UBC Journalism Partners with First Nations to Report on Major Health Issues

Indigenous Faculty Duncan McCue

Duncan McCue

An innovative UBC Graduate School of Journalism project provides a hard-hitting look into efforts by Aboriginal communities to address such major health and social issues as suicide, sexual abuse, diabetes and the survival of traditional languages.

The series of original news stories that launches today at www.indigenousreporting.com was created by students in UBC’s inaugural Reporting in Indigenous Communities class, Canada’s only university journalism course dedicated to improving the quality of Aboriginal representation by the news media.

The eight multimedia stories – which will run on CBC radio and websites in B.C. this week – result from a unique partnership with Metro Vancouver Aboriginal communities, where UBC graduate students were assigned to cover important community news as “embedded” journalists.

“Far too often, news media portray Aboriginal people in ways that reinforce negative or inaccurate stereotypes,” says Duncan McCue, the award-winning CBC reporter and UBC Graduate School of Journalism adjunct professor who led the course. “By exposing the next generation of journalists to Aboriginal stories, cultures and protocols, we have produced a series that shows Aboriginal people not as victims, but as catalysts of positive change.”

The UBC journalism students learned the history, politics and unique cultures of Aboriginal peoples in Canada and abroad, and analyzed media representation issues. They also studied the online guide and checklist that McCue – one of the only Aboriginal mainstream reporters in Vancouver – created during a Knight Fellowship at Stanford University to help journalists respect Aboriginal cultures and resist stereotypes.

“We had to engage with the community to develop relationships and trust,” said student Kate Adach, who worked on a story about an Aboriginal suicide response team being developed by members of Sto:lo Nation near Chilliwack, B.C. “There is so much to learn about Indigenous history in Canada. It might seem daunting, but it is absolutely vital that reporters continue to engage, educate ourselves, and report on these important stories responsibly.”

The five Aboriginal course partners are the Squamish First Nation, Tsleil-Waututh First Nation, Tsawwassen First Nation, Sto:lo First Nation and the Metro Vancouver Aboriginal Executive Council.

“A course like this is long, long overdue, and helped to create a positive experience for our community and the students,” says Ernie Crey, an advisor to the Sto:lo Tribal Council. “Aboriginal people have an important story to tell and they are eager to tell it. It is important that the outside world understand what is going on.”

The national CBC program The Story from Here is scheduled to broadcast the entire series as a one-hour radio documentary on June 20.

Find out more about the CBC Special Series and get the full line up here.

The eight stories from UBC’s inaugural Reporting in Indigenous Communities class include:

  • A Squamish Nation woman’s attempt to bring back the chocolate lily, a traditional staple food that could reduce diabetes
  • A new Sto:lo Nation Aboriginal Suicide and Critical Incident Response Team, which aims to provide culturally-appropriate response to suicides
  • A Tsleil-Waututh Nation daycare where teachers are reconnecting youth to traditional language and culture to improve health and happiness
  • Efforts by the Squamish Nation and a provincial judge to rehabilitate offenders with mental health and addiction issues through a First Nations Court
  • At Tsawwassen First Nation, how a young girl’s disclosure may signal a new attitude toward the disturbing problem of sexual abuse
  • A unique support group in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, where Aboriginal grandparents raising their grandchildren are learning to care for kids diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder
  • The Seabird Island Mobile Diabetes Clinic, which travels across southern British Columbia so patients can manage their disease from home
  • Students training as Health Care Assistants in First Nation communities, in a course designed for Aboriginal learners at the Native Education Centre in Vancouver.

The students in the course include:

  • Kate Adach (Toronto, ON)
  • Krystle Alarcon (Montreal, QC)
  • Sadiya Ansari
  • Chelsea Blazer (Toronto, ON)
  • Natalie Dobbin (Middle Sackville, NS)
  • Malin Dunfors (Stockholm, Sweden)
  • Lisa Hale (Vancouver, BC)
  • Tyler Harbottle (Calgary, AB)
  • Farida Hussain (Hyderabad, India)
  • Meg Mittelstedt (Portland, OR)
  • Lucas PowersJacqueline Ronson (Toronto, ON)
  • Keith Rozendal (Houston, TX)
  • Lindsay Sample (Barry, ON)
  • Kendall Walters (100 Mile House, BC)