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Critics attack Allen's Olympics role


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Critics attack Allen's Olympics role

Fiery radio comments spark cries of racism, calls for removal

John Colebourn

The Province (Vancouver, B.C.)

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Calls for the dismissal of Bruce Allen from a key position on the 2010 Olympics ceremonies committee continued yesterday following a storm of controversy over the concert promoter's radio comments -- comments some have labelled as racist.

"He is a person who will have important influence in the opening and closing ceremonies and, judging from his comments, I don't think he will reflect Canadian values," said MLA Harry Bains, the NDP Olympics critic, last night.

"His comments are very, very disappointing and have left a lot of people angry," added Bains.

"He is not the right person to be representing Canadian values at our opening and closing ceremonies and if he has any influence we will be embarrassed."

Allen, a veteran music-industry heavyweight and manager of a stable of Canadian music stars, including Michael Bublé and Bryan Adams, was introduced Thursday as one of 10 members on a creative team shaping the ceremonies and entertainment at the Vancouver and Whistler Olympic Games.

In his regular Reality Check radio comment on CKNW Sept. 13, Allen stated "special interest groups" expect rules for themselves.

"There is the door. If you don't like the rules, hit it," said Allen. "We don't need you here. You have another place to go. It's called home. See ya."

Added Allen: "This is simple. We have laws in this country. They are spelled out and easy to get a hold of. If you're immigrating here and you don't like the rules in place, you have the right to choose not to live here. If you choose to come to Canada, shut up and fit in. We are a democracy, but it seems more and more that we are being pilloried by special interest groups that want special rules for themselves."

Indira Prahst, a sociology instructor at Langara College who specializes in race and ethnic relations, said she was "shocked" when she first heard Allen's comments.

She also said Allen's subsequent appearance on Christy Clark's CKNW show last week would have been an opportunity to show his remorse at the comments. "He could have apologized," she said. "I think the people representing the Olympics should be culturally sensitive. I think there should be some very serious consideration about his role with the Olympics."

Allen, in a lively exchange with Clark, was unrepentant over his comments. He called the controversy "a bunch of crap dredged up by some people who don't get it. I'm not hate-mongering. I'm an editorialist. I hate people playing the race card . . . I make people think. That's my job."

Both the CRTC and CKNW have been sent letters of concern from some in the South Asian community regarding Allen's comments.

Calls to VANOC's media department were not returned. jcolebourn@png.canwest.com


In his commentary on Christie Clark's CKNW show, Allen also talked about the "turban-wearing Mounties" who complain about having to wear motorcycle helmets over their headdress.

Although he did not make it clear in his commentary, Allen said to Clark that he opposed the refusal of Canadian passport officials to accept photos of three Sikh youths who wore religious headgear.

And he thought immigration bureaucrats were wrong to refuse admission to prospective Sikh immigrants who used only Singh or Kaur as their surnames.

"That's race-bashing, and I don't like it," Mr. Allen said.

Radio India talk-show host Harpreet Singh last night said there have been 1,200 letters written to the CRTC about Allen's commentary. "We believe this is hate-mongering," he said. "We are also proud Canadians so, who is he to say anything about turbans?"

Singh said they will lobby to have Allen removed from his Olympic position. "We are demanding he be removed from the Olympic committee," said Singh. "This is an insult -- who's he to say we should go back to where we came from?"

© The Vancouver Province 2007

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