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NDP candidate files complaint over Toronto Sun column

Right-wing columnist Brian Lilley dug up a 2019 podcast in which Thunder Bay-Superior North candidate discussed the use of national anthems as a cultural tool.
Lise Vaugeois 2017
Thunder Bay-Superior North NDP candidate Lise Vaugeois on Monday, Dec. 4, 2017. (Leith Dunick,

THUNDER BAY – The NDP has filed a complaint against Toronto Sun columnist Brian Lilley accusing her of questioning the value of Canada’s national anthem.

Lilley, in a brief column published on Thursday, said Vaugeois “doesn’t think too much of O Canada and worries about the impact of Remembrance Day.”

In 2021, it was reported by Canadaland that the right-wing columnist, is the live-in paramour of Ivana Yelich, who happens to be director of media relations for Conservative Leader Doug Ford.

Lilley cited a 2019 podcast, saying Vaugeois said “anthems serve as social engineering and that, ‘”brainwashing is the wrong word, but it’s not completely divorced from the idea.”

The Pedagogy Non-Grata podcast, titled Interview with Dr. Lise Vaugeois on Institutional Racism within Education, was published on April 12, 2019.

The NDP and Vaugeois accused Lilley of an intentional misleading column stating the opposite of Vaugeois’ true feelings.

“I played our national anthem a thousand times at least.  It actually still moves me … My body completely responds, and has this euphoria, when I play that music.”

In the podcast, Vaugeois said she was trained as a classical French horn player, but had always struggled marrying her music and her activism together, adding her graduate work explored the theory that the arts are not separate from political issues.

“I was studying the uses of music and how it has functioned to normalize social hierarchies, and in particular racial hierarchies and I discovered that really culture, in fact, is a central tool in the colonial process,” Vaugeois said, introducing herself on the podcast in question.

The NDP hopeful went on to say that during her graduate work she studied the musical offerings in public schools, dating back to colonial times, noting there was little that strayed outside of the dominant culture of the day, and certainly nothing Indigenous.

“The music actually follows a very narrow set of parameters in terms of the sounds and the ideas that are being repeated and the core ideas are patriotism, love of animals, love of nature in a very primitive kind of way and loyalty and obedience,” she said.

Vaugeois then pointed to national anthems, noting most countries have invested in heavily.

“It’s something we start singing very young and we repeat it over and over and over and over again. The idea is to have this emotional sense of pride and really an undying and unquestioned loyalty to the nation state, whatever it happens to be, whether it’s Canada, the U.S., Ukraine, somewhere else,” she said.

“That becomes so internalized that, even when you’re speaking with adults, it can be very difficult to question the function of those national anthems as a kind of … brainwashing is the wrong word, however it’s not completely divorced from that idea. You could call it social engineering.”

Vaugeois went on to say the anthem still moves her when she plays it, despite her graduate work looking at the use of music as a cultural tool.

“And yet, my body completely responds and has this euphoria when I play that music. That to me is one of the things that reminds me how powerful music can be and it does certain kinds of work,” Vaugeois said, noting Indigenous people often weren’t allowed to create their own music, particularly in residential school settings.

The NDP is demanding the story be corrected or removed and said they have provided materials to Lilley to allow him to correct the column, but say both Lilley and the Sun have refused.

A complaint will be lodged with the National NewsMedia Council, the NDP said.

Leith Dunick

About the Author: Leith Dunick

A proud Nova Scotian who has called Thunder Bay home since 2002, Leith is Dougall Media's director of news, but still likes to tell your stories too. Wants his Expos back and to see Neil Young at least one more time. Twitter: @LeithDunick
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