Joel DeBellefeuille n-word Quebec

“I haven’t been called, read or heard the N-word so many times than in the last few days”

We spoke with human rights advocate Joel DeBellefeuille following the CRTC ruling on Radio-Canada’s repeated use of the racial slur.

Joel DeBellefeuille, a human rights advocate and Bloc Montréal candidate for D’Arcy McGee, spoke with us this week in the wake of the debate over the N-word in Quebec. A June 29 CRTC ruling criticized the use of the N-word by Radio-Canada in relation to the controversial title of a 1968 book by Quebec author Pierre Vallières, which was read on air multiple times in 2020. The ruling has reignited the argument by some Quebec pundits and academics that freedom of expression should allow for the use of the N-word.

“I haven’t been called, read or heard the N-word so many times than in the last few days,” says DeBellefeuille. “Countless people on social media are repeatedly addressing complete strangers, including myself, with posts that include the title of the book without any feeling of remorse. In my opinion, this indicates that we are in a downward spiral as a society.”

DeBellefeuille commended the CRTC decision, which requests a written apology and new best-practices guidelines from the broadcaster.

“In a province where people of colour and religious minorities are already being oppressed by the government with laws like Bill 21 and Bill 96, there is hope that the CRTC decision will be upheld, and we will no longer have to worry about hateful words resonating through the airwaves. However, the fact that dozens of Radio-Canada employees and elected officials are pushing back against the CRTC decision, in order to preserve the usage of a derogatory word, is shameful. For those claiming the right to free speech, it should still not be done at the expense of the feelings of racialized individuals.”

For more on the N-word controversy in Quebec, please read the latest editorial by Toula Drimonis.

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