"It is imperative that the CBC either give a fair and balanced description of Ron East or simply not interview him. It is inappropriate to present someone with such controversial public views as a sober-minded representative of a group of people in Winnipeg."
Donna Lee, Assignment Producer, CBC Manitoba
Melanie Verhaeghe, Managing Editor, CBW-FM
Darren Bernhardt, Editor and Journalist, CBC Manitoba
Nancy Waugh, Senior Manager of Journalistic Standards, CBC
Brodie Fenlon, News Director, CBC News
Jack Nagler, Ombudsman, CBC
Dear Donna Lee, Melanie Verhaeghe, Darren Bernhardt, Nancy Waugh, Brodie Fenlon, and Jack Nagler,
I’m writing to express my concern about numerous CBC articles and broadcasts that interview or quote a highly questionable source, Ron East.
Since October 7, at least ten CBC articles or broadcasts have quoted Ron East. I have included a list of examples at the bottom of this letter. East is described as the “founder of the Israeli Canadian Council” or a “prominent counter-protest organizer.”
Ron East is the publisher and Editor of TheJ.ca. East’s website has a well-documented history of publishing racist content.
TheJ.ca routinely disparages and dehumanizes Black people, Indigenous people, the disabled, Muslims, Arabs, and Palestinians and often descends to outright racist views – including the idea that some ethnic groups “matter more” than others. To give an example of some of the most vile content on the website, it includes:
- Celebration, with an accompanying photo, of the killing of a Palestinian journalist.
- A column titled “Jewish Lives Matter MORE,” which asserts that “Jewish lives not only matter, but they matter more. Why? They matter more because their existence contributes more to the public good than the lives of other ethnic groups […] Maybe there is an element of survival of the fittest at work.”
- A column mocking Indigenous land acknowledgements and claiming that the idea that European colonialism stole land from Indigenous peoples is a “myth.”
- A column affirming a view that Arabs “must embrace modernity” or risk reverting to “tribal desert primitivism.”
- A letter stating that “Islamic immigration into the west” is bringing “poisonous attitudes” and for that reason, the author “hesitate[s] to go even into a Falafel place.”
- Columnists which deny Palestinian indigeneity and culture, and describe Palestinians as the “enemy within” and as a “cancer” that must be “removed.”
The report published by my organization, titled "Legitimizing Hate: Canadian Politicians Advertise on Racist Website," is attached to this email, and documents TheJ.ca’s record of publishing hateful and racist content.
Ron East has also been recorded making dehumanizing comments about Palestinians and pro-Palestine protesters.
A video on X shows Ron East calling Palestinian protesters in Winnipeg “animals” and saying they are worse than animals because “animals are nicer.” Why is this person being given a platform to define Winnipeg’s pro-Palestine protests? Especially when his protests are disproportionately small compared to Winnipeg’s pro-Palestine rallies? This is worse than bias; it is the CBC platforming of a hate-speech figure. East has a history of conflict with the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg. He is seen by many in Winnipeg as espousing fringe and racist views. Despite these basic facts, CBC journalists have repeatedly interviewed East and presented him as a reasonable representative.
The Israeli Canadian Council
A quick scan of the Israeli Canadian Council (ICC) website and social media pages shows that it is sporadically active. Ron East authors seemingly everything, the ICC regularly endorses Israeli offensive operations, and the ICC often condemns Palestine solidarity events, including those organized by Jewish Voices for Peace. A post from Ron East’s personal Facebook page shows that the ICC has a “Community Security” branch and releases “Security Alerts” when there is a peaceful pro-Palestine demonstration in Winnipeg. It also serves to share articles from TheJ.ca. This is all just scratching the surface of the activity of a far-right actor with highly questionable views, who is certainly not representative of the majority of Winnipeg’s Jewish community.
CBC journalists have almost exclusively described East as the founder of the ICC, which sounds like a respectable and well-established organization. In reality, it is an extension of East’s fringe political efforts. Beyond the questionable politics, it has very little evidence of public support. All of the donation pages display $0 raised for all of their fundraising goals. The Facebook page has 245 followers, and the Instagram has 65 followers.
CBC’s journalistic responsibility
Why haven’t any of CBC’s journalists done their due diligence here? CBC has given a significant platform to Ron East and considerably raised his profile due to their consistently and uncritically interviewing him. The level of repeated oversight is shocking.
Given Mr. East’s prominence in Winnipeg and his notoriety as TheJ.ca’s Editor and publisher, it is alarming that none of the journalists who extensively interviewed him would include this readily available public information in their story.
It is imperative that the CBC either give a fair and balanced description of Ron East or simply not interview him. It is inappropriate to present someone with such controversial public views as a sober-minded representative of a group of people in Winnipeg.
While East’s comments to the CBC have been mostly well within the norms of mainstream discourse, the CBC has significantly raised the profile of someone who will use that notoriety to promote hate on his other platforms.
CBC content quoting Ron East
- CBC Radio One CBW, Tuesday, October 10, 12:00 pm
Jewish community will gather tonight to show support for Israel. The Jewish Federation of Winnipeg says the rally at the Jewish community campus will be for both those who died in the attacks and to pray for peace. Ron East is with the Israeli Canadian Council. He says it's important for people in Winnipeg to come together just to get together to cry together to comfort each other to show support for each other. “I just let each other know that we're here for a job. It is a terrible time for our country. And listen, we mourn the death of every civilian whether it's an Israeli or Palestinian.” The Jewish Federation says full security protocols will be in place.
The segment focuses on the rally organized by the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg (JFW). Ron East is the only person to speak about the rally. Notably, the JFW has distanced itself from Ron East in the past, as East has been highly critical of the organization. There are some reports that East is banned from the JFW. In 2021, he wrote the following about the JFW:
“Federations are not leaders of anything other than A) taking credit for the initiatives and accomplishments of others, B) giving each other awards, and C) shnooring money.”
Given this context, why the CBC would let Ron East speak about the rally is confounding.
- “Winnipeg's Jewish, Palestinian communities hold Sunday solidarity events,” CBC News Manitoba, October 16
- CBC Radio One CBW, Monday, October 16, 8:30 am
- “Rallies continue in Winnipeg as latest Israel-Hamas conflict reaches 2-week mark,” CBC News Manitoba, October 21
- “Israeli flag stomped on, police say, as pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian groups clash in Winnipeg,” Darren Bernhardt, CBC News Manitoba, October 23
CBC ought to take action to resolve the damage done by this piece. Mr. Bernhardt did not carry out his due diligence in writing this article.
Note that a full two days before this article, Ron East was recorded calling pro-Palestine demonstrators worse than “animals.” How did the journalist miss this? He only mentions the mundane insult that East used, “pathetic losers.” Many people on Twitter reported similar concerns about Mr. East and his associates’ behavior. And yet, East even gets the byline of the piece “Leader of Israel group wants sides to meet and talk to 'lower the rhetoric a little.'”
East is the most prominent voice in the piece and defines the narrative. None of his publicly available background is mentioned at all. This is plain bad and potentially dangerous journalism by Mr. Bernhardt. It should be noted that Ron East’s profile has been raised so much by CBC and other irresponsible media outlets that have completely overlooked his public body of work, such that Mr. East is now consulting with Winnipeg’s police on Palestine demonstrations.
Do CBC journalists even bother typing their source’s names into Google? Or seeing what their organizations do?
- CBC Radio One CBWT, Monday, October 23, 6:15 am
The interview includes Ron East claiming that Hamas “raped” people, of which there is no evidence. Although Israeli sources have claimed it, they refuse to release evidence, without explanation. He also said “thousands” of Israelis were killed on October 7, but the number of Israeli civilians killed is reportedly around 1,000, with several hundred soldiers and police being killed in the fighting.
CBC’s other coverage, fortunately, helps balance some of these claims out, but it is notable that they are not clarified or corrected on-air in any way.
- CBC Radio One CBW, Monday, October 23, 10:00 am
The host places the blame for the clash on Palestinian demonstrators. Quotes Ron East.
- “River Heights home shot at in suspected hate-motivated crime, Winnipeg police say,” CBC News Manitoba, October 26
It is ironic that CBC would quote Ron East’s concerns about social media when Mr. East’s own Facebook and Twitter are littered with concerning material. In August 2023, Mr. East made a tweet about “Pollywood [sic],” a reference to the racist belief that footage of Palestinian suffering is staged.
- CBC Radio One CBW, Friday, October 27, 7:30 am
- “Winnipeg's Jewish, Palestinian communities hold weekend rallies as Gaza war widens,” CBC News Manitoba, October 29
I very much hope CBC Manitoba journalists reconsider their relationship with Ron East. One can only imagine that Winnipeggers familiar with Ron East must have lost some confidence in CBC for repeatedly interviewing East as an authority on these situations.
Director of Media Advocacy, Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East