First Nations leaders in southern Ontario say the media must do better on reconciliation after a newspaper published an offensive cartoon depicting Indigenous people asking the pope for financial compensation.
“You can’t speak out of both sides of your mouth – first to Indigenous people, then what you imprint on all Canadians,” said Laurie Carr, Chief of the Hiawatha First Nation.
Metroland Media’s Seven Simcoe County Newspapers published a cartoon last week showing the Pope saying “I’m sorry” to what appears to be an Indigenous woman and man, who respond “How $sorry?”
Carr, who sits on one of Metroland Media’s advisory boards in Peterborough, said “it’s really disturbing” to see a cartoon released like this in 2022.
“When you have Metroland Media reaching out to Indigenous peoples to sit on these advisory boards…to work together and to bring better media and truth to Canadians at large…it’s really disheartening” , said Carr.
Metroland Media is a subsidiary of Torstar Corporation and has newspapers in the Simcoe County communities of Alliston, Barrie, Bradford and West Gwillimbury, Collingwood, Innisfil, Midland/Penetanguishene, Orillia and Stayner/Wasaga.
When contacted for comment, Adam Martin-Robbins, Metroland’s editor for Simcoe County Newspapers, directed CBC News to a column he wrote which was published on Simcoe.com on Monday.
“The cartoon we published on the editorial page of our seven local newspapers last week was offensive, and we apologize for that,” Martin-Robbins wrote.
“We apologize, in particular, to our Indigenous readers, including our neighbors at Beausoleil First Nation and Rama First Nation, as well as the Métis residing in Midland and surrounding communities. We recognize the generational trauma of the atrocities associated with the residential school system.
He wrote that the cartoon, which was drawn by Steve Nease, “was meant to be a satirical look at how the Pope’s long-awaited apology to Indigenous peoples fails without the Roman Catholic Church also fulfilling its promise to compensate residential school survivors. . But that was not the way to describe this opinion and we should not have published it.”
Nease wrote in an email to CBC News that he believes a papal apology is the first step toward righting the wrongs residential school survivors have suffered at the hands of the Catholic Church and that the Pope should “put his money where his mouth is and financially compensate the victims.”
“I know many were offended by my cartoon, and I deeply regret it,” Nease wrote.
“It was never my intention, nor that of the newspaper that published it, to cause such harm.”
Carr said she was grateful for an apology, but would have preferred it to be just an apology, rather than explaining the intent behind the cartoon.
News needs more historical context
Reg Niganobe, chief of the grand council of the Anishinabek Nation, whose members include some First Nations in Simcoe County, said cartoons like this reinforce the stereotype that Indigenous people only seek money when something is wrong. something serious happens.
“Money is the only compensation that can be offered to us at least, other than possibly jail time or prosecution for offenders. But that doesn’t settle the question of what happens to our people,” he said. Niganobe.
Niganobe, whose father attended Spanish Indian Residential School, said he accepts the editor’s apology but would like to see the media take steps to move forward, such as including more historical context in reporting on Aboriginal issues.
“They leave out the historical context, don’t they?” he said.
“They leave out all the information and all the facts that exist in them and that puts the indigenous people in a very bad light.”
Martin-Robbins wrote in the column that the newspaper has overhauled its processes and added an extra layer of content review and oversight to its editorial page. He also wrote that they are committed to ongoing training focused on anti-oppression, anti-racism, inclusion and diversity, among others.