Not all native stories centre on a ‘crisis’- Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal Editorial (December 6, 2011)

The Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal is the daily newspaper of Northwestern Ontario.

The housing crisis at the James Bay-area First Nation of Attawapiskat is troubling and needs to be fixed, but the attention being paid to it on a national scale shouldn’t overshadow the many Aboriginal successes.
A panel of Toronto journalists who convened on CBC Radio last week commented that if the media wanted to, it could report on a First Nation “crisis” every day.

Unfortunately, this is so because there is no shortage of Aboriginal communities across Canada that, like Attawapiskat, continue to struggle intensely with dilapidated homes, broken-down drinking water systems and the ravages of drug addiction.

Every so often, just like what’s happening now, the national media will zoom in on one community in particular, reinforcing in the minds of urban dwellers (and possibly urban-based journalists) an extremely lopsided and distorted picture of Aboriginal people in general.

The need for a long-term solution in remote places like Attawapiskat is great and it’s right for a searchlight to be shining on it.

But for the national media to focus on the problems, no matter how dire, without also playing up success stories does a disservice to the cause of a better life for Canada’s native people.

Imagine being an Aboriginal lawyer, nurse teacher or architect, driving to work and hearing the news about another “crisis,” and wondering if the rest of the country assumes there is no hope for native people, no examples of those living a fulfilling life.

That would be a narrow and uninformed view but, undoubtedly, it is one that many who don’t read this newspaper, or Wawatay News, might hold.

The current situation in Attiwapiskat is shocking and it’s not acceptable. But the drinking water at Red Rock First Nation is “great,” according to that community’s chief, and more often these days one reads about mutual agreements being inked between Northwestern Ontario First Nations and mining exploration companies.

Across Northwestern Ontario, it is not a black-and-white issue.

The Chronicle-Journal frequently reports on Aboriginal success stories, be they about individuals or groups. Not out of some stated mission, but because it’s a fact that successful Aboriginals are an integral part of Northwestern Ontario life.

Let’s not forget that as we watch and hope for solutions in less fortunate communities like Attawapiskat.