ReVision Quest

Review from the Office of the Ombudsman | English Services

Summary

CBC Radio's ReVision Quest “overtly racist”

You wrote to complain about the summer series ReVision Quest on CBC Radio. You called the program “overtly racist.” You said “what other peoples in Canada would have its horrendous history as victims of genocide and colonialism minimized and ridiculed overtly on national radio?”

The manager of CBC Radio's In-house Program Development, Chris Straw, responded that “the team that puts together ReVision Quest takes great care in crafting episodes that offer what they believe to be a balance of history, comedy, currency and insight into issues facing Aboriginal peoples. As you may or may not know, our production team…consists primarily of programmers of First Nations (descent) and the majority of episodes are overseen by First Nations producers.” He concluded by saying that “we may not always get it absolutely right, but we are always trying to present our ReVision Quest episodes with honesty and respect.”

You were unsatisfied with his response and asked for a review, saying “if you find yourself having difficulty seeing the racist nature of ReVision Quest, simply replace “Indian” for “Jew” or for “French Canadian” and I think you will understand what I am talking about.”


ReVision Quest could best be described as a hybrid program—a combination of various elements. It is not purely information, but information and personal perspective framed by the humour of its host, First Nations comedian Darrell Dennis. However, since it is information based, it does fall generally under the ambit of CBC's Journalistic Standards and Practices. It should be understood, though, that the satiric elements of the program place it in a rather unique spot. Certain styles of comedy are not to everyone's taste.

You argue that if we replace “Indian” with other ethnicities such a program would be unacceptable. However, it is readily evident from the work of people like Russell Peters, Chris Rock and Jackie Mason that comedians and satirists from a wide range of groups can successfully talk about, and find humour in, their histories and cultures. It appears to me that Mr. Dennis, although perhaps less visceral than some of the above-named, is in the same tradition.

It is always difficult to judge what is offensive to a particular group when you are not part of that group. But civilized discourse argues that you have to try. I listened to a number of episodes of ReVision Quest, in particular, the one you cited. As a non-Aboriginal person I found the programs interesting and informative. I discovered that listeners generally shared that view, including First Nations listeners. In fact, the mail to the program was overwhelmingly positive. Interestingly, having read all the negative mail, it was mainly from non-Aboriginal listeners complaining about money and time being spent on Aboriginal viewpoints.

In fact, not a single respondent, other than you, found the program “racist.” Indeed, my listening would confirm that. Underlying your complaint appears to be the notion that a different program should be produced. Fair enough. You have made that suggestion to appropriate programmers.

Conclusion

There was no violation of CBC's Journalistic Standards and Practices in the ReVision Quest series.

Vince Carlin
CBC Ombudsman