Manitoba

Winnipeg Sun calls First Nations' boycott 'disappointing'

The Winnipeg Sun says it's disappointed to learn Manitoba's top aboriginal leaders are calling for a boycott of the newspaper and its parent organization, Sun Media, citing editorial content that they say discriminate against indigenous people.

Manitoba's top aboriginal leaders accuse Sun Media of being racist, one-sided on First Nation issues

First Nations leaders call Winnipeg Sun racist, demand boycott

8 years ago
Duration 2:01
The Winnipeg Sun says it's disappointed to learn Manitoba's top aboriginal leaders are calling for a boycott of the newspaper and its parent organization, Sun Media, citing editorial content that they say discriminate against indigenous people.

The Winnipeg Sun says it's disappointed to learn Manitoba's top aboriginal leaders are calling for a boycott of the newspaper and its parent organization, Sun Media, citing editorial content that they say discriminate against indigenous people.

The boycott was announced on Tuesday by the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, the Southern Chiefs' Organization and Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, which represents First Nations in the province's North.

The organizations' grand chiefs accuse the Winnipeg Sun of "discriminatory reporting and biased editorial against indigenous peoples," citing the recent coverage of the death of Tina Fontaine, a 15-year-old girl whose body was recovered from the Red River in mid-August.

The chiefs say for example, an article published in the Winnipeg Sun on Aug. 24 suggests that aboriginal people "have only themselves to blame" for tragedies such as Fontaine's death.

"I'm not going to call it news because I don't believe that it reaches the standard of news, objective news," Grand Chief Derek Nepinak of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs told reporters on Tuesday morning.

"Often times what's being printed in the newspapers across the country, I believe, is racialized to the point of inciting hatred."

Sun editor-in-chief responds

Winnipeg Sun editor-in-chief Mark Hamm says he disagrees with the chiefs' position that the newspaper's articles are discriminatory, biased and racist.

Hamm acknowledged that the Sun is a tabloid newspaper that pushes the envelope, but he maintained that its content is fair and balanced.

"We dismiss that sort of language. We don't accept that we are a racist organization," he told CBC News on Tuesday afternoon.

"Our goal, like any media organization, is to present news fairly and with a balanced approach."

Hamm said he has met with the chiefs and offered them a column in the paper.

He said he hopes to mend the Sun's relationship with First Nations, but he added that the newspaper's approach to coverage will not change.

"I can understand people taking offence to some of the things that we've done and some of the headlines that we've written, but our intention at the end of the day is to give these topics attention and to have discussion and debate about them," he said.

Hamm added that the Sun shares a lot of the same goals and concerns with the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs.

"To have them say otherwise is really disappointing," he said.

Boycott to include advertisers in 2015

The boycott is being spearheaded by Terrance Nelson of the Southern Chiefs' Organization, who said it applies not just to the Winnipeg Sun, but the entire Sun Media organization.

"Here in Manitoba, we're starting the process of ensuring that First Nation dollars do not support racism," Nelson said.

"The reality is that freedom of the press does not include the right to [the] incitement of hatred."

Grand chiefs Terrance Nelson of the Southern Chiefs' Organization, left, Derek Nepinak of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, and David Harper of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak speak to reporters on Tuesday. (Bouchra Ouatik/Radio-Canada)
The organizations are calling on Canadians to cancel their Sun subscriptions and remove their advertisements. They also want retailers to stop selling or giving away copies of the newspaper in their establishments.

Their boycott will later extend to businesses that continue to advertise with Sun Media.

Nepinak said First Nations officials will reach out to local businesses that advertise in the Sun over the next 60 days.

"The business people that I know, and that I do business with here in Winnipeg, know that this exists, they know it has to stop and I think that they will join forces with us," he said.

Nepinak and Nelson said they will then encourage First Nations not to do business with anyone that continues to advertise with Sun Media in the new year.

Grand Chief David Harper of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak said his organization will stand behind the boycott of the Winnipeg Sun and Sun Media for one calendar year.

Some local auto dealerships told CBC News they are pulling their advertising from the Sun in support of the First Nations organizations.

Not the first time

This is not the first time the Winnipeg Sun has been targeted by local First Nations groups.

Protesters from the Idle No More movement held a peaceful demonstration outside the Sun's offices in January 2013, accusing the newspaper of biased coverage of aboriginal issues.

And in 1983, a group protested outside the Sun offices over an editorial by Peter Warren that called the average Canadian aboriginal person "a drunk, a wastrel, an idolmonger, a person only too happy to live on a government cheque…."

It's also not the first time Nelson has accused the media of presenting an anti-aboriginal bias.

In 2005, Nelson took aim at news organizations during the trial of David Ahenakew, a former Saskatchewan First Nations leader who was accused of making anti-Semitic remarks.

At the time, Nelson sparked criticism by condemning what he believed was Jewish control of the Canadian media.

"Articles appear regularly in newspapers filled with hatred of natives," he wrote in a statement in April 2005.

"Will there be a dramatic rise in hatred of Jews amongst native people? As a chief, I say, 'Yes there will be'."

Nelson later apologized for his statement.

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