Former Bell Media talk show host Jamil Jivani, whose nightly network talk show was cancelled in January, has filed suit against the company claiming he was fired because he didn’t “fit a stereotype that Bell thought a member of the Black community should conform to.”
Jivani, 34, first went public with details of his dismissal in February. A graduate of Yale Law, author, community advocate, and special adviser to the Ontario premier, Jivani was initially recruited by Bell in July 2020 to fill in on The Evan Solomon Show where he focused on Black Lives Matter. He was subsequently offered the 10 – 11 p.m. time slot on Newstalk 1010 (CFRB-AM) Toronto that fall. Bell then promoted Jivani to a nightly 7 – 10 p.m. show airing on seven stations across the network.
Filed in Ontario Superior Court, Jivani’s statement of claim was posted to his Substack blog on Friday morning, with the precursor “Many of you have heard about what transpired when Bell Media fired me in January. Well, now it’s time for them to answer for their racism.”
The suit seeks damages for breach of contract and wrongful dismissal in the sum of $42,500 (representing the compensation the Plaintiff would have earned during the common law notice period of six months); damages for the “bad faith manner of dismissal” in the amount of $300,000; and punitive damages in the amount of $200,000; plus costs.
While Jivani’s new network show began airing in Feb. 2021 during Black History Month, the former host’s claim alleges Bell expected him “to espouse only certain kinds of views – ones that fit a stereotype that Bell thought a member of the Black community should conform to. As news stories around Black Lives Matter and other racial issues faded from the news, Bell no longer had the same use for a Black employee.”
The suit alleges tensions increased with Bell management and “it became clear that Bell had a rigid but unspoken vision for how Black people should fit into the company.”
It goes on to recount that in the lead up to Canada Day 2021, Jivani was allegedly pressured to denounce Canada as racist and “air pre-produced segments that defined Canada by the worst parts of the country’s history.” The suit claims that tensions rose again when the host refused and questioned the request that “did not reflect his view or his values.”
“Instead of denouncing Canada Day, the Plaintiff aired segments highlighting the accomplishments of Canadians and spotlighting the voices of immigrants and military veterans. Tensions from Bell management increased again. Bell was disappointed by his refusal to espouse a specific set of social and political views, and the company was disappointed that he did not fit the mold of a Black stereotype that they had expected him to,” the suit claims.
The suit specifically names General Manager Hilary Whyte, who oversees 17 radio stations in the Bell network, at the centre of management hostilities.
Following News Director Mike Bendixen’s release by the company in November [whom Jivani has made clear was a “good boss” in an earlier Substack post], the host says he was “shocked and blindsided” to receive a note from Whyte advising him that the Bell had received “complaints and concerns” about his show and wanted to discuss the show’s “content and plans.”
The statement of claim says Whyte’s email referenced “divisive and contrarian topics” and went on to state “I want to be sure we are reflecting the company’s strong commitment to Diversity and Inclusion, and that we are building passion in our audience and growing our ratings. We are incredibly challenged right now in both ratings and revenue, and it’s critical that we remain aligned.”
Jivani’s claim states that he replied that “as the only Black radio host in most (if not all) of Bell’s talk radio markets, I am offended that a show branding my name would have its commitment to diversity and inclusion questioned. We embrace different viewpoints on our show each and every night that reflect Canada’s multicultural mosaic.” When the host asked specifically what opinions his guests were espousing that were problematic, the statement alleges “Rather than address the Plaintiff’s important questions about diversity and inclusion, Bell chose to dodge the conversation by terminating his employment” during a Jan. 4 conference call.
A Bell Media spokesperson said the company does not comment on matters before the court, “however, we can confirm that we will be defending ourselves against these false claims.”
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