Actions and Commitments

Call to Action # 86: Media and Reconciliation (84-86)

Mount Royal University – Journalism and Digital Media

May 29, 2024

The Mount Royal University’s Journalism and Digital Media homepage describes the program as follows:

The world of journalism is varied and challenging and Mount Royal’s goal is to ensure that journalism and digital media graduates have a range of skills and understandings that they can draw upon in this ever-changing landscape. The best journalism is accomplished by people with a thorough grasp of the fundamentals of reporting, writing, editing, and illustrating news, the ability to think critically about their work and work environment, and a deep curiosity about how society functions, or often does not function.

The Journalism and Digital Media major in the four-year Bachelor of Communication program is based on integrating classroom learning with practical experience, including professional work experiences, and is focused on providing students with a broad-based journalism education in writing, idea and story development, digital newspaper and magazine publishing, broadcasting, photography, Podcasting and visual multi-media

The Journalism and Digital Media Program’s Commitment to Truth and Reconciliation

In our Indigenization and Decolonization efforts, our program has received advice from elders, Indigenous scholars, and community members to resist a “one and done” approach whereby we would insert all TRC-related content into one required Indigenous course. Our advisors have instead favored an approach where university educators embed Indigenous content (including history, ways of doing and knowing, land-based learning) into the majority of courses, regardless of the discipline. Journalism faculty members are enacting this approach, as outlined in detail below. 

MRU has pledged to support the inclusion of Indigenous learners. The JDM program has a goal that seven per cent of students are Métis, First Nation or Inuit, a target we typically meet or exceed.

For some time now, the JDM program works with an Indigenous elder-in-residence from Siksika Nation, someone to help guide our program as we engage in strategic planning and curriculum redevelopment. Our current Elder, Hayden Melting Tallow, participates in faculty, department and advisory committee meetings, as well as deliberations on our program review and self-study. He also participates in some of our classes.

MRU is an undergraduate university and teaching is the top priority. Nonetheless, JDM faculty produce significant research, much of it related to Indigenization and decolonization. This has included studies of provincial election coverage in Indigenous media, representations of First Peoples in news content, comparative analyses of mainstream news and APTN, and land acknowledgments in podcasting. All this scholarship informs program planning and course development. Among the faculty who research and publish in this space are Dr. Brad Clark, Meg Wilcox, Dr. Gabriela Perdomo Páez, and Dr. Amanda Williams. 

Faculty are also committed to centering Indigenous voices in our course content, but this is also an explicit mandate with our Community Podcasting Initiative. The CPI is run by faculty members Meg Wilcox and Dr. Brad Clark, and seeks “to develop, produce and promote podcasting by fostering innovative audio storytelling as a way to amplify underrepresented voices, including Indigenous community members, racialized Canadians, rural residents and multicultural and multi-ethnic groups in urban centres.” Student producers and research assistants have been heavily involved in creating Indigenous-focused content across the range of podcasts housed on the website. Our student publications also mandate content related to Indigenous issues and communities as witnessed in our online news site, The Calgary Journal, which has a dedicated Treaty 7 section populated with stories from the region.

Looking ahead, the JDM’s program review and self-study acknowledged that more could be done on the Indigenization front, especially with regard to TRC Call to Action 86. Our intent is to thoughtfully integrate additional, purposefully-crafted curriculum on the history of Indigenous Peoples, ensuring all students receive comprehensive education in this area. The program is considering several options. One is to offer a course developed by an Indigenous graduate of our program and piloted a few years ago, JOUR 3787: Media-making with Indigenous Communities. The course, as offered, was more about respectful media practices and protocols but placed in the context of ongoing Indigenous issues with historical and cultural significance. At the same time, we are considering providing at least one other program offering to ensure more Indigenous content. Specific courses have been identified where deeper learning of Indigenous history, culture and ongoing issues would be part of the curriculum.   

Indigenous Mount Royal

Mount Royal University is committed to doing its part to address the legacy of broken promises and rebuild the relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Peoples in Calgary and across the country. We began the process with a framework for planning in 2013, developed strategies as staff and students, and consulted broadly. The Indigenous Strategic Plan 2016-21 was approved by the President’s Executive Council in August 2016. The plan lays out the guiding principles to help support MRU’s commitment to academic and personal support for Indigenous students, efforts to recognize, value, and apply Indigenous knowledge and pedagogies, and support efforts to build reconciliation. There are five goals:

  1. Indigenizing Mount Royal
  2. Culturally respectful Indigenous research
  3. Bridge-building with Indigenous education stakeholders
  4. Support for Indigenous learners
  5. Respectful and inclusive curricula and pedagogies

Two main support areas, both Indigenous-led, help facilitate Mount Royal’s mission. The first, the Iniskim Centre assists Indigenous students on campus by providing programs and services to increase their engagement and success, while also raising awareness of Indigenous Peoples and cultures in the MRU community. The centre offers Indigenous students cultural support, academic advising, writing aid, and scholarship information. 

The second, The Office of Indigenization and Decolonization, states that its mission is to create “a lens through which we can understand decolonization and indigenization to ensure that every student at Mount Royal University has the best educational experience possible.” Under the direction of the Associate Vice-President of Indigenization and Decolonization, the office develops awareness campaigns related to colonial bias, organizes events, consults and advises senior administration, and provides resources to all areas of the university related to its mission. 

Call to Action # 86

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. 

Mandatory Course(s): Yes

The JDM program aligns with the Indigenous Strategic Plan by actively embedding Indigenous knowledge and content into most of our core courses. Our reporting courses all consistently incorporate news content from Indigenous sources into lectures and discussions.

JOUR 1707 Journalism Foundations I, and JOUR 1709 Journalism Foundations II

This content – from such outlets as IndigiNews, APTN, CBC Indigenous, Media Indigena, Igalaaq (CBC North’s daily Inuktitut language TV news show) and Ku’ku’Kwes – serves as exemplars for producing news. It also works as an entree into important class discussions on the history of media relations with Indigenous communities, an established outcome for first-year students.

JOUR 2718 Community-centred Journalism

In this second year course, students learn about media harms, historic and current, review  Duncan McCue’s book, Decolonizing Journalism, strategize about what student journalism can do for reconciliation, and consider examples of Indigenization and Indigenous storytelling in relation to reconciliation and solutions-based journalism at progressive news organizations. 

JOUR 3777 Project and Content Development

McCue’s book is a required text in and excerpts are used in other courses as well. 

COMM 2410 Media Ethics and Law

Another important foundational course in the second year, uses Talking Circles for group discussions, covers the IllumiNative Industry Guide, “The Time is Now, The Power of Native Representation in Entertainment: A Guide for Industry Professionals,” and distribute to each student a copy of Truth & Reconciliation: Calls to Action, from the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation. The booklet contains the 94 calls to action, the TRC’s 10 principles of reconciliation, and UNDRIP, all of which are reviewed in class. 

Communication theory courses

  • COMM 2500 Introduction to Communication Studies
  • COMM 2501 Media History and Contemporary Issues
  • COMM 3500 Media, Culture and Communication Theory
  • COMM 4501 Roles and Practices in Contemporary Communication 

These courses explore the importance and value of oral storytelling for First Peoples, and devote considerable resources to decolonization and dewesternization, including dismantling settler colonialism. 

While embedding Indigenous content takes on many forms, it always sees faculty members center Indigenous voices and journalists in their classes. The works of prominent Indigenous creators such as Rassi Nashalik, Angela Sterrit, Wanda McLeod, Connie Walker, Waubgeshig Rice, and Trina Roache have all been covered in journalism classes in the last year. This has allowed students to study excellent, decolonized journalism while also learning about MMIWG, the Sixties Scoop, treaty rights, stereotypic coverage, residential schools and intergenerational trauma.

However, our self-study suggests that our students might well need deeper exposure to the historical context that frames these issues. In addition to adding the course(s) and content referenced above, there is a commitment to more deeply embed resources related to the colonial experience of Indigenous Peoples throughout the four years of the program. We acknowledge that we can offer more foundational support to our students as they seek to represent Métis, First Nations and Inuit peoples in the media. The process will likely entail identifying Indigenous modules we want to incorporate and then finding courses in which to house them. We will need to consult with our Elder-in-residence and our Indigenous colleagues on our advisory board and on campus to ensure we arrive at the right approach.  


4 Seasons of Reconciliation

The Office of Indigenization and Decolonization creates a lens through which we can understand decolonization and indigenization to ensure that every student at Mount Royal University has the best educational experience possible. 4 Seasons of Reconciliation is a series of bilingual online resources that promote a renewed relationship between Indigenous Peoples and Canadians through transformative and engaging learning towards anti-racism education. This initiative assists workplace and education organizations in providing diversity and inclusion awareness through self-paced online courses featuring award-winning films, slideshows, videos, quizzes and a completion certificate provided by First Nations University of Canada.”

Journalism and Digital Media Commitment to Call to Action # 86: 3 out of 5 = 60%

1The history of Aboriginal peoples, including the history and legacy of residential schools
Yes. See mandatory course descriptions above
2The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Yes. See mandatory course descriptions above
3Treaties and Aboriginal rights
Yes. See mandatory course descriptions above
4Indigenous law
Yes. See mandatory course descriptions above
5Aboriginal–Crown Relations
Yes. See mandatory course descriptions above

Land Acknowledgement

Located on the Mount Royal Home Page and the Journalism and Digital Media Home Page

Mount Royal University is located in the traditional territories of the Niitsitapi (Blackfoot) and the people of the Treaty 7 region in Southern Alberta, which includes the Siksika, the Piikani, the Kainai, the Tsuut’ina, and the Iyarhe Nakoda. The City of Calgary is also home to the Métis Nation.

All content has been submitted to the respective faculty for validation to ensure accuracy and currency as of the time of posting. The Mount Royal University – Journalism and Digital Media program reviewed and approved the document.

Managing Editor: Douglas Sinclair: Publisher, Indigenous Watchdog
Lead Researcher, Timothy Maton Ph.D