLISH PREVIOUS COMMENT)There is no doubt that Mr. Bennett's tweet's may be viewed as offensive, inappropriate and in poor taste, however I am certain that they do NOT violate any section of the Newfoundland Human Rights Act! Enough said about that! You are correct with reference to the media use of the term “racially charged” in reference to Mr. Bennett tweets and Randy Simms Telegram January 2010, use of the term ‘ racial profiling” as good examples of the incorrect use of the term.The word Muslim refers to a religion not to a Race of persons! You comment that “ we at the human Rights Commission were pleased to see the premier condemn the controversial messages” and that “ proper procedures were followed in investigating and subsequently acting on the offensive tweets” demonstrates a lack of respect for any future judicial process that may occur and is outside the mandate of your commission. You appear to be saying you are pleased that the Rule Committee of 2014 Leadership Convention of the PC Party of NL decided that “ many of Mr. Bennett’s purported comments are discriminatory based on race”. The very same incorrect use of the word made by Simms and others in the media! The PC Party rules committee can decide as they wish however your venture into this political area is unwarranted and shows poor judgement. Why did you not take the opportunity in your letter to advise that the rules committee incorrectly used the word race with respect to the term Muslim? I would advise the members of the NL Human Rights Commission that in future the Executive Director correspond with the media to at least ensure the appearance of independence! I understand Mr. Cei is employed with the Executive Council - Office of Public Engagement, Government of NL. Perhaps this why the Executive Director did not write the Telegram!