By Annie Arnone
Ryerson University and Journalists for Human Rights (JHR) are working together to bring content about indigenous communities into Ryerson’s journalism curriculum.
Associate chair of journalism, Janice Neil, said that in the winter of 2017 a new elective will be offered to students between second and fourth year that will focus on indigenous content.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) called on Canadian journalism programs to “require education for all students on the history of Aboriginal peoples” and states this in detail in their Call to Action report, under recommendation 86, published in December.
Neil said that the class will encompass everything suggested in recommendation 86 by “both informing journalism students about what they should know and giving them a foundation of knowledge and historical context, but also how the media failed or succeeded in depicting indigenous people, in the past, and what you can do as a journalist going forward.”
Third-year student, Joleine Kasper believes TRC’s recommendation will be useful in educating journalists on indigenous content. “In terms of number 86 it’s important for journalists to be educated on the history because a lot of people lack that knowledge and there’s a lot of stigma and discrimination [against indigenous people].”
TRC aims to shed light on indigenous history—specifically the Indian Residential Schools agreement.
Executive Director of JHR, Rachel Pulfer, says she believes introducing a new class will allow an opportunity for open-minded discussion among young journalists.
“Working with journalism students at the beginning of their career leaves a real opportunity to insure an open-minded approach to coverage and understanding of where these [indigenous] communities have come from,” she said. “It also equips journalism students with the knowledge they need to cover these issues later on in whatever form of media they choose.”
Both the University of Winnipeg and Lakehead University are making it mandatory for undergraduate students to take a three-credit course in indigenous culture in order to graduate.
According to Ryerson interim-president Mohamed Lachemi, the university took action after TRC published their report.
“The first thing that we did was put a committee in place,” he said. “When we developed this, we really engaged the aboriginal community in the discussion to see what are their needs.”
Kasper believes that it is important to come together as a nation, and this curriculum change will be a step toward doing so.
“It’s time we rebuild the relationship between aboriginal and non-aboriginal communities.”