Company apologizes for radio ad claiming to 'debunk' residential school 'myths'

Golden West Broadcasting Ltd. has apologized for airing an ad about the "myths" of residential school trauma over a number of radio stations

Ad that appeared on Saskatchewan stations draws angry response across the province

Golden West has apologized for airing a commercial that said many generally accepted facts about residential schools are myths. (Algoma University/Edmund Metatabwin collection)

The company that aired a controversial radio ad about residential schools has apologized.

The ad aired once on radio stations across Saskatchewan on stations owned by Golden West. The company says they now regret airing it.

"We apologize for the aired commercial, and for the impact it had on our listeners," Golden West said in a statement. 

The Manitoba-based company operates stations in Swift Current, Humboldt, Moose Jaw, Estevan, Wynyard and Rosetown/Kindersley.

The two-minute paid spot was made by the Frontier Centre for Public Policy (FCPP), a Winnipeg-based think tank. The ad calls intergenerational trauma from Indigenous residential schools a myth.

The ad also claims it is a myth that residential schools robbed Indigenous kids of their childhood and there is "little evidence that abuse that was suffered by a grandparent had any affect on the academic success of the generations that followed."

Swift, angry rebuttals to ad

The radio spot was met with angry reactions across the province and online. 

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde issued a statement Monday citing "overwhelming research and evidence that shows the harmful, negative impacts of residential school on First Nation children, families and cultures." 

"Trying to downplay the impacts of the residential schools on the thousands of children that attended, and their families, is wrong and it's shameful." 

The ad claimed it is a myth that residential schools robbed Indigenous kids of their childhood. (Anglican Church Archives, Old Sun/Truth and Reconciliation Commission)

James Daschuk, an associate professor at the University of Regina who studies the health of Indigenous Peoples, told CBC Monday he was surprised FCPP developed the commentary that "undermines their credibility." 

"To my knowledge, [the FCPP is] a legitimate, right-wing think tank," he said. 

"I honestly do not understand why they would devalue their own brand by coming out with an advertisement that's so egregiously wrong." 

​He takes particular issue with the spot's allusions to scientific studies. 

"I would love to see those studies," Daschuk said. "There is so much overwhelming evidence, it's undeniable. The producers of that segment were knowingly turning their backs on the facts." 

Won't happen again

In the Golden West's apology, the company said the ad "contained inappropriate commentary, which downplayed the effect of historical injustices on Canada's indigenous peoples."

"This was a paid advertisement purchased and produced by the Frontier Centre For Public Policy, and does not reflect he views of Golden West in any way," the statement said. 

The statement said measures are being taken to ensure that type of material does not air in the future.