Reporters turned away from Victoria Island and Chief Spence, threatened with charges in Attawapiskat


The movement that has criticized changes to legislation the federal government has proposed in Bill C-45, better-known as the Idle No More movement, took a while before it became the topic of mainstream political panels and front-page stories. But over the course of the movement and with her well-publicized hunger strike, Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence became a “one of the most public and controversial faces” of the protest. On Monday, a third-party audit of Attawapiskat finances was leaked, revealing shoddy bookkeeping. The movement called it a “move to discredit” Spence as news stories questioned where millions of dollars were spent. Relations between the media and Spence took a turn. Journalists were turned away from the site where Spence had been staying on Victoria Island in Ottawa on Monday and Tuesday after the release of the audit and Attawapiskat police threatened to charge Global National correspondent Jennifer Tryon and photojournalist Trevor Owens with trespassing and breaching the peace if they did not leave the reserve on Tuesday. The direction to refuse media access to the reserve reportedly came from Spence herself. On Wednesday, an Attawapiskat spokesperson told Global News he wasn’t sure why the reporters were kicked out and asked them to “patiently wait to get direction from Chief Spence” as to when they could return. 


Why am I not surprised?  the entire history of Native/White relations is a trail of broken promises, misunderstanding, sleight-of-hand, recriminations, apologies followed by more of the same, and if I were a Native from Attawapiskat I wouldn't be happy with the way the leaked media report was handled. 

How is the auditor's comment about lack of supporting documents any different from comments on audited bookkeeping in the federal bureaucracy?  Having been there I could tell you a few stories that are at least as bad as what appears to be problematic here.  And I have no doubt that bookkeeping at media headquarters has a few weak areas of its own. 

What people ought to be angry about is that the federal government hands an amount of money to the Native community and essentially says "take it, use it" etc but never teaches any one of them how and what to use as supporting documents, how to enter expenditures against the appropriate line items, and all the other fun basics of bookkeeping that everyone loves.  Is it just me or is there a distinct odour of "give 'em enough rope and they'll hang themselves"???

The auditors also slammed the federal government and Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, tho that was lost in most of the electronic reports (those pesky ten-second clips! and those angst-riddled reports of journalists savaged by Attawapiskat's policeman!  having to leave without a story!)

Here's what ought not to be overlooked:  there are traditional ways of doing business, no matter which side of the equation you are looking at.  But there has been a sea change in attitude by Society as a whole, necessitating more rigorous record keeping for almost everything. 

Then how can Natives - whom the Government always leaves alone at such times - keep better records when they have neither been informed of, nor taught, the stricter requirements?


Comment Policy

J-Source invites comments on any content items or on any other topics relevant to journalism. Those posting comments are expected to adhere to standards of accuracy and fairness that would be recognized by those who practise, teach or study journalism.

  • Comments are restricted to registered users. You must register with your full first and last name in order to be eligible to comment.
  • Please communicate as effectively and intelligently as you would in a professional or academic forum, focusing on the issues at hand rather than the characters or characteristics of those involved.
  • This forum is intended for discussion of the craft of journalism, not of the issues of the day that journalists cover; please do not post story tips or press releases.
  • We moderate the forum for adherence to these standards of discourse, and reserve the right to decline any comment or restrict any user from commenting without giving reasons. Every effort is made to approve valid comments within 24 hours of submission.