Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission

Reporting – its training and its practice – for indigenous peoples must change

THE Truth and Reconciliation Commission on residential schools in Canada has implications for Tomorrow as a news organisation.

Tomorrow has reported on indigenous peoples before and will again. But amongst the 94 recommendations of the report, one in particular relates to the media:

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.1

As directing editor of Tomorrow, I can say this site endorses the recommendation without question. I did not have any substantial education on these subjects at any level of schooling, nor during post-graduate journalism studies in the United Kingdom. I have since been educated in most of the areas referred to, through the interviews conducted and research carried out. I had to seek out that education because it was not offered. Self-education will always continue.

And that is one extension Tomorrow would add: education can’t be limited to journalism schools. It must continue throughout careers. No reporter in any field should avoid reporting indigenous issues. And specialists in indigenous reporting should not be used as an excuse for others to avoid the subject or building contacts. Similarly, the other media recommendations relate specifically to public broadcaster CBC and independent broadcaster APTN. The points made could and should easily apply to any media outlet.

Tomorrow’s 10th core principle is to educate and entertain. The first part of that applies to us as a news organisation – education must always continue because that is the only way to ensure we meet the 11th and last principle, to promote responsible debate and mediation. Those are not possible without knowledge, which requires observation and engagement (principle 9).

These principles are always related anyway, but this week they particularly apply to the recommendation of the TRC report. It is entirely justified under our core principles and we commend it to all journalism schools and to any reporters who may work for us in future. We will also recommend education on the topics to our athlete and artist in residence going forward.

Reporters must maintain a degree of impartiality and independence from inquiry reports and conclusions, so we can effectively challenge how they will be taken forward or whether they are implemented at all. But when those conclusive fingers point squarely back at us, we must address them.

Tomorrow encourages all engagement on how best to ensure our core principles are met for the TRC recommendations, for indigenous peoples, and for any community.

  1. Page 10 of the “Calls to Action”. The report and documents can be found at the TRC website.

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