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Greetings. I’m Emilee, the newest member of the National Observer team.
I'm honoured to join National Observer's lineup of passionate investigative truth-tellers. I'll be devoting a year to in-depth reporting about First Nations in British Columbia that, contrary to the usual media narrative, are showing the way forward on sustainable development and economic self-sufficiency.
We are in an unprecedented moment in history, facing ongoing global human rights violations, environmental chaos and a gross mismanagement of land and water. Yet, at this time when an informed citizenry is more essential than ever, people are turning away from the news, rejecting the ways the media can create fear, anxiety and panic.
But there are beautiful, real and inspiring solutions available to the crises we face today. If we are sincere in our desire to find meaningful solutions, we must consult the environmental leaders, knowledge-keepers and conservationists of yesterday, today and tomorrow — the people who have been on the land since the beginning of human history on this continent.
As a journalist of mixed ancestry, Filipina, Cree Métis, and settler (Scottish and Irish), who grew up outside my traditional teachings and home territories, my identity requires a focused commitment to respecting community protocols, cultural resurgence and staying accountable. When I started working in journalism, I thought back to my grandmother's work as a radio host in Churchill. As a young woman, she had carved out space for Indigenous women to speak and be heard.
I understood that the seeds she had planted for her grandchildren had sprouted. My great uncle Ted also had a video camera glued to his hand, as he followed my family around, and my great uncle Al was a writer for the local newspaper in the Pas. As I stepped into this work, I realized the process of decolonizing my spirit and finding my way back to my responsibilities had begun.
I was accepted into Concordia University's graduate diploma in journalism and moved to Montreal, where I heard as many stories of Kanien'kehá:ka (Mohawk) resistance as I did of Quebecois self-determination. While in the program, I was awarded the Susan Carson bursary, which honours the memory of a Montreal Gazette reporter who championed the downtrodden.
I learned from expert staff at Concordia, but noticed a gap between Western journalistic values and what I was taught throughout my life.
I saw how mainstream media would flood into over-exploited, vulnerable or traumatized communities, extracting stories, causing more harm. I saw caricatures flashed across headlines — the dead, drunk or dancing Native, the mystical, exotic or all-spiritual Native — tropes that continued to infect the Canadian conscience in ways sure to prevent meaningful relationships people from differing walks of life.
I saw a massive gap between the media's representation and reality and I knew as a Michif mixed person, my work involved filling that gap, in a good way.
The first corrective step on my journey was facilitating workshops at Concordia, creating a space for journalism students and communications staff to arrive at more reliable storytelling. I was awarded one of Journalists for Human Rights’ Emerging Indigenous Reporter Scholarships. Thus I had the privilege of learning and publishing for four months at The Tyee earlier this year.
Part of my role with National Observer will be to investigate government responses to the court-mandated Truth and Reconciliation Commission's 94 calls to action. We need critical in-depth analyses of the difference between meaningful efforts toward reconciliation and mere rhetoric. We need to be willing to ask the hard questions and to demand answers. Why do people still live with unsafe-water advisories and drastic levels of poverty? How can resource-extraction projects go forward without the consent of the communities most affected? Why don't Canadians know about the complexity, richness and advances of Indigenous cultures from coast to coast?
Thank you for entrusting me, a visitor to these territories, in this role. Stay tuned.