By Leanne O'Brien
Image: Snapshot from front page of The Philippine Reporter, June 21, 2021
This National Indigenous Peoples Day, MIREMS' highlights some of the conversation emanating from Chinese, Filipino, Italian, Portuguese, Polish, Punjabi, and Spanish media that reveals their unique take and corresponding sentiment on Indigenous issues. Many of the comments are similar to those expressed in Canadian mainstream media, what is relevant is from where these are coming.
During National Indigenous History Month, varied voices from ethnic media sources have been speaking out in their communities on Indigenous issues, from raising awareness to providing poignant insight as fierce allies. The recent uncovering of the remains of 215 residential school victims by the Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School has spurred discourse in ethnic media, touching on some of the varied Indigenous issues in Canada.
Filipino media draws poignant parallels
Downright calling out Canada for its hypocrisy, Filipino media asks, “Is it a double standard for Canada to recognize the Uyghurs and not Indigenous people?” Earlier this year, the House of Commons passed a non-binding motion to recognize China’s treatment of Muslim Uyghurs as genocide. A report of the crimes included “evidence of Uyghur children being forcibly removed from their parents,” placed in orphanages and mandatory boarding schools. It also said children “are deprived of the opportunity to practice their Uyghur culture… are sometimes given Han names, and are sometimes subject to adoption by Han ethnic families.” The report concludes there is enough evidence that their forced removal is carried out with the intention of “destroying the Uyghur population as an ethnic group.” Similar descriptions could be applied to what churches and governments in Canada did to Indigenous children who were sent to residential schools.
(The Philippine Reporter, Toronto, 18/06/2021)
Punjabi media echoes truths by Indigenous voices
OMNI TV’s Focus Punjabi illuminated for their audiences the work that is being done in the First Nations community by Carley Gallant-Jenkins, Coordinator of 'Save the Evidence' at Woodland Cultural Center in Brantford, to preserve evidence of the Mohawk Institute – the first residential school in Canada – demonstrating solidarity in Gallant-Jenkins’goal of making people see what happened to First Nations children and youth and to see where the community is today. In 1970, the Mohawk Institute closed its doors. Two years later, it reopened as a cultural centre to promote First Nations culture and heritage.
Headlines such as the Hamdard Daily’s “Genocide under the guise of residential schools in Canada” demonstrate further solidarity with Indigenous communities.
The Punjabi media is also acutely aware that Indigenous issues are varied, educating audiences on Canada’s Bill C-15, which seeks to align Canadian law with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), to issues on Indigenous women’s rights, such as forced and coerced sterilization, and being seven times more likely to be murdered and three times more likely to be victims of violence and sexual exploitation than white women. President of the Native Women's Association of Canada Lorraine Whitman is also quoted as speaking on substandard living conditions, a lack of clean drinking facilities, and average income and life expectancy.
(Hamdard Daily, Toronto, 20/06/2021)
Chinese media highlights just how much work needs to be done by the Canadian government
Using the recent announcement that Indigenous people can now apply to use their traditional names on passports and other government identification documents, raising awareness is a mandate for some in the Chinese community. Statements such as, “In Canadian history, Indigenous people were renamed by different institutional systems, deprived of their original traditional names, and took European or Christian names,” by Ryan Beaton, a lawyer and jurist who specializes in Indigenous law quoted in Van People Daily, (Vancouver, 18/06/2021) are clear indicators.
One Chinese voice in the same issue of Van People takes a very personal approach, on a piece of Canadian history not commonly discussed: “White Canadians would …. purposely spread the smallpox virus through pelts to kill the Indigenous people, killing off almost all Indigenous people along the east coast.”
Italian media sheds some light on the education sector’s shortcomings
Expanding on the residential school system topic, coverage on educational curriculum is the Italian media’s contribution to the conversation. Curriculum reform to teach the history of residential schools and of First Nations, as Natalka Pucan of the First Nations, Métis and Inuit Educators Association of Ontario is shown as saying she remembers looking at the history and social studies books at school, looking for her people, and they were erased from the map and from history. This piece on OMNI TV 8:00 PM Italian News (17/06/2021) highlights that one of the first things the Ford government did was stop the writing of curriculum that would have embedded the truth about Indigenous people in this country.
Polish media outlines their obligations
Journalists in two Polish newspapers declare their audiences have an obligation to learn the history of residential schools and know the truth; the subject of such recent history should be well known. The act of cultural genocide lasted over 100 years, and in its shadow, Canadians lived peacefully. One journalist points a finger in the mirror: “Why, as a Canadian citizen, did I not become interested in the history of people who were deprived not only of their country, but also of everything that makes up their identity, including their children?”
(Zycie, Toronto, 16/06/2021; Gazeta, Toronto, 20/06/2021)
Portuguese media highlights a critical point in moving forward
Although a less emotional and more matter-of-fact tone than other ethnic media, Portuguese sources have opted to include one of the most critical points of the entire conversation on Indigenous issues: Indigenous-led initiatives. While reporting on Ontario earmarking $10 million in funding over a three-year span to identify, investigate and commemorate residential school burial sites, it was mentioned that the funds would be paid over three years as part of an “Indigenous-led” effort.
(Correio da Manha, Toronto, 17/06/2021)
Spanish media reminds us there is still much to learn
In reporting that Ontario NDP MPP Sol Mamakwa, a member of the Kingfisher First Nation, called on local administrations to work with First Nations at each residential school site to “search for our lost children,” one journalist posits that the current situation of First Nations communities differs greatly from what was done against their families and settlements decades ago. This assumption could be controversial, given that the harmful effects of residential schools is inter-generational, as evidenced by the term “inter-generational residential school survivor”. Nevertheless, the journalist goes on to remind the audience that all of us in this country, and in the world in which we live, form a human community, with all the rights the laws confer on us, regardless of our origins and beliefs.
(Correo Canadiense, Toronto, 03/06/2021)
Cross-cultural communication is more important now than ever
While the mainstream media can attempt to highlight Indigenous voices, in contrast, ethnic media aims to explain Indigenous issues to their audiences thereby integrating them into the conversation. As part of the role to educate Canadians, the ethnic media relates Indigenous issues to those of their own history as a community in Canada or in the homeland, such as with the Chinese head tax, the Komagata Maru incident.
In the spirit of inclusivity, for the discussion and education on Indigenous issues to be truly national, it must have ethnic media voices. As showcased by the ethnic medias’ contributions above, every group shares the desire to be heard and listened to by other groups.
At MIREMS, we feel that the inclusion of Indigenous perspectives and voices is a critical aspect of ethnic medias – which is why we will do our best to follow up with a piece next week on more of what is being said post-National Indigenous Day in Canada by ethnic medias, including Indigenous medias’ voices.