OTTAWA—Canadian media are the public relations arm of white supremacy and their inability to credibly cover stories relating to Black, Indigenous, people of colour (BIPOC) is an embarrassment to the nation. Furthermore, their inability to cover the biggest terrorist threat to hit this country—the far right, a.k.a. angry, white men—is diabolically disgraceful.
Corey Hurren, a military reservist (shades of Patrik Mathews, which begs some pointed questions about who the Canadian Forces recruits, but that’s beyond the scope of this piece) is accused of pulling up to Rideau Hall kitted out in the far-right starter pack: a loaded M14 rifle (currently banned in Canada), two shotguns, and a handgun. Allegedly, he uttered threats against the prime minister in an effort to “talk” to him, which sounds like something an abuser would say. For 13 minutes, the accused roamed free on the grounds before the RCMP made visual contact. Another 90 minutes passed before he was arrested. Were he Black or Indigenous, he wouldn’t have gotten that far, but that’s the privilege of whiteness.
Another privilege of whiteness is the expectation of being treated humanely by the police. From what I understand, this man is still alive and breathing. Too bad neither Jason Collins nor D’Andre Campbell enjoyed the assumption of humanity from the police that Hurren enjoyed. This is where racism is systematic; it is racism that is implemented in a methodical and organized manner to benefit white people, which invariably discriminates against BIPOC.
But you wouldn’t know that an act of terrorism took place on the grounds of Rideau Hall, not from an inept Canadian news media. In fact, this man has been labelled an “intruder” by many news outlets, thereby reducing the severity of his act to a youthful indiscretion. Global News characterized him this way with the headline: “Corey Hurren, alleged Rideau Hall intruder, threatened Trudeau: RCMP officer. Sounds like a little spat. This is the same type of approach Canadian news media took with the Nova Scotia shooter: A headline from The Globe and Mail reads, “Nova Scotia mass shooter was a denturist with an obsession for policing.” Sounds like a Tinder profile or a Blue Lives Matter rally, neither of which is good for BIPOC.
Contrast that with vicious headlines describing BIPOC who are victims.
Chatelaine executive editor Denise Balkissoon, when she was still the only columnist of colour at The Globe and Mail, wrote about this aspect of the media in the death of Tina Fontaine, saying “multiple news outlets, including The Globe, used headlines highlighting Tina’s substance use without contextualizing that it was being scrutinized on the request of Mr. Cormier, the one whose actions are actually on trial.” The criminalization of BIPOC victims continued with the trial of Gerald Stanley for killing Colten Boushie. In her thesis at Wilfred Laurier University entitled, “The Examination of News Media Representation of Indigenous Murder Victims in Canada: A Case Study of Colten Boushie’s Death,” Latasha VanEvery’s research discovered that “selective media outlets ‘dehumanized’ Boushie through narratives defending Stanley’s actions as self-defence.”
In other words, the media characterizes BIPOC victims as perpetrators and white perpetrators as victims. The Conservatives are half-right: the news media is biased, however it’s not biased towards “liberals,” it’s biased towards white supremacy and actively works to uphold that viewpoint.
The news is not unbiased: the headlines and layout, what is emphasized, how a story is framed, which stories are accepted when pitched are all the result of multiple decisions made by editors and producers. The idea that news can be delivered in an unbiased way is laughable. There is always a bias, but only white people have the power to make those decisions, rendering the news media landscape as one, big plantation. BIPOC are the workers and the decision-makers are white—one invariably has more power than the other and those with power are white. Rather than diversity and representation at all levels, Canadian media are made up of white, corporate, men and women who still don’t understand the internet and who think any story that doesn’t centre downtown Toronto and Montreal whiteness is not worth committing resources to. Look at all of the major stories mainstream Canadian news media has missed: Trudeau’s blackface, Wet’suwet’en defenders, and far-right terrorism (it was Vice, The Canadian Anti-Hate Network, and PressProgress, among others, who started writing about the latter after Alexandre Bissonnette’s date with terrorism, not legacy media). They would rather placate power, hoping to join its ranks, rather than do their job and challenge the status quo. Management is always the problem and fish rots from the head.
An example of this so-called objectivity is when CBC produced a garbage article on what to do when you encounter a racist incident. The article was written by a white guy whose first step was to call the police. This is the most dangerous advice one can give if someone is experiencing racism. If that person is Black or Indigenous, especially, death by the hands of police is a potential outcome when interacting with the police. But CBC didn’t bother to care about the lives of innocent Black or Indigenous people when doling out this terrible advice and they obviously didn’t have anyone to stop them. Thankfully, Vice News eventually corrected them. And yes, that piece was written by a person of colour.
(White people cannot credibly give advice on anti-racism efforts. We don’t need racism whitesplained to us, so they should stay in their lane.)
I’m starting to wonder why we need legacy media. We can fund media that is actually inclusive of Canadian stories because BIPOC are Canadians, too. Not even CBC upholds its mandate, which is to “reflect the multicultural and multiracial nature of Canada,” yet it continues to receive the tax dollars of BIPOC people to discriminate against us.
Make it make sense.
Erica Ifill is a co-host of the Bad+Bitchy podcast.