A satirical news website that used a Cree woman's victory at an international beauty contest to draw attention to national coverage of missing and murdered indigenous women has withdrawn the article and apologized to its readers.
On Sunday, Ashley Callingbull, whose married name is Burnham, from Enoch Cree Nation in Alberta was named Mrs. Universe, the first First Nation woman to win the title.
The Beaverton's article, headlined "Mrs. First Cree Woman To Gain National Coverage If She Disappears," said make-believe judges "cited her good looks, upbeat attitude, and glitzy uncontroversial profession in awarding her the top prize of one day's coverage on most major Canadian news outlets should she suddenly vanish without a trace.
- Ashley Callingbull, First Nations woman, wins Mrs. Universe, fights stereotypes
- Ashley Callingbull, First Nations woman, crowned Mrs. Universe
- Unsolved cases of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls
"Burnham is showing all those aboriginal girls out there that as long as you look like a supermodel and get on TV, you too can get the same news coverage as a white girl should you ever be abducted," the article continued.
In its apology, The Beaverton said it wrote the satirical story to "call out the Media for their failure to properly cover missing and murdered Aboriginal women …"
However, many indigenous people didn't find it funny and took to Twitter to voice their outrage:
I'm not into policing comedy. I'm a comic. There are things that are out of bounds, way out of bounds. This is one. https://t.co/gxpdw64FhD— @RMComedy
"The fact that a publication would take the time to publish these words shows that they have no morals, no empathy," said Althea Guibouche, who is part of a team walking across Western Canada for all missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.
Hilda Anderson-Pyrz, who organizes an annual gathering in Winnipeg to remember disappeared women, says she wasn't as angry.
"I think in a twisted way it speaks the truth," she said.
"If she went missing she certainly would not get that type of coverage," Anderson-Pyrz said, referring to the coverage Callingbull received for winning the Mrs. Universe title.
"If she was white, she would," she added. "I say that with no offence to any women who go missing, but regardless of your race, we should all be treated equally."
Shortly after an interview request by CBC Aboriginal, Luke Gordon Field, The Beaverton's editor-in-chief, released this statement on their Facebook page:
"The point of the article was to call out the Media for their failure to properly cover missing and murdered Aboriginal women, which we consider one of Canadian news media's greatest failings of the 21st century," the apology said, "However, members of indigenous communities of Canada have expressed offence at the tone and subject matter of the article. Our goal has always been to be an ally of Aboriginal and Indigenous peoples, and as such we have removed the article."
The entire statement can be read at the end of this article.
In an email to the CBC, Field said "Despite the joking quote at the end, I would actually be happy to discuss the matter if you still wish."
CBC launched its database of unsolved cases of missing and murdered indigenous women on April 8, 2015. CBC Aboriginal shares a story every week day, via social media, using the hashtag MMIW.
According to RCMP there are more than 1,200 missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada. Families of missing or murdered women have been fighting to have their loved ones portrayed as daughters, sisters, nieces, cousins and not by their lifestyles.
A sample of Twitter reaction prior to the story being removed:
And this is reaction afterwards:
@TheBeaverton thank you.— @_DaveARobertson
Full statement by the Beaverton on their Facebook page:
Beloved readers, recently we posted an article about Ashley Burnham, the first Aboriginal woman chosen as Mrs Universe. The point of the article was to call out the Media for their failure to properly cover missing and murdered Aboriginal women, which we consider one of Canadian news media's greatest failings of the 21st century. However, members of indigenous communities of Canada have expressed offence at the tone and subject matter of the article. Our goal has always been to be an ally of Aboriginal and Indigenous peoples, and as such we have removed the article (it takes a while for the site to refresh, so it may not be fully removed right away). While we truly believe that satire can and should be used to shed a light on even the most horrible of stories, it is always our goal to stand on the right side of issues, and we apologize to those who were offended by the piece.
P.S. We will happily give a quote to any news outlet wishing to write a story on the backlash to this article, provided they agree to also do a week of coverage on missing and murdered Aboriginal women.