Windsor Star columnist faces fire for use of “blackshirt”

Windsor Star columnist Chris
Vander Doelen
‘s description of union activists as “blackshirts” — a
term commonly used to define Mussolini’s and Hitler’s nefarious
secret police — has some readers demanding an apology.

The column in question includes these two paragraphs, directly after the lede:

“The re-election of Mayor Eddie Francis turned into an unexpected cliffhanger thanks to a swarm of black-shirted, revenge-bent union activists who moved mountains Monday to pull the vote for challenger Rick Limoges. For a while, it looked like they might even pull it off.

“But then the votes from “the silent majority” arrived, as Francis called his voters. The blackshirts — many of them CUPE municipal workers, judging by the insults hurled my way — openly booed Francis and shouted catcalls during his victory speech. Classless to the end; that’s CUPE.”

The Windsor Square, an online news site, posted a a piece by Ed Arditti and a lengthy explanation by Ian Paulson about Vander Doelen’s column, both urging readers to write the Star and complain. Paulson writes:

“Vander Doelen evoked memories (for some) of the darkest days in European history. In other [words], he insulted their collective intellect. In action, even if  he  did  not  understand  or mean it, Vander Doelen incited hatred through the use of imagery by equating supposed CUPE members to elements of Benito Mussolini’s Blackshirts.”

Paulson goes on to explain that “Black-shirted members of the Italian ‘Volunteer Militia for National Security’ and the German SS and Gestapo terrorized minority groups that did not fit into the notion of the “ideal” citizen. Jews, Roma, homosexuals, communists, and others were rounded up and sent to concentration camps and/or used as slave labour. They died of starvation and malnutrition. Millions were gassed in the chambers of Bergen-Belsen and Treblinka. And then there were the people used for so-called medical experiments by Nazi doctors like Josef Mengele. These were the atrocities of the Blackshirts.”

Paulson asks how the use of the phrase “blackshirt” managed to get past Star editors, adding:

“Lastly, just how does Vander Doelen know that those who were booing were CUPE members? Did he recognize them individually as unionists? Does he assume, or want to perpetuate the notion, that only unionists are against Edgar? “

The newspaper has also been the subject of debate for its coverage of Mayor Eddie Francis. The mayor’s long-time chief of staff, Norma Coleman, is married to the Windsor Star‘s editorial page editor John Coleman.