Open letter to Bell says LaFlamme ousting shows sexism and ageism women face at work

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An open letter signed by a long list of Canadian luminaries takes aim at Bell Media’s abrupt dismissal of Lisa LaFlamme as anchor of the company’s flagship newscast.

In a two-page spread in Saturday’s Globe and Mail, the missive signed by a who’s who of Canadian arts, business and politics – including former Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne, singer Anne Murray and BlackBerry co-founder Jim Balsillie – said LaFlamme was an award-winning ratings leader for the company “until one thing changed: his hair color.”

“In making their ‘business decision,’ Bell confirmed a sad truth: even after all the progress women have made, they continue to face sexism and ageism in the workplace every day in unacceptable ways,” indicates the letter addressed to the board of directors and officers of BCE and Bell Canada.

He said LaFlamme’s firing had destroyed trust in Bell Media and wondered how the company was going to “make things right.”

The letter, published in the first section of the national newspaper’s weekend edition, was also signed by former New Brunswick Lieutenant Governor Margaret Norrie McCain, Indigo CEO Heather Reisman, singer Jann Arden, retired lieutenant general. Roméo Dallaire, former federal politicians Lloyd Axworthy and Catherine McKenna, and author Louise Penny, among others.

Bell Media did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the letter.

The open letter is part of the backlash that has engulfed Bell Media since LaFlamme was fired earlier this month.

Its release came a day after Bell Media executive Michael Melling took time off from work amid the ongoing fallout.

The controversy has raised questions among media watchers about whether sexism and ageism played a role in the upheaval, and sparked a consideration of the ongoing gender discrimination women face at the venue. of work.

LaFlamme, who has covered stories ranging from wars and natural disasters to elections and the Olympics, announced in a video shared on social media that his contract had been terminated.

In the video shared nearly two weeks ago, the longtime CTV National News anchor said she was blindsided by the company’s decision.

Bell Media said terminating LaFlamme’s contract after 35 years was a business decision, adding that the company wanted to move the role of main news anchor in a “different direction.”

Bell Media said it takes the discrimination allegations “very seriously” and is taking steps to launch an internal third-party workplace review in the newsroom in the coming weeks.

An internal memo published Friday said Melling’s decision to take the leave “reflects our desire to support the newsroom and do our best to help the team weather the current circumstances.”

Richard Gray, currently regional general manager of the Eastern region, will take over as interim vice president of news, supported by Karine Moses, senior vice president of content development and news, the memo said.

LaFlamme has garnered strong support on social media since his departure announcement. Brands such as Wendy’s, Dove and Sports Illustrated have all publicly supported the 58-year-old journalist, who has been open about not dyeing her gray hair.

Wendy’s changed the hair of its redhead mascot to gray, while Dove announced it would donate $100,000 to Catalyst, a Canadian organization that helps create better workplaces for women.

Sports Illustrated retweeted its cover featuring 74-year-old model Maye Musk.

LaFlamme’s departure and her replacement were both announced on August 15, frustrating viewers who thought she should have had a proper endorsement and career retrospective.

Bell Media said it “regrets” the way LaFlamme’s departure was handled, as it “perhaps left viewers with the false impression” that his storied career was not valued.

LaFlamme said in her video that she found out in June that Bell Media was ending her contract with CTV National News, but kept the decision secret until details were finalized. Omar Sachedina was appointed to replace her.

In a town hall meeting with staff last week, Moses said LaFlamme rejected the opportunity to bid farewell to the air.

In a recording of the meeting obtained by The Canadian Press, she told employees that LaFlamme was not simply being pushed out of the company.

She “was offered a lot of options to come back and do a lot of things, which she refused, and I respect that,” Moses said, without giving details of other job opportunities Bell Media has. presented at LaFlamme.

– Brett Bundale, The Canadian Press

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