Justice Murray Sinclair, chairperson of Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission: “Change will not be immediate. It will take generations.” Photo credit: @sincmurr #TRC2015
Communications media in Canada’s native communities have a part to play in the reconciliation process stemming from the history of the Indian residential school system.
After more than six years of work, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, established in 2008 to examine the legacy of the system, released its final report in June of 2015, writes Lorenzo Vargas in the latest issue of Media Development.
“The commission concluded that the residential school system amounted to cultural genocide, and provided numerous recommendations in the areas of child welfare, education, health, the justice system, among others. It also called for a process of reconciliation, and for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People to become the framework for such process,” Vargas notes.
The Commission highlighted the role that media can play in a reconciliation process. Recommendation #84 calls for the government to “restore CBC funding so that the public broadcaster can play a role in reconciliation and is able to reflect the diversity of Aboriginal communities”. Recommendation #85 calls on the Aboriginal People’s Television Network (APTN) to “support reconciliation through Aboriginal programming and through programs that connect Aboriginal and Non Aboriginal Canadians,” writes Vargas.
Also, Recommendation #86 calls for Canadian media schools and journalism schools to highlight
aboriginal culture in their curriculum. Recommendations # 13 and 14 highlight the importance of Aboriginal language rights as fundamental parts of Canadian society.
A broadcaster such as Bill Morris of Wawatay Radio Network, which covers native communities in areas of northernwestern Ontario, could make a major difference in moving Canada towards true reconciliation and the establishment of new bonds of trust, says Vargas.
Morris spent 15 years in an Indian residential school in Sioux Lookout, Ontario and he has been at Wawatay for more than 30 years, specializing in producing news programs.
WACC had an opportunity to learn from Morris’ experience at a seminar on multilingual community media organized in Montreal in partnership with the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC) in July of 2015.
To read more about the role indigenous community media can play in the reconciliation process, subscribe to Media Development here.