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Wendy Mesley writes her CBC departure won't solve corporation's "problem with racism"

Last Updated Jul 7, 2021 at 2:54 pm EDT

Journalist Wendy Mesley is shown during a charity show at Toronto Fashion Week in Toronto on October 22, 2010. CBC News has taken disciplinary action against journalist Wendy Mesley in light of her admission that she used a racist slur on two separate occasions during editorial meetings in the past year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese

TORONTO — Newly retired CBC journalist Wendy Mesley says she’s made mistakes but feels her departure from the public broadcaster after her use of a racial slur doesn’t solve what she calls the corporation’s “problem with racism.”

Mesley has written an op-ed in the Globe and Mail about her use of the N-word on two separate occasions during editorial meetings in 2019 and 2020, and says she’s angry with how the public broadcaster handled the scandal.

The longtime news anchor and reporter, who retired late last month after working at the CBC for 38 years, was suspended last summer when the corporation began an investigation into the incidents. 

Mesley says using the slurs was one of “the two worst mistakes” in her “long and generally happy career”—  the other one being her trust in how employers would handle the scandal, accusing the CBC of making it “all about blame, shame and regret.”

She says she “stupidly filled in the N-word” on a conference call with producers for “The Weekly with Wendy Mesley,” during a discussion in May 2020 about how the slur had been directed at a Black CBC reporter, and another time months before in an editorial meeting when referencing a book title.

Mesley could not be reached for an interview Wednesday, and the CBC said it had no comment.

She writes that she thought her “punishment would be proportionate, because people would come to understand there’s a difference between a reporter repeating a hateful remark with colleagues while in pursuit of a story, and a gleeful racist trying to draw blood.”

But after her show was cancelled, Mesley says the CBC offered her another role that she “saw as unreasonable” and told her any other arrangement would require that she not discuss “events of the last year.”

She says “players on all sides” used her “as a cudgel to advance political interests.” 

Mesley says she believes “the CBC had an agenda,” using her “to distract or absolve themselves from their own underlying problems” with systemic racism.

Mesley writes she’s angry with herself for hurting people but also angry at the CBC “for abandoning” her “because of two moments,” instead of judging her by her whole career.

She says she feels the CBC should have “used the moment to help foster greater dialogue about a difficult topic.” 

Mesley says she’s learned there have “been at least three other cases at the network involving shows in which the N-word was allegedly used in meetings.” 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 7, 2021.

The Canadian Press