Don Cherry’s firing a gift to right-wing outrage machine

Channelling frustrations of the ‘proud Canadian’ is red meat for the far right


On Nov. 11, Don Cherry’s 38-year run as a commentator on Hockey Night in Canada abruptly came to an end.

Cherry was dismissed from his position after massive fallout from a rant on his program in which he singled out immigrants for coming to Canada, liking our “milk and honey,” but not adequately supporting the troops, who are, in his mind, the ones to thank for it.

Since his dismissal Cherry has taken many interviews in which he has been asked if he would offer an apology for his remarks. He adamantly refuses to apologize but concedes that he should have said “everybody” instead of “you people” in his rant.

It is important to note that, for Cherry, this has been a pattern of behaviour. Going back as far as 1990, in an interview on CBC’s The Fifth Estate he outright made remarks about “foreigners” coming to Canada and taking Canadian money and jobs, and proclaimed himself a nationalist.

He is apologetic since it finally cost him his job and platform. What he’s sticking to are his core “old-stock Canadian” beliefs — in this case mythologizing the troops as the ultimate granters of freedom and fostering resentment toward newcomers to Canada.

Cherry’s firing is emblematic of the loss of status for what he represents.

The many people outraged at the decision to sack Cherry, “the silent majority” as he himself often claims, view his firing as part of a decades-long culture war. Exemplifying this is an opinion piece recently published in the Calgary Sun that makes the claim that Don Cherry’s Canada is dying but fighting back.

Indeed, there has been some degree of fighting back from the Canadian far right — ranging from a Toronto man vandalizing a war monument in protest of Cherry’s firing, to a rally attended by a dozen or so people who quickly turned to rhetoric about globalists and Jeffrey Epstein, on top of an outpouring of online support from unsavoury characters such as Paul Fromm, Faith Goldy and the Proud Boys.

What is at issue here is not the poppy itself — rather, it is the question of what a Canadian icon, one considered to be a representative of the Canadian working class in one popular petition on, should embody.

The circus that has arisen around Cherry is very much a product of what has been called the “right-wing outrage machine.”

The entire fiasco is being framed as people being offended at Canadian symbols and traditions, complete with the signature lamentations over whether political correctness has gone too far.

It’s the same tired narrative of a proud Canadian being “persecuted” for defending their beliefs in a country that they no longer recognize.

Countless examples of such outrage easily come to mind. Just last week there was a viral story about a faculty member from Stonewall Collegiate Institute forcing “rainbow poppies” on students and the one brave student who got suspended for daring to speak out.

That particular story ended with the suspended student having in fact been suspended for putting up posters around her school containing anti-LGBTTQ* hate speech — a crime in Canada. But for the outrage machine such facts are secondary at best and compounding at worst.

All that matters for the machine is spinning this narrative that Canadian values are under attack — that Stephen Harper’s “old-stock Canadians” are being persecuted in their own country.

In the case of Don Cherry, what this machine wants his supporters to believe is that he is a man being persecuted by hypocrites — people who continue to support Trudeau after his black and brown face scandal for instance — for supporting his country, which now costs you your job if you’re on the right, and that you can’t even support your own country while you’re in it.

While the frustrations of Cherry’s supporters may be very real — not that “old-stock Canadians” are being persecuted, but that Canada does face serious socioeconomic issues that are either slow to be addressed or are inadequately addressed — they are being channeled in the wrong direction.

Frustrations that should be directed at the current socioeconomic system are instead directed toward whatever the right-wing outrage machine has decided is the issue of the day.