Media Representation of aboriginal Issues in Canada

Media Representation of aboriginal Issues in Canada

Media Representation of aboriginal Issues in Canada

Contemporary media has transformed the public interpretation and consumption of news.  The digital platform is responsible for the change in the production, storage, and the sharing of new information. According to Harding, the media plays a crucial role in the construction of the public’s common sense and the interpretation of different news items (312). An overview of the news representation on the aboriginal population in Canada indicates that most platforms tend to present a negative perception of the group. Also, the representation of the news affecting the aborigines is often underreported to create a false sense in the population and the world. The focus of this paper is to analyze an issue affecting the Canadian aboriginal population and the role of the media in influencing the interpretation of the event to the public. As victims of historical and colonial injustices, some media platform portrays the aborigines as a group ready to exercise control over their lives, their land, identity, and other causes which are important to the community.

Andrew Nikiforuk, in his article, “When Indigenous Assert Rights, Canada Sends Militarized Police,” presents the government response to an aboriginal protest against TransCanada’s Coastal GasLink pipeline. The protest led to the arrest of 40 protesters and destruction of property. The independent journalist asserts that the government deployed heavily armed RCMP, which is a show of force and the repression of the aboriginal rights and title in the land. The TransCanada’s Coastal GasLink pipeline was a violation of the aborigine’s rights since the company failed to consult with the community on the risks involved in shale gas fracking and the exploitation of their land. Based on the context, the Canadian government is advancing the colonial legacy thatmarginalizes and deprives the aborigines of their rights and freedom(Nikiforuk). Also, the criminalization of their actions is a violation of the identity of the aborigines.  The military response to a protest is a way of imprisoning and repressing the rights of the aborigines.

According to Harding, Canadian media is an influencer in the interpretation and coverage of the aboriginal issues. In most cases, the media propagates the damaging stereotypes of the aboriginal people, and this leads to negative public perceptions. The media perpetuates aborigines as portrayed as victims, warriors, and environmentalists who rise in defense for their natural land rights and other issues affecting the community. The media portrayal of the conflict between the aborigines and the TransCanada’s Coastal GasLink pipeline is a key determinant in the public perception. Also, the news and public interpretation determine the direction; this means garnering public and government support to accommodateindigenous people and the preservation of their rights and resources.

There is a difference between media reporting, and this is evident in the case involving aboriginal rights and the police response in Canada. From independent observation,journalistssought to expose the real issues involving the Gas lineCompany and the violation of the aboriginal rights through fracking gas fields, the contamination of water sources, and other adverse effects(Nikiforuk par 14).The independent news sourcesmaintain a sane and objective view of the issues. Also, media platforms have interpretations of the story and thus spinning the story to fitthe needs of the company and the government cover-up. The spinning of the story involves the use of old-colonial orders in portrayingaboriginesas peripheral people. Placing the aborigine people in the periphery gives the government deniability in thedenigration of their rights. Also, the media canpowerfullyinfluence the public into treating aborigines as outsiders (Harding 314). For example, the Guardian, a news platform, underrates the issues by stating the impartiality of the RCMP and their respect for the rights of aborigines. This revelation is a media cover-up meant to undermine the rights of the protesting aborigines and the violations of the police (Cecco par 7).Therefore, the media powerfully influences the interpretation of facts and the public perception of an issue.

Moreover, the media employs different ploys to manipulate the news frames to contain the situation and further silence the aboriginal rights and concerns. A report by Guardian spins the story to bring to the public the financial investments of the Gas Company. The inclusion of the financial incentive to the project is a part of the bigger plan by the political class(Cecco par 6).Also, the news spins the story to confirm the involvement and approval of indigenous leaders,which is apolitical crusade to underplay the government’s role in overlooking the treaties involving aboriginal land and rights. The explicit details on the Gaslink Company are meant to undermine the aboriginal concerns. Also, the explicit details on the benefits of the Gas Company to the company are meant to evoke the public emotions on the aborigines and the creation of problems in society. The public interpretationof aboriginal responses to events relies onthe presentation of the issues by the media.

The state highly influences a historical overview of the aborigines and their relationship with Canadian Media. The media acts as an auxiliary to the government, and this explainsthe excesses in terms of ethnocentric and racist media reports. The media has been constantly used to manipulatingthe news to fit the government standards and other non-aboriginalcauses(Harding315). For example, the use of derogatory terms, such as rascally redskins, is one of the media portrayals of the aborigines. Historically, the media has worked to undermine the rights and interests of the aborigines. For example, TransCanada’s Coastal GasLink pipeline is an example of the cases where aboriginal communities have faced settlement issues and economic exploitation by foreign investors. In essence, the aborigines have been targets of negative publicity, which is a way of undermining their identity and rights in Canadian society.

In line with historical experiences, aboriginalpeople rarely receive balanced coverage as the news outlets seem to propagate the government agenda while overlooking the interests of the aborigines. Historically, colonial newspapers promoted racist ideologies, images, and perceptions of the aborigines. Also, the media portrayed them as trouble makers and often advocated for the dispossession of aborigineland. Despite their fight for autonomy, freedom, and independence, aborigines face multiplestereotypes in the contemporary political and social landscape in Canada (Harding 315). Therefore, Canadian aborigines face constant prejudice,and this explains their current living status.

The social forces at work concerning the interpretation of the aboriginal population shape the news headlines and the societal stereotypes. The scarred relationship between aboriginal and non-aboriginalpopulations is due topolitical and colonial injustices.The existence of negative stereotypes is a case ofa damaged identity. Also, the labeling of aborigines by society becomes a common feature in public discourse (Harding, 327). Thus, the image portrayed by the media leads to a division between the aboriginal and the non-aboriginal groups in Canada.

The media influences the protection of economic and political interests while rejecting different claims made by the aborigines. The news portrays thenatural gas pipelineas ahuge venture for the investors, otherstakeholders, as well as the aborigines who stand to benefit from employment. The version of the story seeks to discredit the aboriginal claims while portraying the economic deals as a huge stake for the government and Canadian society. The media serves the crucial role of upholding the status quo. The evolution of the aboriginal autonomy and voicing of their interests in public discourse has caused a stir in the political arena, and this, explains the contention between aborigines and the government and the non-aboriginal population. The media fails to explore the context of the aboriginal claims; for example, the land titles, and rights in the story, and maintainance of the political and economic interests(Harding 327). In essence, the media presents a one-sided view of the story, which further suppresses the rights and interests of the aborigines.

The Canadian aborigines’ pursuance of self-determination and independence is a political reality that causes strains between the government, the aborigines, and the non-aborigines. Self-determination will lead to the adoption of their government, independent use of their resources, and other benefits. Themedia interpretations of this process influence the public common sense, and thus the notion is misinterpreted to suit the needs of the government. For the non-aboriginal population, self-governancemeans the loss of resources, livelihoods, and other interests(Harding 331). In essence, the media spins the aboriginal interests as a pursuit for self-representation and a divisive move.

Over the years, there is a notable rise in negative reporting of aborigines issues in Canada. aboriginal issues, such as their interests and land are criticized as extreme, unnecessary, and blatant disregard for development. For example, the protest against TransCanada’s Coastal GasLink pipeline is considered unnecessary, and thus the government response is the deployment of armed police. The rise of public dialogue in response to this event focuses on the common-sense interpretation of the issues. Pierro Robin asserts that the Canadian media does not broaden its scope in covering an issue;instead, it focuses on the crisis, which in turn delivers a subjective view of the aborigines and their interests (Pierro 6).The public response is dissatisfaction in aboriginal response to the event, which is a violation of their rights. Besides, the exaggeration of the aboriginal responses attracts public criticism and negative conclusions on their actions.


The Canadian media is a crucial part of the retelling of Aboriginal challenges. The news are heavily influenced by the government and other regulators who bring a biased opinion on the aboriginal population and different issues affecting them. As a government auxiliary, the media platforms shape the social, political opinions in Canada. Also, the media is used to reinforce negative stereotypes about the aborigines, and they include the behaviour and response towards foreign invasion on their natural resources. The TransCanada’s Coastal GasLink pipeline is an economic venture set to accrue economic benefits to the government and foreign investors. The venture disrupts aboriginal environmental aspects, and their response to the issues through protests is met with prejudiced opinions from the media and other quarters. Therefore, there is little or no likelihood that the Canadian media will present impartial opinions on the issue.

  1. What are the potential impacts of media reporting on Canada’s social, political, and economic order?
  2. Does the media reinforce the negative stereotypes and depictions of the aboriginal population and their culture?
  3. What kind of messages does the media send to the aboriginal and non-aboriginal populations?
  4. What is the likelihood of media remaining impartial in the presentation of aboriginal values?
  5. Do media reports reinforce existing tensions between aborigines and non-Aborigines and the government?

Works Cited

Cecco, Leyland. “Canada: Indigenous Anti-pipeline Protesters Call Police Presence ‘act of War?” The Guardian, 8 Jan. 2019, www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jan/07/canada-indigenous-anti-pipeline-protesters.

Harding, Robert. “Historical representations of aboriginal people in the Canadian news media.” Discourse & Society, vol. 17, no. 2, 2005, pp. 205-235.

Nikiforuk, Andrew. “When Indigenous Assert Rights, Canada Sends Militarized Police.” The Tyee, 17 Jan. 2019, thetyee.ca/Analysis/2019/01/17/Indigenous-Rights-Canada-Militarized-Police/.

Pierro, Robin. Buried Voices: Media Coverage of Aboriginal Issues in Ontario. 2013. www.jhr.ca/en/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Buried_Voices.pdf.


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