Former Conservative cabinet minister Stockwell Day has stepped down from his role as a commentator on CBC News Network’s Power & Politics — and has left senior positions at two major companies — after making comments on Tuesday’s show about racism in Canada he later admitted were “insensitive and hurtful”.
“I ask forgiveness for wrongly equating my experiences to theirs. I commit to them my unending efforts to fight racism in all its forms,” Day said in a tweet earlier today.
Day also notified CBC he was stepping away from his role as a commentator for the program.
Day, a former federal opposition leader and later a cabinet minister in Stephen Harper’s government, was asked during a panel debate on Power & Politics to react to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s comments Tuesday morning on protests that have swept across the U.S. following the police killing of African American George Floyd.
Trudeau’s comments did not address Trump’s threat to call in the military in to remove demonstrators, but they did point to what Trudeau said were Canada’s own problems with systemic racism.
“We have to recognize that our system is not perfect in Canada,” Day said during the panel discussion. “Yes, there’s a few idiot racists hanging around but Canada is not a racist country and most Canadians are not racist. And our system, that always needs to be improved, is not systemically racist.”
Day went on to compare the bullying he endured as a child with the discrimination faced by visible minorities across the country.
“Should I have gone through school and been mocked because I had glasses and was called four-eyes and because of the occupation my parents?” Day asked. “Should I have been mocked for all that? No, of course not. But are Canadians largely and in majority racist? No, we are not.
“We celebrate our diversity around the world and for the prime minister to insinuate — and it is an insinuation — that our system is systemically racist is wrong.”
Fellow panellists Amanda Alvaro and Emilie Nicolas pushed back against Day, challenging his assertions about systemic racism and the comparison Day made to his own experiences being bullied.
By feedback from many in the Black and other communities I realize my comments in debate on Power and Politics were insensitive and hurtful.I ask forgiveness for wrongly equating my experiences to theirs.I commit to them my unending efforts to fight racism in all its forms.
That argument appears to have cost Day his position on the board of directors for Telus and his role as a strategic adviser for McMillan LLP.
“At McMillan LLP, we believe that systemic racism is real and that it can only be addressed when each of us — as individuals and organizations — commits to meaningful change,” the company said in a statement signed by Teresa Dufort, partner and CEO, and posted to its Twitter account.
“Yesterday, Stockwell Day made comments during a televised interview that run counter to this view. Today, he offered his resignation as a strategic advisor at our firm and it was accepted.”
Telus also issued a statement announcing that it had accepted Day’s resignation from its board of directors effective immediately.
“The views expressed by Mr. Day during yesterday’s broadcast of Power & Politics are not reflective of the values and beliefs of our organization,” the statement said.