Decolonizing the media

Joseph Howe Symposium speakers address reporting on Indigenous affairs and the media's role in reconciliation

As journalists, we hold a responsibility to change the way we approach and report on Indigenous affairs, and decolonize the media.

This is what the 12th annual Joseph Howe Symposium sought to learn more about. The University of King’s College presented the Jan. 14 Symposium to further the Truth and Reconciliation Committee’s Call to Action #86, which asks Canadian journalism and media programs to educate its students about the history of Aboriginal peoples.

“True reconciliation doesn’t consist of just forgetting the past and moving on,” keynote speaker Duncan McCue said. “True reconciliation means to remember and change.”

McCue is a King’s graduate, a University of British Columbia Journalism Professor and a CBC reporter.

Journalists hold a responsibility to reconcile with Canadian Aboriginals, to encourage Aboriginal reporters to report on Indigenous affairs, and to properly report on Aboriginals peoples and culture without stereotyping.

In order for these things to happen, the Symposium speakers said we need more Indigenous journalists reporting and more Indigenous stories told to educate Canadians about Indigenous peoples.

McCue said he first “realized the power that could come along with expressing words in print” when he wrote his first article for King’s publication The Watch.

“Some cages needed to be rattled,” said McCue about his time at The Watch. “We were doing it to share stories on campus that needed to be told.”

McCue spent his summer of 1990 in the throes of the Oka crisis and asked the Symposium audience,“What’s changed? You could say nothing.”

After the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s official report was published, the TRC created 94 calls to action in 2015, acknowledging the media’s responsibility to encourage more Aboriginal reporters and equip journalists with necessary the knowledge in Indigenous rights and affairs to properly report on them.

“It’s not seeing it as about these rights that Indians have because they’re Indians,” said speaker Naiomi Metallic, from Listuguj Mi’kmaq First Nation and a Dalhousie Schulich Law Professor and Legal Aid.

“It’s about a relationship and renegotiating and renewing treaties that were done in ways that were very unfair to the indigenous parties: talking about equitable resources of shared land and recognizing self government,” she added.

The media have a longstanding reputation as being story-takers rather than story-tellers, McCue said. He pointed out that taking responsibility to personally reconcile with Aboriginals and practicing reciprocity when reporting can benefit journalists.

McCue has created an online reference guide for journalists called Reporting in Indigenous Communities.

“Over and over the media is the part of the problem,” said McCue, “It’s time for us to change.”

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