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Managing editor of CBC’s The National reassigned after cultural appropriation controversy

CBC has removed the new managing editor of The National, the third media leader in Canada to lose his job or step down over the past week after weighing in on the toxic subject of cultural appropriation.

Brian B. Bettencourt/The Globe and Mail

CBC has removed the new managing editor of The National, the third media leader in Canada to lose his job or step down over the past week after weighing in on the toxic subject of cultural appropriation.

Steve Ladurantaye, who had been tapped in March to oversee the reinvention of CBC-TV's flagship evening newscast, was reassigned Wednesday afternoon, less than one week after joining a number of other Canadian media executives last Thursday in a late-night Twitter conversation in which he issued a tweet that appeared to express support for their idea of a so-called "appropriation prize."

He apologized the following morning and issued a series of tweets late on Saturday in which he attempted to begin to reach out to those who were offended by his tweet.

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But sources said that a pair of meetings Mr. Ladurantaye attended on Monday with CBC staff revealed deep hurt and anger among some of his colleagues.

Read more: Apologies over cultural appropriation debate 'insufficient': Indigenous scholar

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Opinion: It may be harmless appropriation to you. But it's our preservation

In a memo to staff on Wednesday, CBC's head of news Jennifer McGuire said that it was "clear to Steve and me that the work of redeveloping The National needs the full attention and focus of us all, and I believe that is not possible given the current circumstances. So effective immediately Steve will step away from his role as Managing Editor of The National."

Ms. McGuire said Mr. Ladurantaye "had apologized for his action. He has made it his goal to better understand the appropriation issue from the perspective of Canada's Indigenous people. We will support Steve in these efforts and I am confident that the work and conversations we are engaged in will, in the long run, make Steve and all of us better journalists and better leaders."

She said he would be reassigned to the News division's Content Experience area, and his role would be reassessed in the fall.

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She added: "Finally, it's obvious that we have more work to do. We've already created the Emerging Leaders program to help develop a more diverse leadership team, and are in the midst of unconscious bias training with all of our program units. This training does not simply address hidden bias, but commits programs and platforms to concrete steps to diversify voices and story choices. But that is just a start. We are committed to continuing to work with our employee resource groups and others to develop further steps, and will announce these as they are finalized.

"I know there will be many different opinions about today's decision. What has guided me is a determination to be thoughtful about our future, fair to our staff, and fully committed to the goals and values of CBC News."

Mr. Ladurantaye's role change comes one week after Hal Niedzviecki stepped down from the editorship of Write magazine after penning an editorial for the Writers Union of Canada publication which argued that he did "not believe in cultural appropriation." The article sparked an uproar from many members of the Indigenous community and others who objected to what some felt was racist rhetoric and a misunderstanding of how the term was received.

In the days that followed, Jonathan Kay left his position as editor in chief of The Walrus after criticizing in a series of tweets and media appearances what he called the "mobbing" of Mr. Niedzviecki. Though he said he did not discuss the cultural appropriation issue with his boss before resigning on Saturday, Mr. Kay told The Globe and Mail that recently "I noticed that I was starting to censor myself."

Editor’s Note The name of CBC’s head of news, Jennifer McGuire, was misspelled in a previous version of this story.
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About the Author
Senior Media Writer

Simon Houpt is the Globe and Mail's senior media writer, charged with covering the industry's transformation. He began his career with The Globe in 1999 as the paper's New York arts correspondent, covering the cultural life of that city through Canadian eyes. More

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