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1982: Ralph Klein’s bums and creeps

The Story


At a dinner in Calgary, Mayor Ralph Klein tells a group of newcomers that his city does not welcome "bums" and he'll protect Calgarians from "a lot of creeps" looking for work. Newspapers across the country carry stories with the mayor's statements attacking easterners. Klein denies the reports in this CBC Television clip, and says "the word I used was kick ass and get them out of town." Eastern Canadians flock to Boomtown -- 2,600 new people arrived in Calgary last month -- to find jobs during a North American recession. As a result, the city deals with a housing crisis and the majority of bank robberies are committed by migrants.

Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: Jan. 7, 1982
Guest(s): Ralph Klein, Keith MacElwain, Lloyd Stang
Host: Knowlton Nash
Reporter: Eve Savory
Duration: 2:07

Did You know?


• Though no one caught Klein's dinner speech on tape, Calgary Herald reporter Bob Bettson took notes while sitting anonymously in the crowd. Bettson quoted Klein as saying there were "a lot of creeps" migrating to Calgary without jobs or skills. The story said Klein promised to use such "cowboy techniques" as piling the newcomers up in jail "on top of one another" if they resorted to crime for a living. Klein denied the allegations.

• Media reports insisted Klein was referring to eastern Canadian migrants. Though Klein did not use the word "eastern," he inaccurately said Quebecers took up more Calgary jail space than native people. American media, including the comment section of the New York Times, picked up Bettson's story.

• Then-North York, Ont., Mayor Mel Lastman commented on the incident, "Klein is a bum and with less than two years as mayor, he's unskilled and wouldn't make it even as an alderman or school trustee here."


Also on January 7:
1859: The first "Canadian" silver coins are issued, in Montreal.
1955: The opening of Parliament - Speech from the Throne - is first televised.
1992: The federal government formally apologizes for the past mistreatment of First Nations.
1998: Former NHL players' union leader Alan Eagleson pleads guilty in Boston and Toronto to fraud. Once considered the most powerful man in hockey, Eagleson was fined, disbarred from practicing law and removed from the Order of Canada. He also resigned from the Hockey Hall of Fame and served six months in prison.


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