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Toward Reconciliation

What are journalism schools doing?

The TRC’s 86th call to action appeals directly to journalism schools:

“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.”

Below you’ll find examples of what Canadian media classrooms are doing to address this call to action. If you know of a journalism school or are part of a program tackling the TRC’s calls to action or Indigenous reporting, share it with us at info@discoursemedia.org.

University of British Columbia (Vancouver)

UBC’s Reporting in Indigenous Communities is currently the only journalism course in Canada to focus exclusively on Aboriginal news stories.Ryerson is currently developing a course on media and Aboriginal understanding. It was launched by CBC reporter and UBC journalism instructor Duncan McCue in 2011. The course prioritizes partnering students with Indigenous communities in the Lower Mainland including the Squamish Nation, Tsleil-Waututh First Nation, Tsawwassen First Nation and Sto:lo Tribal Council.

Alfred Hermida, UBC's director of the Graduate School of Journalism, details other ways his school is answering the TRC's call:

"In our core foundational mandatory course taken by all first year graduate students, Integrated Journalism, students consider the ways in which Aboriginal people are portrayed in stories in mainstream and alternative media. In the mandatory Media Ethics and Leadership course taken by all first year graduate students, taught jointly by Associate Professor Candis Callison (from the Tahltan Nation) and Adjunct Professor Kirk LaPointe, one of the twelve 3-hour/week seminar classes is specifically devoted to discussing media coverage of First Nations issues and communities.

"Indigenous issues are also discussed in Media Ethics and Leadership classes that deal with newsroom diversity in Canada, vulnerability and minimizing harm, reporting in conflict zones, and knowledge and risk. Since 2012, students have been required to read Seeing Red: A History of Natives in Canadian Newspapers by Mark C. Anderson and Carmen L. Robertson (UWinnipeg Press, 2011). Seeing Red introduces students to the sedimentation of representations and stereotypes that have pervaded Canadian media since Confederation. Students must produce a 700-word response paper that is worth 10% of their grade. Alongside class discussion of this text, Dr. Callison presents a brief history of B.C. First Nations struggles for land claims and rights situating it within the broader history of the Indian Act, residential schools, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. She draws on her own history as the daughter of a residential school survivor and as a former working journalist who covered indigenous issues in Canada."

University of King's College (Halifax)

King’s is in the process of incorporating Indigenous topics and history throughout their journalism program. The school has dedicated a professor to a provincial roundtable addressing this issue who is bringing lessons learned there back to all-faculty meetings. Assistant Professor Sylvia D. Hamilton incorporated Indigenous literature and history into lessons and tackles issues such as the Sixties Scoop and the ongoing fight for equality.

Ryerson University (Toronto)

Ryerson is currently developing a course on media and Aboriginal understanding. On Feb. 9, 2016, Ryerson hosted Truth and Reconciliation Commissioner Dr. Marie Wilson to deliver the 2016 Atkinson lecture. Ryerson’s j-school has been working with the university’s Aboriginal Education Council. The school is developing a resource guide for reporting Indigenous-focused stories. The guide will have an urban Toronto-centric focus. Ryerson has also hosted Journalists for Human Rights to deliver workshops on covering Indigenous communities and offered an online journalism course focused on the TRC. This May the school hosted a workshop for instructors to find ways to integrate Indigenous content across the curriculum.

Carleton University (Ottawa)

Susan Harada, associate director of Carleton's School of Journalism & Communication, wrote us the following note detailing the reconciliation work being done at her school:

"Professor Hayden King will develop and teach a fourth-year Journalism seminar, 'Covering Indigenous Canada', beginning in Winter 2017. The course will explore how journalism in Canada has been associated with colonialism, from the foundational narratives of Indigenous peoples during westward expansion through to contemporary stereotypes, and will help students consider new strategies and ethical frameworks for covering Indigenous Canada in the era of reconciliation.

"The Journalism program is working with Carleton’s Department of History and the School of Indigenous and Canadian Studies to develop a proposed first-year history course centering on Indigenous Peoples and their context in Canada.

"Professor Kanina Holmes will use a $15,000 teaching grant from Carleton to pilot a one-month field course in the Yukon for senior undergraduate students and graduate students. The curriculum will be designed around the TRC’s calls to action and would be co-developed with Indigenous people in the Yukon. The course would be part experiential learning, part digital journalism.

"In addition to these initiatives, the Journalism program has always aimed to integrate Indigenous content throughout journalism instruction. For example, for many years, Professor Chris Waddell devoted time in his fourth-year undergraduate course and first-year graduate course to Indigenous issues, inviting professor John Kelly to share his knowledge and expertise with students. In the coming year, a new fourth-year Legal Affairs course will include aspects of Aboriginal law."

University of Regina (Regina)

U of R’s School of Journalism hosted Decolonizing Media, a panel of 11 Indigenous journalists, on Nov. 5, 2015. Panelists included Carmen Robertson, co-author of Seeing Red: A History of Natives in Canadian Newspapers, and Creeson Agecoutay, host of CTV’s Indigenous Circle.

Wilfrid Laurier University (Brantford)

Kenneth Werbin, program coordinator of WLU's Digital Media and Journalism, sent us the following note about the reconciliation work being done at his school:

"We have made several moves to address the TRC recommendations. Firstly, we have drawn on the resources of our Indigenous Studies program here at Laurier Brantford, and will be making ID120 'Introduction to Indigenous Studies' a required course for all of our Digital Media and Journalism students beginning in the 2017-2108 academic year. This course directly addresses all of the elements outlined in Article 86 of the TRC recommendations, including '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.'

"Additionally, we are modifying the course descriptions of two of our required Digital Media and Journalism courses (JN204: Media, Law and Ethics, and JN307: Media, Culture and Democracy) to include specific references to Indigenous communities and issues so that the knowledge that students gain in ID120 will be grounded in the context of our students overall learning in the program. We feel that these changes to our curriculum will thoroughly address the TRC’s call to action for Canadian journalism schools and media programs."