For the second time in two weeks, a political cartoonist is apologizing for his depiction of former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould in newspaper commentary on the SNC-Lavalin scandal.
Yannick Lemay, who draws under the name Ygreck in the Journal de Quebec, published a cartoon on March 1 portraying Wilson-Raybould and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a boxing ring.
While the prime minister is in boxing attire, Wilson-Raybould is clad in leather fringe, moccasins and feathers and is wielding a tomahawk. The cartoon also appeared in the Journal de Montreal.
”I’m very sorry,” said Lemay, after receiving many comments on Twitter in reaction to the cartoon.
The purpose of the caricature is not to offend someone. If I offended someone with this drawing, obviously I’m sorry. I apologize.– Yannick Lemay, political cartoonist
“The purpose of the caricature is not to offend someone. If I offended someone with this drawing, obviously I’m sorry. I apologize.”
The cartoon was in response to Wilson-Raybould’s testimony on Wednesday at the House of Commons justice committee about SNC-Lavalin.
Wilson-Raybould recounted what she described as a well-orchestrated campaign by senior members of the Prime Minister’s Office to pressure her to reach an agreement with SNC-Lavalin to help the Montreal-based engineering firm avoid criminal prosecution.
Earlier in February, an image by a Halifax political cartoonist, also set in a boxing ring, showed Wilson-Raybould in one corner with tape over her mouth, tied up and sitting on a stool. It was criticized for its insensitivity to violence against women, especially Indigenous women.
“When I get up in the morning my goal is not to insult someone,” said Lemay.
“I’ve learned a lot today. The next time I have to draw an Indigenous person, I will have to ask myself what are the appropriate ways to imagine someone of Indigenous ancestry now. I admit that I have not found it for the moment but it will come.”
‘They’re blissfully ignorant’
Ellen Gabriel, a Mohawk activist and artist from Kanesatake, Que., called Lemay’s depiction racist, irresponsible and demeaning.
“They’re blissfully ignorant,” said Gabriel.
“There’s so many opportunities today for them to really understand the realities we’re facing. There’s reports. There’s all kinds of studies. There are all kinds of people who are speaking out about how colonization has impacted us.”
She said bringing Wilson-Raybould’s identity as an Indigenous woman into the issue was racist.
“It is not a part of the issue,” said Gabriel. “The issue is her role as the minister and attorney general, and what happened to her.”
Harmful to Indigenous identities
Megan Kanerahtenhá:wi Whyte, a Mohawk artist and art therapist, said when non-Indigenous cartoonists stereotype Indigenous people, it is harmful for Indigenous people to reclaim their identity.
“Drawing a First Nations person in that way one-dimensionalizes First Nations people,” said Whyte.
“It makes it that harder for people to reconnect with themselves because they don’t look like that. It creates a lot of challenges, and stimulates that identity trauma that all communities face.”
Whyte has been an editorial cartoonist at the Eastern Door newspaper in Kahnawake, Que., for a decade. She draws Mohawk people “just as people” in her cartoons almost every week the paper is published.
“Images are really powerful, and they can be very dangerous,” Whyte said.
I try to make Indigenous people not look like a stereotype with feathers or with leather, but to relate to the values or political issue that I’m portraying. When it becomes degrading to a population, I feel like that’s where you should draw the line. – Megan Whyte, an editorial cartoonist
“I try to make Indigenous people not look like a stereotype with feathers or with leather, but to relate to the values or political issue that I’m portraying. When it becomes degrading to a population, I feel like that’s where you should draw the line.”