A young man, his girlfriend and other friends drove out to a nearby river. They had fun swimming, talking and visiting as young people have for many years.
In driving home, the vehicle they were travelling in, had a tire blow out. They pulled into a driveway, to get off the road and possibly get assistance.
The homeowner emerged wielding a firearm. The young people panicked and tried to leave hitting a parked car.
Further violence escalated when the homeowner shot a passenger, killing him.
Mainstream media has a duty to provide facts. Mainstream media has a duty to provide neutral facts.
This message was lost in the recent killing of a First Nation man in Biggar, Saskatchewan.
“Man dead after Shooting on Private Property” writes CBC. Farther in the article, it states that the people involved in the incident, inside the vehicle were also arrested as part of a “related theft incident”. Then the name of the young man is released: Colten Boushie of the Red Pheasant First Nation.
The headline reads “private property” followed by an investigation into “theft”. In the public’s mind this means that there was wrongdoing followed by a shooting. In Canadian minds, the trespass of property with possible wrongdoing is insinuated in this report.
When the victim’s name is released, heated race relations begin stirring in Saskatchewan. The public becomes the judge.
This is a continuous problem with mainstream media. Headlines are crafted as judgments. The ensuing dialogue has been primed to reflect mainstream values. When the victim’s name is finally released only trespass and theft register in people’s thinking.
This is not a new phenomenon. Prior to the use of social media, mostly non-natives have reported on First Nations and their issues. In 2012, when IdleNoMore began to sweep social media, mainstream media floundered to keep up with the movement.
This is the underlying problem. Knowledge of First Nation people in Canada comes from reporters and other institutions trained in First Nation stereotyping. Mainstream media has not undertaken the time to understand First Nation cultural understanding. It seems enough to hire visible diversity without understanding the root of this diversity.
This problem in mainstream media means that reports are one-sided or that they perpetuate existing Canadian non-native views or that they are negligent.
Following this Saskatchewan report, social media erupted into a race war. Jack Kirby shared News Talk 650 CKOM’s post with this addition:
Guys! Share the fuck out of this story. 5 natives rolled onto his farm to steal shit and threatened him. He shot one. We need to set a precedent. We CANT let this guy go to jail. If anyone knows of a “go fund me” campaign please let me know. Donate what you can … If it were your house and the natives broke in Shouldn’t (sic) you have the right to defend yourself and family against five threats?
In response, First Nation relatives and supporters began posting facts about the incident and information about Colten Boushie. Repeated posts about Indians/natives and white farmers began to divide the incident. In an escalated time frame, racial slurs, hate crime messages and angry dialogue sparked heated debates.
Why was this necessary?
First Nations will no longer stand silent while mainstream media corrupts public opinion with shoddy reporting. First Nations are taking back their voices. It is important that First Nations have access to media where their concerns, worldview and information can be portrayed in a better setting.
Indigenous media provides this source of communication.
Since IdleNoMore, mainstream media has attempted to report on indigenous events or concerns. How is this possible if mainstream media has no knowledge or training of indigenous worldviews? During IdleNoMore, mainstream media reporters did not know what questions to ask. A grassroots movement had started. The first casualty was mainstream media. They attempted to document the willful blindness of Canadians on First Nation issues that has existed for decades.
This latest incident highlights the futility of reconciliation. Worldviews and values vested in the land, kinship and laws of Creation are not communicable to mainstream Canada. In other reporting this week, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) discussed appointments to the bench stating that “aboriginal” people need to hone their lower court skills and work “up to” becoming Supreme Court Justices.
If this is true, what training do Supreme Court Justices have in specific First Nation worldviews to make decisions on diverse beliefs of First Nations with regard to land, treaty and other rights? If the SCC judges have worked their way through the courts in the past 30 or 40 years, when have they had time to learn First Nation history and cultural knowledge? This is only now being introduced at Canadian post-secondary institutions as result of the Truth and Reconciliation calls to action.
It then seems then that media and the highest court of the land are in the same position: filing reports or court decisions without actual knowledge of First Nations.
South of the medicine line, protests and riots have broken out over discrimination of people of colour by policing agencies. This same concern has been made in Canada. RCMP Commissioner Paulson admitted to the Assembly of First Nations that there is racism in the police force.
So what is the solution?
Reconciliation, that is the coming together of two worldviews, has been problematic since settlers wandered onto Turtle Island. From the earliest treaty negotiations to government policy, administrative directives and court made law; there has been a huge disconnect between First Nation understanding and the paternal interpretation of this understanding.
In current news, the announcement of a Missing and Murdered Women’s Inquiry comes with paternalistic terms of reference, so the outcomes seem pre-mediated. Policing was a concern in the pre-inquiry but its absence means there will be no scrutiny of policing. If policing cannot be scrutinized, there will be continued misunderstandings.
If you apply this to the Biggar shooting, media reported theft from the initial police investigation. When the 2nd degree murder charge was filed, theft was no longer an issue. Therefore, who has failed in their duty?
Is it the police who released theft information, or the media who highlighted the theft information? Either way, it was reported as “a related theft investigation”, not an allegation of theft.
Biased reporting and investigating will continue to perpetuate harms on First Nations.
For the family of Colten Boushie, having to read these reports, and then defend their loved one, has added further damage to an already grieving family. The solution for Canadian institutions is not to begin adding First Nation curriculum, awareness or cultural understanding developed by non-First Nations. The solution is to acknowledge that this state has been built on land theft, perpetuated by one-sided paternalistic policies creating a system steeped in racism. Only from this factual acknowledgment, will real change happen.