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CBC/Radio-Canada launches new effort to improve representation of Indigenous peoples

CBC/Radio-Canada on Monday unveiled a new three-year plan to improve the employment and representation of Indigenous peoples, including the establishment of a new Indigenous office to oversee those efforts.

The launch of the public broadcaster’s first national Indigenous strategy was held at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg.

“Our goal is to better reflect, respect and amplify diverse Indigenous perspectives across the public broadcaster,” Robert Doane, Gitxsan journalist and new senior director of strategy, said in a statement.

Doane says the goal is to build on CBC/Radio-Canada’s connection to First Nations, Inuit and Métis, which he says dates back to the launch of CBC North’s radio service in 1958.

“So even though we’re launching our first strategy today, we’re building on a decades-long legacy of programs and services,” he said.

Doane declined to comment on the broadcaster’s financial commitment to the strategy, or whether it was affected by recent budget constraints. CBC/Radio-Canada said late last year that it will cut about 10 per cent of its workforce due to a possible $125 million budget shortfall. Those layoffs are underway.

“What I can say is that we are committed to better reflecting and serving First Nations, Inuit and Métis, no matter what challenges we face,” he said.

SEE | CBC/Radio-Canada National Indigenous Strategy launched:

CBC/Radio-Canada has faced criticism for underrepresentation of Indigenous voices in the past, including in June 2020 when then-CBC host Christine Genier Tomorrow in Yukon radio show, resigned in protest, saying the station’s journalistic standards and practices make it difficult for her to speak as an indigenous woman.

Cathy Merrick, grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, said that in general, First Nations stories “have been told over and over again without our consent, using language that actively displaces First Nations claims to property of our lived experiences”.

It’s time for that to change, he said Monday. “Our people will be included, we will tell our stories and we will tell the truth about our people.”

David Beaudin, agriculture minister for the Métis Federation of Manitoba, said it’s time for diverse Indigenous communities to have “real, true partners” working with them to share their stories so they can be included and remembered.

“Our children need to see themselves represented on television, both in journalistic roles and in educational and entertainment content, and yes, we need to see ourselves represented in senior leadership roles at CBC,” he said in the strategy announcement.

A man gestures while speaking in a conference room.  He holds a smartphone, standing in front of a whiteboard.
Robert Doane is the new senior director of strategy. He was previously an indigenous advisor to the national public broadcaster. (Submitted by Robert Doane)

According to CBC spokesperson Leon Mar, the strategy will begin with obtaining an accurate measure of the First Nations, Inuit and Métis workforce from CBC/Radio-Canada.

After that, they will set “meaningful and realistic goals that we can validate each year,” he said in an email, with the goal of creating opportunities for all First Nations, Inuit and Métis.

The station will also commission a study of its past coverage to better understand its representation of those towns.

Changes may not be seen overnight, Doane said. But eventually, “listeners are expected to see more Indigenous content that is more representative of First Nations, Inuit and Métis realities, in all their diversity,” he said in his statement.

“It is the beginning of a national commitment – a new journey of understanding to help pave the way for more First Nations, Inuit and Métis to connect and work with us, and better reflect, respect and amplify diverse Indigenous perspectives across the public broadcaster”. he said.

Catherine Tait, the station’s president and CEO, says the strategy provides a framework to amplify the voices of Indigenous communities and its employees.

“It’s a hugely proud moment for all of us at the public broadcaster and I really hope it paves the way for strengthening relationships as we walk together,” he said.

An annual report will be published, with input from staff and viewers, tracking CBC’s progress.

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