2016 The David Teeuwen Student Journalism Award, Large Newsroom finalist

This is a Canadian Issue

About the Project

In June 2015, after seven years of listening to powerful testimony from survivors of residential schools across Canada, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) released its historic final report. The multi-volumed report is, as the CBC called it, “a detailed account of what happened to Indigenous children who were physically and sexually abused in government boarding schools, where an estimated 3,200 children died from tuberculosis, malnutrition and other diseases resulting from poor living conditions.”The commission also disseminated its 94 Calls to Action to “redress the legacy of residential schools and advance the process of Canadian reconciliation”:

Call to Action No. 86 specifically asks Canadian journalism schools to ensure students are taught “the history of Aboriginal peoples, including the history and legacy of residential schools.” With this essential directive in mind, masters students at Ryerson School of Journalism embarked on this digital reporting project inspired by the TRC’s calls to action in areas from holistic healthcare to criminal justice, from preserving languages to fostering new generations of athletes.

As part of a semester-long project for their digital journalism course, first-year graduate students researched and produced multimedia stories with support from the Journalists for Human Rights (JHR) and its Indigenous Reporters initiative. JHR’s innovative and ambitious program broadly seeks to increase the quality and quantity of Indigenous voices and stories in Canadian media.

Featured stories from the project include:
  • Bridging the Knowledge Gap
    A closer look at why not all Ontario schools are equal when it comes to teaching Aboriginal histories and cultures
  • Claiming a Name
    An interactive story about how for many people, the act of returning to or seeking out traditional naming practices can be a first step towards reclamation, by Maija Kappler
  • A Common Thread
    A look at how fusing the contemporary with the traditional has become a vital and vibrant way for Canadian fashion designers to preserve Indigenous traditions, by Olivia Chandler
  • Walking the Water
    A multimedia exploration of how, in the face of more than 100 boil water advisories in Indigenous communities, one grassroots movement is taking back the water, one step at a time, by Angela Long

One of the stories from the project, The Difficult History of Indigenous People in Video Games, was published in The Atlantic (and therefore no longer on our site).

The project was widely shared on social media by Indigenous newsmakers, journalists and national news organizations and even the head of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, senator, judge and residential school survivor himself, Sen. Murray Sinclair tweeted his appreciation of the work the journalism students produced.