With the horrific news that 751 unmarked graves have been found at Marieval Indian Residential School, the Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ) urges Canadian newsrooms to carefully report on the tragedy without doing further harm to survivors.

Please heed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action for media.

The media has a role to play in ensuring that public information both for and about Aboriginal peoples reflects their cultural diversity and provides fair and non-discriminatory reporting on Aboriginal issues.” (Truth and Reconciliation Commission Final Report, 2015)

The TRC created calls to action specifically for the media as “sweeping generalizations and stereotypes” along with misinformation about Indigenous people by the media for decades have caused significant harm and violence.

“In many countries where violence and injustice has occurred on a large scale, the media has had the potential to either fuel conflict or facilitate conflict resolution and peace building. The media play a crucial role in educating the public, and through public scrutiny can hold the state accountable for its actions. In the Canadian context, the media can shape public memory and influence societal attitudes towards reconciliation.” (Truth and Reconciliation Commission Final Report, 2015)

Newsrooms should make educating their reporters on how to cover Indigenous communities with care and respect their largest priority as these graves continue to be uncovered. 

It is long overdue and shameful that it has not happened.

“Media outlets and journalists will greatly influence whether or not reconciliation ultimately transforms the relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples. To ensure that the colonial press truly becomes a thing of the past in twenty-first-century Canada, the media must engage in its own acts of reconciliation with Aboriginal peoples. The media has a role to play in ensuring that public information both for and about Aboriginal peoples reflects their cultural diversity and provides fair and nondiscriminatory reporting on Aboriginal issues.” (Truth and Reconciliation Commission Final Report, 2015)

TRC #86 called on journalism schools to require education for all students on “the history of Aboriginal peoples” including residential schools.

We have not seen that happen.

“We call upon Canadian journalism programs and media schools to require education for all students on the history of Aboriginal peoples, including the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, Indigenous law, and Aboriginal-Crown relations.” (Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action, 2015)

Reporters covering the horrific findings today, please refer to guides on how to cover Indigenous communities. Please refer to this one by Duncan Mccue: https://riic.ca/the-guide/.

For additional help today please call The Indian Residential School Survivors Society toll-free 1 (800) 721-0066 or 24hr Crisis Line 1 (866) 925-4419 if you require further assistance.

The CAJ is also here to do whatever we can to help. If you need assistance of any kind, please send email CAJ president Brent Jolly: brent@caj.ca

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