Thunder Bay newspaper apologizes for 'inconsiderate' headline on story about egg attacks on 2 men

A Thunder Bay, Ont., newspaper has apologized for a headline the day before on a story about eggs reportedly being thrown at two Indigenous men from passing vehicles.

Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day says 'insensitive joke' undermines what Indigenous people face in the city

The front page of the Chronicle Journal in Thunder Bay, Ont., on Thursday was criticized for being 'offensive and insensitive.' (Matt Prokopchuk / CBC)

The daily newspaper in Thunder Bay, Ont., has apologized for a headline on a story about eggs reportedly being thrown at two Indigenous men from passing vehicles.

The Thursday print edition headline in the Chronicle Journal referenced an "egg toss" and that the incidents have police "scrambling." The Assembly of First Nations said the headline was "offensive and insensitive," and called for an apology.

On Friday, the front page of the newspaper's print edition included an apology for the "poor choice of words."

"A story about egg throwing incidents on the front of Thursday's paper used wording that was insensitive," read a statement under a heading that said "apology to our readers."

"The play on words was inappropriate for a story about a criminal attack and was inconsiderate, particularly to the victims in these attacks."

Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day said it was an inappropriate headline, given the history of First Nations people being hit by eggs and other items thrown from passing vehicles.

"Right away, it's so glaring," Day said. "It would make some people laugh but it would make most people shudder."

The story, also covered by other local media, including CBC Thunder Bayfocused on a city police investigation prompted by two men reporting they had eggs thrown at them from vehicles in two separate incidents early Wednesday morning. One of the men was reportedly taken to hospital, police said.

One of the men told officers that racial comments were made while the vehicle's occupants threw the eggs, according to police; officials did not say Wednesday whether either victim was Indigenous, but said the Indigenous liaison unit started an investigation. On Thursday afternoon, police told CBC News that both complainants are Indigenous.

Day said he brought up the issue at a meeting in Ottawa of the Assembly of First Nations executive after seeing the headline Thursday morning, and it subsequently passed a motion calling for a public apology. Day said he also wants to meet with the newspaper's leadership.
Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day brought the headline to the attention of the Assembly of First Nations executive on Thursday. (CBC)

"It almost would make somebody laugh, and it would overlook the serious nature of the racism and violence that our people are being faced with in Thunder Bay," Day said of the headline. "Clearly [it's] an insensitive joke, if you will."

The headline was particularly inappropriate "in a city that should be working towards healing and reconciliation between First Nation and non-Indigenous citizens," National Chief Perry Bellegarde was quoted as saying in a written statement issued by the Assembly of First Nations.

CBC News contacted the Chronicle Journal on Thursday about the headline and the assembly executive's concerns. Managing editor Greg Giddens said at the time that publisher and general manager Clint Harris was not available and the newspaper did not have a comment.

"Anything that we would have to say would be in the paper," Giddens said.

Harris was quoted in the apology saying the paper understands "that this headline upset many people," and that "the reaction and feedback is important to us."
The Chronicle Journal apologized on Friday morning for the headline. (Matt Prokopchuk / CBC)

Similar attacks reported before in Thunder Bay

Drive-by assaults on Indigenous people in Thunder Bay have been reported before.

First Nations youth who testified during a months-long inquest into the deaths of seven of their peers spoke about the frequency with which they had eggs, other food containers and racial slurs hurled at them from passing vehicles.

Barbara Kentner, a 34-year-old Indigenous woman, was also struck with a trailer hitch thrown from a passing car in January 2017. She died about six months later; the case of the man accused of killing her is still before the courts.

"Right away I thought of the family of Barb Kentner who lost her life," Day said on Thursday. "So you can just anticipate ... that there certainly will be outrage."

City officials 'condemned' reported attacks

Thunder Bay city officials released a statement in response to the reported attacks.

"We condemn hate-motivated crimes and discriminatory attitudes. We encourage everyone to report hate crimes and stand up to racism," read the statement attributed to Acting Mayor Paul Pugh on behalf of city council and administration. It adds "we must work together to make discriminatory attitudes and actions unacceptable in our community."

A spokesperson for Thunder Bay police said the investigation is ongoing, and officials continue to ask that anyone with information come forward.

"The challenges with these types of investigations are that [the reported incidents] happen very quickly," Const. Julie Tilbury said. She said "a lot of times, the target is just trying to get themselves into a place of safety. They don't have time to take a look at what type of vehicle is there or the people who are in the vehicle."

One of the men who reported having eggs thrown at him on Wednesday told officers the suspect vehicle was a four door silver-coloured hatchback.

"Anyone who has information, whether someone's bragging about doing this incident or someone witnessed a similar-type vehicle in the area at that time, we really encourage them to step forward," Tilbury said, adding that anyone caught throwing objects from a vehicle at people can be charged with assault.

With files from Jody Porter