Lisa LaFlamme firing sparks debate over sexism and ageism in Canada

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For years, until her unceremonious dismissal this week, Lisa LaFlamme was a fixture in living rooms across Canada.

The abrupt firing of one of the country’s most prominent television journalists — she has run Canada‘s most-watched newscast since 2011 and this year won the Canadian Screen Award for Best National News Anchor — has sparked both a backlash and a national conversation about sexism and age discrimination in the media.

LaFlamme, who has covered the biggest stories of her time including elections, wars and natural disasters, posted a video to Twitter on Monday announcing that she had been informed in late June that her career with CTV News was over after that parent company Bell Media has decided to terminate its contract. She had worked for the network for 35 years and had just under two years left on her contract, according to the Globe and Mail.

“I was caught off guard and am still shocked and saddened by Bell Media’s decision,” LaFlamme said, adding that he had been asked to keep his dismissal confidential for weeks.

“At 58, I always thought I would have a lot more time to tell more stories that impact our daily lives,” she told her followers. “While it is overwhelming to leave CTV National News in a way that is not my choice, please know that reporting to you has truly been the greatest honor of my life and thank you for always being there.”

In a statement on Monday, CTV said it had made a “business decision” to pursue a “different direction” for the main news anchor role, citing “changing viewing habits.” The network announced the same day that national affairs correspondent Omar Sachedina, 39, would step into the role.

LaFlamme’s dismissal drew condemnation from viewers, media industry colleagues and Canadian figures, including the retired Grammy-winning singer Anne Murray.

Canadian media continued to cover the fallout, with reports suggesting various factors behind LaFlamme’s firing, including clashes between the anchor and CTV News chief Michael Melling over resources for coverage of the war in Ukraine, among other issues.

But one avenue of speculation has struck a chord with Canadian women who wonder: Was it the hair?

LaFlamme made headlines when she quit dyeing her hair in 2020. During a year-in-review special, she told viewers that the pandemic kept her from visiting her hairdresser and was tired of spraying her roots every day before going on air. , according to the Globe and Mail. “I finally said, ‘Why bother? I’m getting gray, she said. “Honestly, if I had known lockdown could be so liberating on that front, I would have done it much sooner.”

The move resonated with Canadian women who have been socially pressured to dye their hair. But it apparently ruffled the feathers of top CTV News executive Michael Melling, The Globe and Mail reported.

A senior CTV official told the newspaper that Melling asked who approved of the decision to “let Lisa’s hair turn gray” and then commented on the purple hue of LaFlamme’s locks under studio lighting.

Canadian women took to Twitter this week to celebrate the former presenter for embracing her gray hair and owning her age.

“Lisa LaFlamme has allowed herself to grow old in front of the camera and in doing so has given me the confidence to shine in my natural beauty as I age,” Twitter user Sarah M wrote Monday, calling CTV’s decision “Big mistake” news.

Others feared LaFlamme would shoot would send a message to middle-aged women that they could face professional consequences if they opted for a more natural look.

Many have suggested that sexism and ageism played a role in LaFlamme’s firing. Some media pundits have pointed out that his predecessor, Lloyd Robertson, retired from the role of main presenter at 77 and received an on-air send-off.

Bell Media did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.

LaFlamme “has made a significant contribution to Canadian television news over the past 35 years,” read a statement Bell Media posted on Twitter Monday, signed by company president Wade Oosterman and senior vice president Karine Moses. The company would launch an “internal review of our newsroom by an independent third party,” the statement continued.

LaFlamme’s dismissal led some to call for Melling’s oustingand Canadian media reported that CTV News was forced into damage control with its own employees.

Moses said in an email to staff that LaFlamme was given the opportunity to say goodbye to viewers before stepping down from the presenter’s chair, but that she “chose not to say goodbye to the audience,” the report reported. Canadian broadcaster Canadian Broadcasting Corp. The anchor redesign was part of a shift toward digital content creation at the news outlet, Moses wrote.

The backlash from LaFlamme’s shot sparked its own backlash. In right-wing circles, figures such as Maxime Bernier, leader of the far-right People’s Party of Canada, seize the moment to distract from the firing by Canadian companies of thousands of workers who refused coronavirus vaccines.

Meanwhile, some high-profile media figures lamented that the controversy over LaFlamme’s ousting had clouded the importance of hiring his replacement. Sachedina, an award-winning journalist who has worked at CTV News since 2009, was born in Canada to parents of Indian descent from Uganda – a background underrepresented in Canadian media.

“Muslim man at the helm of the biggest national news program – history,” Global News reporter Ahmar Khan twet. “But, the diversity does not cover the shortcomings of abuse.”

Sammy Westfall and Amanda Coletta contributed to this report.

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