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Read Harding (2005) and Belanger (2013) carefully. The full reference for this article is:

Harding, R. (2005). The Media, Aboriginal People and Common Sense. The Canadian Journal of Native Studies XXV(1): 311-335.

Using these readings as a starting point, provide a critical reading / analysis of a current media presentation on an Indigenous issue / event in Canada.

The assignment is to pay attention to what is making the news, and how it is being reported / presented. Which points of view are being favored? How is the media to "spinning" the story? What are the Implicit and explicit assumptions built into this 'spin'"?

Media sources can include:

Indigenous run media
Mainstream / non-Indigenous media
Print media
Television / Film
Internet sources

Description of the Issue

The indigenous people living in Canada are also loosely termed as Canadian Aboriginals and include several groups such as the Eskimos, Intuits, Métis and First Nations. These groups have migrated to Canada hundreds or thousands of years before being colonized by European Settlers, making them the natives of the land. The indigenous population can be divided into 13 Aboriginal language groups (Mason & Siminovitch, 2018). According to the 2016 Census in Canada, Indigenous or Aboriginal groups makes up only 4.9% of the total population of Canada, numbering to 1.6 million individuals. Since the 1900’s there has been a steady increase in the Aboriginal population in Canada due to a reduction in infant mortality rate. However, some authors have pointed out that the Aboriginals still face several challenges and issues which impacts their wellbeing and health. One significant challenge among them is an unequal access to healthcare, compared to the non Indigenous Canadians that contributes to a health gap between the indigenous and non indigenous populace in the country. The aim of this study is to analyze this particular issue/challenge and how it is presented in the media (Statistics Canada, 2017; Cameron et al., 2014).

According to Harding (2005), the media has been involved in stereotyping of Aboriginal Canadians since a long time which still exists in the news texts regarding the Aboriginal issues. The author points out that the media have always represented the Aboriginals as victims, warriors and environmentalists, constructing them as the ‘common sense’ regarding the Aboriginals instead of basing the views on the cultural and linguistic environment of Canada (Ames et al., 2015). The author also cited examples from issues pertaining to Aboriginal and Non Aboriginal relations in Canada such as the ‘Oka Crisis’ of 1990 in which the Aboriginals have been depicted in the media as Pathetic Victims, Angry Warriors and Noble Environmentalists, often overlooking the realities faced by the people. Such stereotypes can still be seen in various media reports and articles that discuss the issue of unequal access to healthcare for the Aboriginal people in Canada (Ruffo, 2014; Currie et al., 2015). Several reports have suggested that a deep sense of racial bias and discrimination exists in healthcare organizations and among healthcare workers as they often attribute the stereotypical views of the problems faced by the Aboriginals to be the only factor that impacts their health and wellbeing instead of investigating the actual physical problems faced by them (Currie et al., 2015; Spence et al., 2016). This problem is further accentuated by a lack of understanding and cultural sensitivity possessed by the healthcare workers and a cultural barrier that is created due to it ultimately reducing the access to healthcare and creates a health inequality compared to the non indigenous Canadians (Ly & Crowshoe, 2015).

Cameron et al. (2014) conducted a participatory research in partnership with the Aboriginal people and the study showed that the Aboriginal people are still subjected to bullying, intimidation and fear by non indigenous people of Canada which was promoted by a lack of understanding of the Aboriginal cultures (Currie et al., 2015). Such aspects were also prevalent in healthcare, and the healthcare professionals lacked understanding of culturally appropriate practices thereby creating a structural injustice towards the Aboriginals and acted as a significant barrier to the access to healthcare (Siddiqi et al., 2017). Moreover, stereotyping, stigmatization and discrimination of the Aboriginals people by the media and the mainstream society have further resulted in an unequal access to healthcare. The authors pointed out the results of the First Nations regional Longitudinal Health Survey 2002-2003 in with 35% of the Indigenous respondents reported that they felt their access to healthcare services was less compared to the Non Indigenous Canadians (Pahwa et al., 2015). This have also been supported by the findings from the 2003 National Aboriginal health organization poll which showed that 18% of Indigenous Canadians never received the needed healthcare, compared to 12% of Non Indigenous  Canadians and 24% reported that the quality of care they received were significantly poorer compared to others. One of the biggest reasons for the restricted access to healthcare services has been due to the long waiting times as well as a poor quality of care (Cameron et al., 2014). Additionally, 15% of the respondents from National Aboriginal health Organization poll also reported inappropriate and unfair treatment by healthcare providers, especially in the ‘off reserve’ localities. Several respondents claimed that the unjust treatment was mainly because of their ‘aboriginality’ (Goodman et al., 2017; Jacklin et al., 2017).

Critical Analysis of the Issue and Its Presentation in the Media

Kielburger and Kielburger (2013) in a news article posted in Huffington Post pointed out that aboriginal people still face several problems whenever they try to seek healthcare. The author stated that the healthcare professionals show biasness and discrimination against the Aboriginal people, often talking about them ‘in derogatory terms’ and suggesting that their health problems were mainly because of the Aboriginal origins (Goodman et al., 2017). Such stereotypes have crept into the mainstream healthcare services, and have reduced the propensity of the Aboriginal people to seek care (Cameron et al., 2014). The stereotypes have also been justified by the higher rates of poverty, drug abuse and sexual abuse among the Aboriginals compared to the Non Aboriginal Canadians and the healthcare professionals often considers that every Aboriginal they treat are afflicted by the same problems (Li, 2017). This clearly shows the biasness and stereotype that exists in healthcare organizations against the Aboriginal Canadians.

This was also supported by Blake (2018) in a CBC News article stating that the racial bias that exists against the aboriginals have resulted in several avoidable deaths in Northwest Territories of Canada. According to the author, the biasness and racism is the biggest cause of health inequalities and unequal access to healthcare services among the Aboriginals, compared to the Non Indigenous People. It has also been suggested that due to the cultural bias, public health messages often fail to reach the Aboriginal people as effectively as it does for other Canadians due to which a health inequality is created. This can be evidenced by the higher rates of smoking tobacco as well as health problems among Indigenous Canadians compared to the Non Indigenous people (Matheson, 2015; Richmond & Cook, 2016). According to Boyer (2018), healthcare has not been experienced equally by all Canadians and indigenous people continue to be mistreated and reports have been made as recently as 2013 about Aboriginal women being ‘coerced’ to undergo sterilization. The author also added that the healthcare practitioners would often assume that the indigenous individuals complaining of health issues are suffering from alcoholism instead of considering the possibility of low blood sugar due to diabetes, denial of organ transplantation, poor quality of care or due to coerced sterilizations.

It can be clearly seen that such news articles, although conveys a stern and serious news, it also shows how the Indigenous Canadians are portrayed as the victims of racial discrimination and stereotyping which have created a barrier towards equity of healthcare and a health gap compared to that of the non indigenous Canadians (Denis, 2015). It has been pointed out by Harding (2005) that the Indigenous Canadians have started to take more active steps towards the protection of their health, wellbeing and properties and have started claiming their ancestral lands. This have resulted in the development of a rift between the Non Indigenous population as the Non Indigenous population started to consider the Indigenous people to be more aggressive towards their rights further aggravating the racial prejudice that exists among them (Tidwell & Zellen, 2015). A Canadian Reality TV Show named “First Contact” that follows the participants as they visit various indigenous communities in Canada has been recently banned from television, accusing it of bolstering racial stereotypes and ‘white privilege’ depicting them as ‘alcoholics’, ‘lazy’ and ‘welfare cheats’ and ‘feeds into the white privilege and entitled attitude’(Biron, 2018). This shows how the cultural misgivings are still prevalent in the mainstream media against the Indigenous people and how such misgivings can propagate misunderstanding about the people by the rest of the public. Such a context can be related to the ideas proposed by Harding (2005) and lessons on Indigenous communication that were taught during the lecture sessions where it was pointed out how the racial stereotypes have become a major challenge for the Indigenous people of Canada. The inequalities can further be supported through the historic context where the Indigenous people were subjected to several mistreatments and injustice in the past (Ruffo, 2014). This can include the policies of forcibly resettling and ‘assimilating’ the indigenous population to the mainstream population, resulting in the displacement of thousands of native people from their families and ancestral lands which further resulted in the alienation of the indigenous people (Currie et al., 2015; Ruffo, 2014) 

A recent news article posted in APTN National news stated that the stereotypes are now slowly being broken with an increase in awareness and sensitivity towards the indigenous people and an increase in immigrant population in the country showing a slow change in progress on how people perceive the indigenous people (aptnnews.ca, 2018). Takeuchi (2018) suggested that non indigenous Canadians are now confronting their own prejudices against the Indigenous people to overcome their misconceptions about them. According to the author, the TV Series ‘First Contact’ that was accused to racial stereotyping was actually an attempt to fight against the stereotypes and biases faced by the people by confronting the Non Indigenous people with the stereotypical ways of thinking towards the indigenous people. This provides a different picture of the racial biasness compared to how other media articles have discussed the topic (Takeuchi, 2018).

Conclusion

From the discussion above it is evident that the Canadian Aboriginals have been subjected to historic inequalities and prejudice which still exists in the modern society. Due to a lack of understanding of their culture, history and language, the aboriginal and indigenous people have been stereotyped and discriminated from others. Such mindsets have also been significantly propagated in the mainstream media and news channels where the indigenous people have been depicted as alcoholics, lazy and welfare cheats. The sense of prejudice also exists among the healthcare professionals, especially those working outside the reservation areas where the professionals would often be abusive, impolite and discriminative of the people.  

The discrimination, biases and prejudices against the indigenous Canadians have resulted in a widening of the rift between the indigenous and non indigenous Canadians, and have also resulted in a health gap due to a barrier being created towards the access to quality healthcare service. The biases and a lack of cultural awareness/competency also have also prevented health promotion messages and health promotional campaigns to reach the indigenous communities increasing the risks of adverse health outcomes. It is often seen that the healthcare practitioners themselves would have biased opinions about the indigenous people under their treatment and would often assume the cause of their health problems are due to drugs or alcohol.

References:

Ames, M. E., Rawana, J. S., Gentile, P., & Morgan, A. S. (2015). The protective role of optimism and self-esteem on depressive symptom pathways among Canadian Aboriginal youth. Journal of youth and adolescence, 44(1), 142-154.

aptnnews.ca. (2018). Breaking through the stereotypes immigrants are learning about Indigenous peoples on InFocus - APTN News. Retrieved from https://aptnnews.ca/2018/10/11/breaking-through-the-stereotypes-immigrants-are-learning-about-indigenous-peoples-on-infocus/

Biron, C. (2018). Canadian reality TV show slammed over indigenous stereotypes. Retrieved from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-canada-indigenous-media/canadian-reality-tv-show-slammed-over-indigenous-stereotypes-idUSKCN1M02LP

Blake, E. (2018). People 'dying unnecessarily' because of racial bias in Canada's health-care system, researcher says | CBC News. Retrieved from https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/health-care-racial-bias-north-1.4731483

Boyer, Y. (2018). Indigenous people must become full partners in Canada's health system - Macleans.ca. Retrieved from https://www.macleans.ca/opinion/indigenous-people-must-become-full-partners-in-canadas-health-system/

Cameron, B. L., Plazas, M. D. P. C., Salas, A. S., Bearskin, R. L. B., & Hungler, K. (2014). Understanding inequalities in access to health care services for Aboriginal people: a call for nursing action. Advances in Nursing Science, 37(3), E1-E16.

Cameron, B. L., Plazas, M. D. P. C., Salas, A. S., Bearskin, R. L. B., & Hungler, K. (2014). Understanding inequalities in access to health care services for Aboriginal people: a call for nursing action. Advances in Nursing Science, 37(3), E1-E16.

Currie, C., Wild, T. C., Schopflocher, D., & Laing, L. (2015). Racial discrimination, post-traumatic stress and prescription drug problems among Aboriginal Canadians. Canadian Journal of Public Health/Revue Canadienne de Santé Publique, 106(6), e382-e387.

Denis, J. S. (2015). Contact theory in a small-town settler-colonial context: The reproduction of laissez-faire racism in Indigenous-white Canadian relations. American Sociological Review, 80(1), 218-242.

Goodman, A., Fleming, K., Markwick, N., Morrison, T., Lagimodiere, L., Kerr, T., & Society, W. A. H. R. (2017). “They treated me like crap and I know it was because I was Native”: the healthcare experiences of Aboriginal peoples living in Vancouver's inner city. Social Science & Medicine, 178, 87-94.

Harding, R. (2005). The media, Aboriginal people, and common sense. Canadian Journal of Native Studies, 25(1), 311-335.

Jacklin, K. M., Henderson, R. I., Green, M. E., Walker, L. M., Calam, B., & Crowshoe, L. J. (2017). Health care experiences of Indigenous people living with type 2 diabetes in Canada. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 189(3), E106-E112.

Kielburger, C., & Kielburger, M. (2013). Aboriginal Stereotypes Can Be Deadly. Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/craig-and-marc-kielburger/aboriginal-stereotypes-medical_b_3789056.html

Li, R. (2017). Indigenous identity and traditional medicine: Pharmacy at the crossroads. Canadian Pharmacists Journal/Revue des Pharmaciens du Canada, 150(5), 279-281.

Ly, A., & Crowshoe, L. (2015). ‘Stereotypes are reality’: addressing stereotyping in Canadian Aboriginal medical education. Medical education, 49(6), 612-622.

Mason, A. L., & Siminovitch, K. A. (2018). New perspectives on the complexity of genetic predisposition to autoimmune liver disease in indigenous Canadians. Liver International, 38(5), 789-791.

Matheson, J. A. (2015). Prices and social behaviour: Evidence from adult smoking in Canadian Aboriginal communities. Canadian Journal of Economics/Revue canadienne d'économique, 48(5), 1661-1693.

Pahwa, P., Abonyi, S., Karunanayake, C., Rennie, D. C., Janzen, B., Kirychuk, S., ... & Naytowhow, A. (2015). A community-based participatory research methodology to address, redress, and reassess disparities in respiratory health among First Nations. BMC research notes, 8(1), 199.

Richmond, C. A., & Cook, C. (2016). Creating conditions for Canadian aboriginal health equity: the promise of healthy public policy. Public health reviews, 37(1), 2.

Ruffo, A. G. (2014). I n 2010, This Is an Honour Song: Canadian Historical Writing: Reading the Remains, 103-109.

Siddiqi, A., Shahidi, F. V., Ramraj, C., & Williams, D. R. (2017). Associations between race, discrimination and risk for chronic disease in a population-based sample from Canada. Social Science & Medicine, 194, 135-141.

Spence, N. D., Wells, S., Graham, K., & George, J. (2016). Racial discrimination, cultural resilience, and stress. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 61(5), 298-307.

Statistics Canada. (2017). Aboriginal peoples in Canada: Key results from the 2016 census.

Takeuchi, C. (2018). Six Canadians confront their own prejudices against First Nations in new APTN TV series. Retrieved from https://www.straight.com/movies/1133441/six-canadians-confront-their-own-prejudices-against-first-nations-new-aptn-tv-series

Tidwell, A. C., & Zellen, B. S. (Eds.). (2015). Land, indigenous peoples and conflict. Routledge.

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