Media and Reconciliation (84-86): Current Problems

Media Protests and RCMP

September 10, 2020

AB, BC, Fed. Govt., MB, NB, NL, NS, NT, NU, ON, PE, QC, SK, YT

Arrest of Indigenous journalists at protests

Toronto Star – Increasing arrests of Indigenous journalists including:

  • Karl Dockstader at Land Back Lane Haudenosaunee occupation regarding a housing development near Caledonia
  • Courtney Skye, Yellowhead Institute researcher and Ryerson Fellow
  • award-winning journalist Justin Brake was arrested and charged with criminal and civil contempt and criminal mischief while covering a protest at Muskrat Falls in Newfoundland, Four years later all charges were dismissed
  • At the Wet’suwet’en protests in BC
    • Jerome Turner, an award winning Gixstan journalist had shotguns and sniper guns aimed at him
    • Amber Bracken, an award-winning photo-journalist was pushed back and warned to stay away
    • Jesse Winter, an award-winning photojournalist was detained by police
    • Melissa Cox, American documentary filmmaker, was arrested documenting the conflict nearby on un-ceded Gitxsan territory

Sept. 4th marked the 25th anniversary of the Ipperwash tragedy where Dudley George, an unarmed Indigenous man was killed by an OPP sniper while occupying land promised by the federal government to the Kettle and Stony Point First Nation.

There were no journalists present when George was killed.

Brent Jolly, the President of the Canadian Association of Journalists, condemned the arrest of Karl Dockstader stating: “The OPP are well aware that journalists have an established constitutional right to be present and cover matters of public interest.,” he said, “Attempting to prevent a properly credentialed journalist from documenting a moment of contentious action is impermissible in a country like Canada. Journalism should never be silenced.”

November 18, 2021

AB, BC, Fed. Govt., MB, NB, NL, NS, NT, NU, ON, PE, QC, SK, YT

Arrest of Indigenous journalists at Wet’suwet’en protests

Toronto Star – Two journalists reporting from the Wet’suwet’en territory were among 15 people arrested and detained by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in British Columbia Friday night. Both remain in custody.
Since last year, media has covered RCMP raids in the territory, Indigenous rights and police removal of defenders of the land who are blocking the logging of old-growth forests in the area. Photographer Amber Bracken was on assignment for The Narwhal when she was arrested. Filmmaker and photographer Michael Toledano, a freelance reporter who has been living in Wet’suwet’en territory in order to create a documentary about what Indigenous people face in the region, was also arrested.

Brent Jolly, president of the Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ), says that the two arrests are unjustified. “It’s completely and utterly shocking the extent to which the RCMP are going to prevent journalists from covering events that are happening in the public interest,” he said. Bracken and Toledano are currently being detained in Smithers, B.C., and are scheduled to be transported to Prince George for a bail hearing on Monday, according to Jolly.

In July, the Canadian Association of Journalists, a non-profit that works to defend press freedom and connect reporters across the country, along with multiple other journalism organizations won a court challenge at the Supreme Court in B.C. on press freedom in the Fairy Creek area.

May 24, 2021

RCMP Exclusion Zones

BC Civil Liberties Association – Legal Observers in Victoria have documented a number of RCMP practices designed to prevent the public from witnessing and documenting police actions. The organization has documented RCMP officers using tarps and other coverings to visually conceal arrests from media and legal observers. Legal Observers Victoria have also documented RCMP officers attempting to coral and contain media and legal observers in designated areas where they are unable to document RCMP enforcement. Several journalists and legal observers have been arrested and forcibly removed from the area for attempting to document police actions.

“Journalism cannot happen when journalists are excluded from the area of events they are meant to cover. That should be a simple and uncontroversial statement. Yet, over eight years and at least five situations across the country, police have sought to exclude journalists through the use of broad exclusion zones. The courts, in the Brake precedent, and the RCMP’s own oversight body, the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission, have both found it to be unlawful to use these restrictions to interfere with journalists.”

When, usually under threat of legal action, the RCMP do allow access, they impose conditions reminiscent of authoritarian regimes: media containment zones, chaperones, and arresting or detaining journalists for the crime of trying to do their job. This is not press freedom. We stand with industry groups like the Canadian Association of Journalists, and international press freedom groups like the Committee to Protect Journalists, in denouncing this overreach of policing power to interfere with the right of journalists to do their job, and most importantly, the right of the public to be well informed on issues of clear public interest.”- Ethan Cox, Ricochet Media