Ignoring the Problem Doesn’t Make It Go Away

Ignoring the Problem Doesn’t Make It Go Away

Posted on September 20 by Alexandra Shimo in News
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There is no precise process nor exact speed at which the disturbing becomes routine, nor any surefire way of shifting what is perceived as routine into the realm of surprising or newsworthy. If there were a science behind it, some quantifiable method, it should have been revealed to all those First Nations communities that I did not cover during my time as a producer at the CBC.

For each story about indigenous issues that makes the news, with each child suicide pact, or fire on a reserve, there are dozens of others that are not deemed serious or sensational enough to make the headlines.

Did you hear about the 34 cases of attempted suicide in the tiny northern community of Kashechewan in 2011? No, because they were not reported in the media.

Or what about the 33 fires in Attawapiskat First Nation in 2013? They too slipped under the radar.

As a journalist, the news value of such incidents are measured not against what happens in the rest of the country, but against similar tragedies or crimes against indigenous peoples. Standard practice, but consider the implications. Say, for example, that instead of First Nations victims, eight Japanese-Canadian women reported that they had been assaulted, raped, tasered, or strip searched by members of the RCMP, which is what happened to indigenous women in BC, according to a 2013 report by NY-based Human Rights Watch. Would that report have gone nowhere, with no one arrested or arraigned for questionable conduct?

A race of people becomes invisible. 

Or if several Portuguese-Canadian men claimed that their brothers had been dragged to the edge of town by the police in the dead of winter where they had died of hypothermia, but no one had been brought to task.

Perhaps elsewhere, but not in Canada. With each story that is ignored, the problem deepens: the devastating becomes routine; the tragic inevitable. A race of people becomes invisible. 

Alexandra Shimo

Posted by Dundurn Guest on December 6, 2014
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Alexandra Shimo

Alexandra Shimo is a broadcaster and former editor at Maclean’s. An award-winning journalist, she is the co-author of Up Ghost River, winner of the CBC Bookie and Speaker’s Book Awards for non-fiction. She lives in Toronto.