Cancellation Policy: Should we hold figures from past generations to modern standards?

On Left: Michael Marrus speaking at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem in 2012. (Credit: @yadvashem/Twitter) On Right: “Irving Layton: He wants to be compared with William Shakespeare and Homer.” (Credit: Reg Innell, Toronto Star, 3/16/77)

In the final days of 2022, Michael Marrus, an author, historian, and foremost scholar of Holocaust studies in Canada, died at age 81. He authored eight books on Jewish history, edited a set of 15 volumes entitled Historic Articles on the Destruction of European Jews, and was a member of the Order of Canada.

But the final years of his career were coloured by a comment he made to a Junior Fellow at Massey College within the University of Toronto. The remark was quickly decried as racist—and the ensuing outrage and fallout pushed Marrus to resign from the college six days later.

On the first 2023 episode of Bonjour Chai, the weekly current affairs podcast from The CJN, we officially welcome Phoebe Maltz Bovy to the co-host chair. She and Avi Finegold dive into the topic of how best to think about figures with complex and sometimes chequered legacies.

They also discuss Phoebe’s recent piece on the late Irving Layton, a giant of 20th century Canadian poetry, and the allegations of bad behaviour towards the women in his life. 

What we talked about:


Bonjour Chai is hosted by Avi Finegold and Phoebe Maltz Bovy. Zachary Kauffman is the producer and editor. Michael Fraiman is the executive producer. Our theme music is by Socalled. The show is a co-production from The Jewish Learning Lab and The CJN, and is distributed by The CJN Podcast Network. To learn how to support the show by subscribing to this podcast, please watch this video.