For example, the Jody Wilson-Raybould story, which dominated the news cycle for several weeks earlier in the year, was certainly controversial. Major media outlets ran dozens of stories, especially opinion pieces, covering the scandal, but only a handful of them were written by Indigenous authors. Looking back, the tone of the coverage of the SNC Lavalin scandal by Indigenous journalists compared to non-Indigenous journalists is clearly different. The Indigenous journalists largely focused on the empowering effect of Wilson-Raybould’s actions, her integrity and the community support she was receiving across the nation. On the other hand, non-Indigenous journalists, and innumerable commenters on their stories, scrutinized Wilson-Raybould heavily, deeming her traitorous, manipulative or scheming.
Whenever the latter type of coverage ran, I could not help but wonder about the message it was sending: that an Indigenous woman could be in one of the most powerful positions in the country, state that she is following the values instilled in her by her community, and still be painted so negatively.
The release of the MMIWG Final Report was perhaps this year’s greatest example of large amounts of media coverage of an Indigenous story, but unfortunately most of it was done badly. The Final Report of the Inquiry was a huge moment for Indigenous communities, which have waited decades for answers and justice for the ongoing violence Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ folks have faced. Of the thousands of pages of testimonies and Calls for Justice, the media honed in on one word: genocide.
This word appeared more often than any other after the release of the report. Ongoing genocide against Indigenous people is a proven fact, supported by expert analysis, as is the deliberate and sustained discrimination against our communities, and yet Canadian media felt that these facts were up for debate.
Op-eds were published that called the use of the word genocide insulting and erroneous; the testimonies of survivors and the work of the Inquiry were questioned; the Toronto Star even felt it appropriate to ask whether or not genocide against Indigenous people was true in a poll for its readers. Countless Indigenous writers and contributors spoke out against their employers in the face of this genocide denial.