Letter to Sun Media: re Bev Oda

August 6, 2012

Sun Media – Newsroom
333 King St. E. Toronto, Ontario M5A 3X5
ATTENTION: James Wallace, Editor-in-Chief

Dear Mr. Wallace:
RE articles: “Bev Oda won’t be missed” and “Bev Oda was no Jackie Robinson”
The National Association of Japanese Canadians (NAJC) deplores the racism expressed in the July news article published by Sun Media Corporation on Bev Oda under such titles as “Bev Oda won’t be missed” (July 5, 2012 – Toronto Sun) and “Bev Oda was no Jackie Robinson” (July 6, 2012 – Ottawa Sun).
This article, featured in the “News Canada” section of some Sun Media Corporation’s array of local newspapers, reports on Bev Oda’s resignation from her position as International Co-operation Minister and comments on her tenure in politics with the usual focus on “lavish spending of taxpayers money”. Sun Media should recognize this article as an (unfortunate) “Opinion” piece, however, because it inaccurately and negatively focuses on issues of race. The NAJC highlights this article as an opportunity to demonstrate how racism, with its divisive “us vs. them” attitude, still operates in Canadian society today.
Scandalizing how politicians spend taxpayers money is not new to news reporting. For example, in December 2011, Huffington Post Politics Canada reported on Minister of Defence Peter MacKay’s $5,925 expense for a Grey Cup trip. While this expense and former-Minister Oda’s $1000 a day limousine and $16 orange juice are different in their details, the core question in these two cases is the same – Are Ministers abusing public resources for personal benefit?
Despite the pertinence of this issue and its presence in both MacKay and Oda’s professional careers, the two are treated differently. To be clear, the purpose of contrasting Minister MacKay with former Minister Oda is to take a critical look at why certain articles, such as the Sun Media article in question, leave the core issue behind in order to assert that Bev Oda’s Japanese heritage is relevant to the issue of spending and professionalism; ethnicity does not enter the discussion about Peter MacKay.

Further, why is a “News” article on a female politician, who was born and raised in Thunder Bay, Ontario, making reference to Japanese Kamikaze attacks used during World War II to describe
her “approach to employee relations”? In both its historical timing and the ignorance demonstrated by conflating Canadian-born people of Japanese ancestry with people born,
raised, and living in Japan, this article exemplifies the racism that underpinned the forced relocation and unjust internment of some 22,000 Japanese Canadians beginning in 1942.

This article demonstrates the racism that underpins a systemic inequality in Canada between‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ Canadians. The comparison, used to open the article, between
Jackie Robinson “breaking the colour barrier” and Bev Oda stems from the assumption that visible minorities naturally lack “character”, “ethics”, and “values” and/or need to prove that they
embody them appropriately. This is racism.

It is Bev Oda’s behaviour that is at the core of this matter, and not her ethnic background and Sun Media should recognize that.


Ken Noma, President
National Association of Japanese Canadians

Lillian Nakamura Maguire, Chair
NAJC Human Rights Committee


Canadian Race Relations Foundation
Canadian Ethnocultural Council

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