CBC President Hubert T Lacroix
CBC loves to ask questions but the state broadcaster's president Hubert Lacroix has shown once again that he hates taking them.
Lacroix was asked about a release of documents - some 1,454 pages - related to harassment and inappropriate behaviour in just two CBC offices in Ottawa and Toronto.
"Are you sure that you want me to answer this question?" Lacroix sighed at our reporter.
Well, the answer of course is yes, that's why he was asked. Lacroix then went on to try to explain away the story by answering a completely different question.
The story started Wednesday night on my TV program Byline on Sun News, where I showed a massive pile of papers, the response to an access to information request to CBC asking for "e-mails, memos and reports of harassment and inappropriate behaviour" at their Ottawa and Toronto offices.
The file, which covered from Jan. 1, 2010 until last July, came back with 1,454 pages.
That is a staggering amount of paperwork for just two offices of the state broadcaster. Unfortunately, most of the information was blacked out. One revealing e-mail, though, showed this was not all about one or two cases.
"Too many cases and I'm getting them mixed up in my mind," wrote an undisclosed employee to a CBC HR manager.
Given the recent allegations of sexual harassment at the RCMP and the stunning revelations of a BBC star's decades-long predatory prowl through Britain's state broadcaster, asking questions about what happens at CBC is not out of order. But Lacroix doesn't like being questioned and so he attacked the messenger.
"I read this morning in your newspapers that the indication was that we were involved in 1,450 of these cases. The real answer is, we gave you 1,450 pages," Lacroix said.
Actually, in our on-air and in-print stories we only ever reported that there were 1,454 PAGES regarding complaints of harassment and inappropriate behaviour. We also specifically said there was no way to tell how many cases there were because CBC removed all pertinent information, including the number of cases, how they were dealt with and so on.
Removing personal information is understandable, but CBC goes beyond that: They don't want you to know about any untoward behaviour at the state broadcaster.
Yet when news of trouble inside the RCMP broke, CBC devoted more air time to the subject than any other broadcast outlet in the country. Aggressive questions were asked of the police force and the government regarding policies and the work environment inside the Mounties.
Now questions about his own organization are met with Lacroix's famous disdain. To his credit, he did admit that one case is too many.
"We have less than 10, it's documented, well actually one more than zero is not something that we are very proud of, that we work very hard on," Lacroix said.
Good. But there are still unanswered questions. What is the nature of the complaints at CBC? Are we talking about inappropriate jokes or sexual harassment?
How much are taxpayers on the hook for when CBC reaches a settlement? That would tell us how serious these issues are.
From April 1, 2009 to March 31, 2010, CBC paid out some 30 invoices to investigators and lawyers regarding harassment claims. Why? And what is being paid out now?
Currently, the Commons Standing Committee on the Status of Women is studying the issue of sexual harassment in the federal workplace. I'd say CBC is a good candidate for their work.