Voices from the Picket Line

Striking CUPE 3903 Workers, in their own Words

Darya, a TA whose first language isn’t English, told she shouldn’t teach at York by local radio host

with 8 comments

This is the exchange between myself and the CFRB 1010 radio show today Monday November 24, just before/around 4 PM. The issue? York Strike.

Now, before I called, I knew that it is the business of ‘talk radio’ to  insult the audience to get a reaction out of them to make the show more ‘interesting’. But even with that understanding, I was shocked to hear such a blunt racist statement. I am more used to polite types of racism…

(editor’s note: the following is a transcript of the conversation provided by the radio station)

Caller: I’m a TA at York and I just want to say I’m happy with whatever I’m getting paid right now. So lets just get that out of the table. But what bothers me is the people that are calling and make comments and make judgements and they don’t know what exactly is going on.

LeDrew: Correct us then.

Caller: Because the issue of increase of the pay of the TA is only a very small part of what is happening and is concern of a lot of students and contract faculty.

LeDrew: Daria [sic] .. quickly what are the issues then

Caller: So one of the issues on the table is classroom sizes, why don’t you talk about classroom sizes … and you can say we don’t talk about classroom sizes because of A & B & C

Coren: May I ask you a question? What do you teach?

Caller: Why is that relevant?

Coren: I’m asking you the question … it’s just courtesy … what do you teach?

Caller: I teach … um … health, science course

Coren: OK … I just got the impression … I’m not trying to be rude … but maybe English wasn’t your first language.

Caller: No … it’s not … but why is that relevant?

Coren: Because I think your English should be fluent if you’re teaching kids in the English language

Caller: Well I think you’re very ignorant because my English is perfect … so it is not a problem

Coren: No … it’s not … and you’re also rather rude D’aria [sic] … I was on your side … I was only a question … but if you’re the quality of TA’s and that’s how you speak to people who ask you a question then we have a problem …

LeDrew: So at the end of the day if she’s happy with the money but it haas to deal with classrom size … what baloney … are you now coming over to the right side of the argument … are you agreeing with me that the government should step in to get rid of the strike ….

The caller is no longer on the radio … the topic moves to John Moore who comes into the studio to promote his show coming up after the news …

Of course I was not going to let an idiot’s comments ruin my day. In fact, I burst into an ironic and bitter laughter after hanging up. But not saying anything about it was also not an option for me given we all claim we work for social justice and against racism and oppression. So I am sharing my story with you…if any of you would like to make a comment to the radio, these are the emails you need (editor’s note: I’ve provided a complete list of contacts at the bottom of this post, below the break), or feel free to post a comment on their website though I did not find a blog for that show. I understand people’s busy days and the tiredness after a long day of picketing ( which I haven’t been doing for a few days due to illness)! So no pressure 🙂

…and ESL TAs, GA s, faculty, and students, do not let such comments EVER influence your self confidence.

If you want to contact CFRB, here is some contact information:

CFRB 1010 Website

CFRB 1010 Operations Manager, Steve Kowch: opsmngr@cfrb.com, Direct line: 416-323-6847

Astral Media

CFRB 1010 is owned by Astral Media. Astral Media’s corporate values include “respect”:

Each individual deserves to be treated with dignity and consideration. Nothing justifies a lack of respect, not in the Astral Media culture. We accept individual differences and are open to other points of view. This ensures we work in a company where performance does not mean a cutthroat culture. We can indeed thrive and still be nice peaople.

It’s also interesting to note that Astral Media has a “Guide to Ethical Business Conduct” (section E, pdf link) that outlines that employees of the company “deserves to be treated with dignity and consideration” and “does not tolerate discrimination of any kind.” It would seem as though consumers of their services don’t get such consideration by employees of the company.

Astral Media Radio Contact information:

Mr. Ross Davies, Vice President Programming, rdavies@radio.astral.com

Astral Media Radio Phone number: 416-323-5200


The CRTC is Canada’s government agency responsible for regulating Canada’s broadcasting and telecommunications systems. Register a complaint about the conduct of this host. Its worth noting that the Canadian Broadcast Standards does not outline racism as an example of ethical misconduct.

Written by Gavan Watson

November 25, 2008 at 1:42 pm

8 Responses

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  1. The name of the show is Two Bald Guys with Strong Opinions


    November 25, 2008 at 2:53 pm

  2. Darya,

    I can’t believe we are dealing with such issue in this day and age.

    The Radio show host has to be ashamed of himself to ignore the topic you were trying to bring attention to completely and focus on your ‘accent’!

    I’m glad you are not giving up and persuing this matter futher.



    November 26, 2008 at 1:07 am

  3. Mr. Ross Davies

    Vice President Programming

    Astral Media

    25 November 2008-11-26

    Dear Mr. Davies,

    I am writing to express my concern about a recent exchange on the CFRB Program “Two Bald Guys with Strong Opinions” on Monday, November 24th. The topic was the current strike at York University. A striking teaching assistant named Daarya called in and, without allowing her to make a point at all, Michael Coren interrupted to ask what subject she taught and to ask whether or not English was her first language.

    The first question is not at all offensive, but the second one certainly is. Mr. Coren went on to say that a TA’s English must be fluent in order to teach and impugned the quality of her teaching. First of all, it is deeply disturbing that Mr. Coren would suggest that only native English speakers should be teaching. I know the TA who phoned and she is fluent in English and pursuing studies at the PhD level. There is no doubt that she is amply qualified to do her job. Mr. Coren is leaping to conclusions about the TA and her ability to speak based solely on her accent. This is insulting to the caller and to all Canadians who do not have English as a mother tongue. Frankly, it is racist to insult someone and question his or her level of knowledge, experience and ability to do a job based on their spoken language.

    I realize that Mr. Coren has built his career on being inflammatory and confrontational, but these remarks really cross a line. In fact, they violate Astral Media’s own corporate values, which state: “Each individual deserves to be treated with dignity and consideration. Nothing justifies a lack of respect, not in the Astral Media culture. We accept individual differences and are open to other points of view.”

    Please respond to me to inform me of what action Astral Media will be taking on this issue.



    On behalf of Colleen

    November 26, 2008 at 5:11 pm

  4. From: Ferry Motragh
    Sent: Wednesday, November 26, 2008 4:14 PM
    To: ‘rdavies@radio.astral.com’
    Cc:scourteau@cbsc.ca; opsmngr@cfrb.com
    Subject: Michael Coren crossed the line

    Dear Mr. Davies,

    I am writing to express my concern about a recent exchange on the CFRB Program “Two Bald Guys with Strong Opinions” on Monday, November 24th. on the issue of York University strike. A teaching assistant named Daarya called in and without letting her finish her sentence, Michael Coren interrupted to ask “: what course do you teach?” followed by asking if he is right to assume English is not her first language.

    As a Canadian with accent–yes a very think accent indeed– I was deeply disturbed that Mr. Coren would dare to suggest only native English speakers
    are competent enough to teach “kids” in English!!!! I am outraged! Since when we can insult people so openly based on their race or accent in this country?

    Please respond to me and let me know what you are going to do about this.


    F. Motragh

    On behalf of Ferry: Michael Coren crossed the line!!!

    November 26, 2008 at 5:56 pm

  5. Tell Mr. Coren the caller does not think with an accent, even if she has an accent‏
    Sent: November 27, 2008 1:15:33 AM
    To: ‘rdavies@radio.astral.com; parisasalehi@hotmail.com
    Cc: scourteau@cbsc.ca

    Dear Mr. Davies:

    I am writing to express serious concerns about comments made by Mr. Coren, the host of Two Bald Guys with Strong Opinions, during the November 24, 2008 call in a show related to the York University strike.

    Michael Coren interrupted to ask whether or not English was the caller’s first language, having noticed that the caller had a slight accent and stated that she should not teach at the Univeristy if she did not possess a good command of the English language. I know the caller personally. If you ever have the opportunity to engage in a conversation with the particular caller, you will reailze that her command of the English language is impacable.

    Perhaps Mr. Coren needs a gentle reminder that many teachers of our nation, and the successful nations around the world have had accents. And, perhaps he needs to be reminded of the great success they (with their accent) have achieved (as have the students they have taught).

    Albert Einstein, Nobel Prize 1921, taught at Princeton university (USA) in 1932, (with an accent)
    Niels Henrik David Bohr, received the Nobel prize in 1975, and taught (with an accent)
    Ernest Rutherford, The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1908, taught at Cambridge and at McGill (with an accent)
    Mario Renato Capecchi (Italian-born American molecular geneticist, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, a Distinguished Professor of Human Genetics and Biology at the University of Utah School of Medicine (with an accent)
    Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Peace Price, 2003, also a professor (with an accent)

    The list goes on….. , and the point is clear.

    I beleive Mr. Coren should appologize to the caller and the the accented people of Canada and the world. But, it is not his appology that matters most. What matters is the actions that your station takes to send a strong message to its listeners that it does not tolarate racisim in any form, and it certainly does not tolarate it in its worst form: blunt and live.

    Please do let me know what actions you will be taking. Looking forward to hearing from you.


    A listener.

    I have cc’d the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council as I believe you have violated several clauses from the CAB Code of Ethics.


    November 27, 2008 at 12:06 pm

  6. Dear Mr. Davies

    I am writing to express my very serious concern about a recent exchange on the CFRB Program “Two Bald Guys with Strong Opinions” on Monday, November 24th at 3:40- 4 PM. Even though one week has passed, my mind is still preoccupied with what went on air during that program. How easily can one’s rights be violated?

    It was very disturbing to hear that a very serious talk was interrupted by an absolutely irrelevant question asked from a caller, a striking TA at York named Darya. She couldn’t even finish what she called to talk about (i.e. STRIKE AT YORK) because Mr. Coren was more interested in insulting her about her accent and implying that she is unfit to teach ” our kids in English”. So am I hearing that one’s accent determines the quality of their teaching?! This is outrageous.

    The broadcaster owes an apology not only to the caller, but also to all the listeners who were disturbed by Mr. Coren’s insensitive, rude, and racist comment.

    Please do let me know what is going to be done about this and what is the best way to follow up.



    samira: CFRB must appologize

    December 1, 2008 at 8:02 pm

  7. Who cares. He asked a question and expressed an opinion. Yes it was ignorant, but how politically correct do we have to be. When i’m listening I want to hear all sides of how people feel without it being filtered. Whether people say offensive things or not they still think it; you should be glad you know where he stands.

    Also, I have to agree with the radio host…with an increase in TA pay being part of the issue, it’s hard to believe there is any real concern over classroom size.



    December 11, 2008 at 5:38 am

  8. Dry, r s t Dra, r s t D’ri
    Hw ntrstng. I hv nvr hrd f nyn vrblly msspllng nm bfr. Prhps tht’s jst yu wy f tryng t mk th hsts sm lss ntllgnt.
    I mst ppld y fr yr brvry, whn fcd wth th slghtst ppstn yu… hng up nd lughd bittrly nd rnclly. nd thn f crs wnt t a nce sf nin wbste t gt pepl t strt lttr-wrtng cmpgn. f nly w cld ll xhbt sch crg, sch dfinc. Kp fghtng th gd fght cmrd.

    **This comment has been disemvoweled. Try a name and a real email next time.**


    March 30, 2009 at 7:21 pm

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