Several Canadian editorial cartoonists came under heavy criticism last week for published works depicting violence against Indigenous politician Jody Wilson-Raybould, a descendant of the Musgamagw Tsawataineuk and Laich-Kwil-Tach peoples. Wilson-Raybould is the former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada and Minister of Veterans Affairs of Canada in the cabinet of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The cartoons weighed in on Wilson-Raybould’s resignation in the wake of her cabinet demotion and the controversy that is the #SNCLavalinAffair in which Trudeau allegedly pressured her to resolve the corruption and fraud case against Montreal-based company SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. during her tenure as Attorney General.
The backlash was intensified due to the images being released on February 14, the day for annual Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women’s events across Canada since 1992. The emphasis of red in the images, the official color of #MMIW campaigns, was perceived as being more than just a coincidence to many. There was a fair bit of support for the cartoons as well, including from Indigenous peoples.
Jokes between the cartoonists and dismissive responses on social media to concerns about the depiction of violence against an Indigenous woman further fanned the flames.
Michael de Adder, past president of The Association of Canadian Editorial Cartoonists and Board member of the Cartoonists Rights Network, is lauded as the most read cartoonist in Canada.
In a Facebook post labeled by de Adder as "Cartoon for February 15 #RuleOfLaw #LavScam #cdnpoli #JodyWilsonRaybould #justintrudeau #cdnpoli" Trudeau is seen in boxing gloves in a fight against Wilson-Raybould, who is tied to a chair with her mouth taped shut.
Graeme MacKay, an Editorial Cartoonist for The Hamilton Spectator, whose work is syndicated across Canada and occasionally in the United States, had a similar cartoon in a boxing ring. Wilson-Raybould is depicted on the floor with her mouth taped shut and hands and feet tied. His cartoon was accompanied by the comment: “Editorial Cartoon for Feb. 15. Wilson-Raybould says she can't publicly discuss SNC-Lavalin allegations. Wilson-Raybould should have resigned long ago. High-stakes war of words between Trudeau, Wilson-Raybould on tap.”
Andy Donato, an Editorial Cartoonist and former Art Director of the Toronto Sun, received a lot of criticism for Wilson-Raybould wearing a red gag in his cartoon.
Michael de Adder had an apparent change of heart on Twitter on February 16 when he responded to criticism: “My cartoon did not intend to upset people. It was not intended to offend women, make light of domestic violence or trivialize indigenous issues. I am human, I make mistakes, I will strive to do better. I will no[t] depict women in violent situations going forward,” he tweeted.
Responses on Twitter about the apology also criticized Adder and have continued.
“I get a lot of likes and shares. So this is not about me. I'm fortunate. But if you want to support editorial cartoonists locally. Like and share their work, even if you only kind of like it. We are under assault. Go find a cartoon you like and share it today.[Not mine, I'm okay],” de Adder tweeted yesterday.
Additionally, de Adder’s latest response on the controversy surrounding his cartoon also came via Twitter last night: “I'm not a victim of political correctness. Everybody is treating me like a victim. It's simple - I want my kids to grow up to think I was "woke." ‘I'm not a victim. I'm a dad.’”