Sun Media or Hate Media – Racism for Sale

I am caught right now between heeding or ignoring the usual advice about fanatics and their rantings. Most people figure it is better to ignore the hateful, ignorant ravings of people who spread nasty hate messages against other groups of people like Indigenous peoples or people from other cultures. I used to think that was good advice, because who wants to give those unstable few a bigger platform for their disturbed ideas. But then it hit me that this advice usually comes from the majority population, who, for the most part, are not the ones directly impacted by the end result of hate propaganda. It also hit me that in this age of social media and kids using the internet at younger and younger ages, that these very public media outlets have the ability to influence and brainwash our youth. Thus, even though there are far too many fanatical groups, commentators and media outlets to monitor (nor would I want to), there are some articles that require a response. Sun Media, which should rename itself Hate Media recently published a racist article related to the upcoming Assembly of First Nations election. While the Toronto Sun may or may not have written the article itself, it made the decision to publish it. Hate crimes are punishable in Canada – but at the very least they should not be able to profit from their hatred. “Compromise… is the route Shawn Atleo has been following” The article appears to support Shawn Atleo as the “compromising” candidate and thus the one who should be elected. This group is supported by Senator Patrick Brazeau who openly endorsed Shawn Atleo as the only candidate that the Harper Conservatives could work with. My issue is not whether or not the right wing contingency in Canada supports Shawn Atleo, my issue is with how they talk about our people and the hatred they invite into our communities by virtue of their propaganda, racism and misinformation. “Despite billions in taxpayer welfare…” Every aspect of the way this article is written is meant to promote hatred against First Nations people. It is the tone, the implication, the words and even the facts that are left out that can influence and encourage non-First Nation people to see us in a stereotypical light and treat us with both disdain and lack of compassion. How does this happen? Since contact, the colonizing governments have tried to portray us as less than human. This allowed them to justify in law both the theft of our lands and the control of our people – as if we were incapable of managing our own affairs. This could not be farther from the truth of course, as we have literally tens of thousands of years of having lived quite well with our own complex governments, laws and justice systems. We also had extensive and profitable trade networks, strong militaries and political skills in alliances and treaty making. We had our own cultures, traditions, languages, practices and beliefs to fill our spirits, teach us how to live up to our responsibilities and to keep us connected to the land, sky, water, people and animals. The ways of our diverse peoples were and are beautiful. Our ways and our peoples were attacked by those colonizing governments in very direct violent ways (scalping laws, forced sterilizations, military assaults, abuse and murder of our children in residential schools) and we were attacked in less direct but harmful ways (Indian Act, Indian agents, federal and provincial laws outlawing our subsistence activities, ignoring treaties etc). Many people are of the understanding that all of this is history – but the ongoing colonization of our people continues – they just use different names for it. Today we have theft of children by provincial agencies, the over-representation of our people in jails, murdered and missing First Nation women, and the pre-mature deaths of our people through chronic and severe under-funding of essential programs and services. “It [Harper] makes a historic apology… and can’t win for losing” Take for example, the Toronto Sun article claims the apology was historic. Yet, the Prime Minister forgot the other half of the apology. Every child knows that you can’t apologize without also making amends for your offense. The Prime Minister apologized for the  assimilatory foundations upon which residential schools policies were based yet, promptly after the apology funding was cut for Indigenous languages. Our children are still stolen by from our communities by child welfare agencies at rates HIGHER than during the residential school era. What has changed in terms of what the majority of our children learn in provincial schools? Harper hasn`t lost anything – but we have. “It fronts a reconcilation commission” Even the words used to describe the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) make suttle negative associations. The Toronto Sun seems to imply that out of the goodness of the Prime Minister’s heart, a Truth and Reconciliation was funded. I think the author is forgetting that all of this came about because of the litigation against Canada. These are the facts that ought to be on the table if we are to have a responsible discussion about any of these issues. Since it is unlikely that these people will stop their campaign to turn public opinion and policy makers against us, we need to occupy the space of educator. The Assembly of First Nations needs to take a stronger public education role in making sure the facts are accessible and that forums are created for informed and fact-based discussions versus allowing the old uneducated right-wing hate debate to dominate. “Unreasonable demands from aboriginal ‘leadership’ in cesspool reserves” It is one thing for us to all have different perspectives, beliefs and interpretations of what we see, hear and experience, but it is quite another to promote blatantly racist and uninformed statements about us. Our youth need to know that the very foundation of race as a biological determinant of personality, intelligence or capacity was discounted both in science and fact decades ago. It is impossible to look at the end result of devastating and often lethal colonial policies forced on our people and imply that we want any of this or that our choices put us where we are today. How dare they call Attawapiskat a “cesspool” reserve when they know the facts – that many of those residents live in poverty not because they want or choose to, but because of the chronic underfunding of our communities and the government’s refusal to share what is ours – the land and resources. Yet, there is no mention of the mining company which overloaded the reserve’s underfunded infrastructure and flooded their sewage station and caused back-ups in some of their houses. Where was the amends for that? “An idiot… and fool” I don’t care who you are, what your background is or what your political stripes are – no one gets to talk about our people this way. We have our strengths and weaknesses like any other collective in the world, but we did not ask for any of this. We are tasked with managing the dysfunction that Canada created and fights hard to maintain today. Our people have tried against all odds to work with Canada. We have survived everything that has been thrown at us – from scalpings to sterilizations to complete control and impoverishment. And we still sing, we still dance, and we still celebrate who we are as the FIRST PEOPLES of this land – like the Mi’kmaq, Cree, Mohawk, and Maliseet. Despite generations of brainwashing we still fight to protect our ways and our people. None of us are disposable. We are all human beings and if Canada is embarassed by our living conditions they need to do something about it. If they are not, then they need to step aside and let a legitimate government take charge – one that puts the well-being of the people first. Name-calling by Conservative Ministers, Senators or their right-wing media outlets will never cover up their culpability. “Compromise is chief priority” We made our compromises when we signed treaties. Those deals are now internationally and constitutionally protected. Those treaties need to be recognized and implemented. Some right-wingers say that treaty implementation is an old argument and that I should give it up. Senator Brazeau said that his government would `never`recognize treaties – important insight on the kind of government we are dealing with and the positions we need to take. Even those non-treaty Nations made their compromises years ago when they agreed to share, not give up their lands and resources. To ask us to compromise again is to ask us to give up what little we have left. We stand on the strength of our original and prior sovereignty – we need to assert it, live it and protect it. There is no compromise to be had on our sovereignty. “bangs war drums and blows smoke“ I hope for the sake of our children and their children and their children forever, that we always hear the beat of the drum and honour the pipe ceremonies. Our ways connect us to our ancestors – many of whom gave up their lives to protect our lands. I am proud to be part of those traditions and hope we never compromise on our sovereignty,our treaties, our traditions or the well-being of our people.


  1. Have you read 'Seeing Red: A History of Natives in Canadian Newspapers?' The Sun is carrying on a 'proud' tradition of setting public opinion towards First Nations people that destroy and degrade our people and culture. 140 years of publishing, still the same old crap.

    Very good analysis.

  2. Great article Dr. Palmater; I just wrote a paper talking about the same issue. "Media affects us by leaving unexamined issues of power, privilege and social inequality. This shapes ourselves to conform to someone else's expectation of us. We have to train our eyes and ears to perceive the messages embedded in media texts. Messages sent out in media are purposeful, powerful, and certainly affect reality. Media is reinforcing hegemony- granting the group with more power and privilege the ability to shape our worldviews, attitudes, and actions. The Sapir -Whorf Hypothesis states that language influences the way that we see the world".(Warren, Fassett, 2011: 91-94).

  3. People are racist if they stand by and do nothing in the face of racism. In this way, nearly every white person in Canada is racist.

    I have tried to start petitions against the media for allowing open and unmoderated comments to online articles due to hate crimes and racial content… you know how much support I got? ZERO.

  4. Brilliant analysis! I came at the same misinformation from the direction of sizeism, sexism, and privilege (I teach women's studies, religious studies, and cultural anthro. at the U of Ottawa – Dr. Shelley Rabinovitch). SUN media garbage makes me want a hot shower. About a 2 hour hot shower. Thanks Pam! As always, insightful and right to the heart of the matter. Miigweetch!

  5. Thank you, Dr. Palmater. As a white Canadian, I am ashamed of how your precious children were kidnapped and tortured. I am ashamed of how the Prime Minister has treated Chief Spence. I am appalled at Sun/Hate Media. I am Canadian, but my husband was a US Vietnam vet who suffered torture; when he died I took up the mission of standing up against torture and standing up for Omar Khadr. Sun/Hate Media has also allowed the racist screeds by Ezra Levant against Omar to be spread by their organization. I would be honoured to work with you on fighting back against their racist hate. Incidentally, you may have known my uncle, Dave Kellington. He taught photography at Ryerson for many years. Thanks for standing up and doing the right things. Thanks for being you. With gratitude, Heather Stecher (

  6. Thank you Pamela. I have been watching and listening to what has been said and supported by Sun Media as they have allowed it to be published! I want my children to be very proud of their heritage and stand up for what is their rights! The 'distraction' campaign by the media may do it's work but we are strong and we will prevail! There are other 'outside' sources that do tell our side of the story and I can't help feeling that all this hate is going to come back and haunt them one day! We do have an international audience that can hear us and the PM's days are numbered! I thank you for your balanced statements and true guidance!
    Peace, Kathleen Lounsbury, RN MSN (C)Trinity Western University

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