An editorial cartoonist's job is to use visual cues to comment on the political climate. That involves a strongly held opinion, politically charged imagery, and a tight deadline. It also means they can push the boundaries of good taste in an attempt to make a point.
Recent drawings reflecting on the SNC-Lavalin scandal that's dominated headlines are being criticized for depicting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau inflicting violence on former Veterans Affairs minister Jody Wilson-Raybould.
The cartoons show the PM using solicitor-client privilege — which the former minister has cited as the reason she can't speak publicly about the scandal — as a weapon against a bound and gagged Wilson-Raybould. They draw on imagery from his 2012 charity boxing match against Sen. Patrick Brazeau.
While the images function to criticize Trudeau for "muzzling" the former minister, many detractors say they have the unintended consequence of trivializing violence against women.
Halifax cartoonist Michael de Adder's editorial, which ran Friday, features Wilson-Raybould trapped in a boxing ring with her mouth gagged and her hands bound as Trudeau is advised to "keep beating her up, solicitor-client privilege has tied her hands."
'Extremely poor taste'
Former Dartmouth-North MLA Joanne Bernard told Global News that the cartoon was "in extremely poor taste" and that she hoped it would be taken down.
"Add in the context of Jody ... being an Indigenous woman, there's a sensitivity around missing and murdered Indigenous women in this country that is completely unacceptable to make jest of in any way, shape or form," she said.
Indigenous women face disproportionate violence in Canada. According to a 2017 government report, they are physically or sexually assaulted almost three times as often as non-Indigenous women. They're also seven times more likely to be murdered by serial killers, and face intimate partner violence at a higher rate and with more severity than other women.
"My cartoon did not intend to upset people," he wrote in another tweet. "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 (sic) depict women in violent situations going forward."
He added that he won't shy away from work related to Wilson-Raybould and SNC-Lavalin, but that he'll make sure his future pieces don't have "unintended secondary meanings."
Some of his past cartoons about the scandal communicate similar messages without explicit violence, like one where Trudeau's had covers Wilson-Raybould's mouth, or one that shows the PM as the pilot of a doomed airplane.
De Adder took the brunt of the Twitter criticism, but another cartoon by Hamilton Spectator cartoonist Graeme MacKay took a similar approach. MacKay's cartoon features a triumphant Trudeau in a boxing ring, as Wilson-Raybould lies defeated on the ground with her mouth gagged, a ball and chain labeled "solicitor-client privilege" around her ankle.
In his response to the criticism, though, MacKay had a different reaction to de Adder. He defended his cartoon as something to provoke thought, not to garner laughs. In this case, "outrage and offence [are] clouding logical thought," he wrote, pointing out satire is often misunderstood.
A gagged Wilson-Raybould, with Trudeau's hands wrapped around the back of her head as he interrogates her, was also featured in the Toronto Sun on Thursday, an image that was retweeted by United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney.
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