Manitoba's First Nation leaders want the public and government to clamp down on people who post racist remarks about aboriginals on media websites.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 11/2/2009 (4604 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Manitoba's First Nation leaders want the public and government to clamp down on people who post racist remarks about aboriginals on media websites.

"I'm hoping for a public outcry that people will say that's racist. That's enough," Southern Grand Chief Morris Swan Shannacappo said Wednesday at a news conference to condemn racism on media blogs.

Swan Shannacappo and Chief Russell Beaulieu of the Sandy Bay First Nation called the media after university student-leaders came to them with the results of monitoring news sites from April 2008 to this month.

And what they read shocked them.

So, the leaders are asking for help to prevent racism in blogs either by public pressure or criminal deterrence.

There are "persistent bloggers who pounce on almost any story dealing with First Nations or indigenous issues and use it as an excuse to rant against or ridicule indigenous people," Swan Shannacappo said. "The world will always have its racists and kooks but the CBC is providing a vehicle for them with a forum to attack our people."

CBC Manitoba was singled out by the Southern Chiefs Organization (SCO), but similar comments are on media blogs across Manitoba.

Topics ranged from the Six Nations blockade in Caledonia, Ont., Quebec First Nations angered by development plans, Manitoba First Nations protesting for a share of pipeline profits, the stalled Peguis land deal and a fatal fire on a B.C. reserve.

SCO leaders say the blog comments denigrate aboriginal culture beliefs, slam aboriginal people with racist insults, and trot out outdated stereotypes and misinformation.

Aboriginal leaders called on the Doer government to investigate the CBC for violations of Canada's hate laws and pass on the findings to federal regulators. They also want Manitoba to look at guidelines for blogging in general to prevent the expression of racist hatred.

Intergovernmental Minister Steve Ashton and Heritage Minister Eric Robinson said they were outraged by the comments posted on the CBC website.

"We believe there should be some type of apology to aboriginal people," Ashton said. "We share the concerns of the Southern Chiefs Organization. These comments were racist. They were offensive. They were unacceptable."

Robinson added, "As Canadians, we don't pay taxes to create a platform for hate speech."

Both ministers said that because CBC and the Internet are federally responsibilities, there is little the province can do except encourage the Southern Chiefs to file complaints with the CBC's ombudsman and Canadian Human Rights Commission.

Ashton also said it's important any news organization or person posting public comments should police them for offensive statements and language.

"Let's avoid the problem before it happens," he said.

CBC spokesman Jeff Keay said the CBC news website received almost 200,000 comments in January. All comments on news sections of the website are reviewed by a moderator before they are posted publicly, he said. That means some comments make it through that are later removed, he said,

"Providing a forum for people to, you know, express their view on contentious issues brings a risk," said Keay. "We recognize that occasionally there is material there that shouldn't appear."

He confirmed SCO previously contacted CBC Winnipeg.

 

-- with files by Gabrielle Giroday and Bruce Owen

alexandra.paul@freepress.mb.ca