A Different Point of View....: Old Canadian media promote Washington’s agenda word for word

An analysis of Canadian mainstream media’s reporting of U.S. President Obama’s visit to Vietnam recently was so biased that stories may as well have been written by the White House.

Just about all traditional media provided Washington’s pre-packaged message to the Canadian public:

The good guy Obama was in Hanoi to lift the U.S. arms embargo on Vietnam so it could defend itself against the aggressive Chinese, and do what the U.S. could to help the country modernize.  In return, the U.S., one of the worst violators of rights in the world, expects communist Vietnam to improve its human rights record.

    Obama’s visit to Vietnam wasn’t an important story for Canadians but, nevertheless, it is a good example of how American interests dominate coverage that appears in our mainstream media.

    The Toronto Star apparently was the only major Canadian news outlet to carry a substantial story clearly outlining China’s concerns over the implications of U.S. expanded relations with Vietnam.

    The Winnipeg Free Press ran a story that briefly mentioned China’s concerns.

    Major news companies covered only one point of view

    However, the following news organizations reported the story the way Washington would like to have it: At CTV News Channel and CBC News Network hosts read just about the same story ad nauseam for hours.  The stories likely came from The Associated Press, which is strongly biased in favour of the United States.

    In addition, CTV News Channel carried an interview with Donald Baker of the UBC Asia Studies Centre in which Baker presented only U.S. objectives.

    A Global News reporter in Toronto voiced over a full report that laid out the U.S. point of view. From what I could see, CTV National News did a 30-second voice over, while CBC’s The National apparently didn’t cover the story.

    The Globe and Mail reported the basic pro-U.S. story only on its website

    The Ottawa Citizen and The Calgary Herald posted a clip of Obama’s speech on their websites, while The Edmonton Journal did not appear to cover the story.

    As frequently happens at old media, three papers covered the lighter side of Obama’s visit. The Vancouver Sun, The Montreal Gazette, the and the Halifax Chronicle-Herald reported on Obama’s pre-arranged $6 lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant with celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain.

    Important views left out of stories

    There was a lot more that could have been reported on the real self-interest objectives of Obama’s visit and the implications for countries in the Pacific region.

    It would have been best if all stories could have been better balanced and covered the views of the U.S. and other players from the region.

    Just as Obama was announcing the lifting of the arms embargo against Vietnam in Hanoi, China warned the U.S. President not to spark a fire in Asia. The China Daily bluntly stated that Obama’s move was meant to “curb the rise of China.”

    The Chinese nationalist Global Times called Obama’s claim that the Vietnam move was not aimed at China “a very poor lie,” adding that it would exacerbate the “strategic antagonism between Washington and Beijing.” It said the U.S.is trying to knit three nets around China — in ideology, in security and in economy and trade — in an attempt to secure its dominance of the region.

    Meanwhile, the Russian news service Sputnik quoted U.S. analyst and author Dan Lazare: “Just as the United States has sought to cordon Russia off in the West by ringing it with nearly a dozen hostile states extending from Georgia to the Baltics, “it is plainly intent on doing the same in the east by orchestrating an anti-Chinese alliance from Vietnam to Japan.”

    China and Russia are also concerned that the U.S. may be willing to sell deadly, sophisticated arms systems to Vietnam that the Russians have been refusing to sell them, at the request of China. Such sales would escalate militarization in the region. Vietnam may also spend millions to purchase U.S.-made drones.

    Corporate media’s failure to cover these stories in a more balanced way can be blamed only slightly on media cutbacks. Any and all of the Chinese and Russian stories referred to here were available to all Canadian media.

    The way Canadian mainstream media covered the Vietnam visit is typical of how they report on practically all U.S. international adventures, whether it’s the While House effort to demonize Russia, U.S. interventions in the Middle East, or U.S. denying it is involved in helping overturn elected democracies in Latin America.

    The international news coverage of publicly-owned CBC News is only slightly better. For the most part, it uses the same news sources used by corporate media.

    Not surprising corporate media likes U.S. message

    Considering who owns mainstream media in Canada, it’s not surprising there’s strong support for U.S. policies.  Big private media outlets are owned by corporations that also benefit greatly from doing business with the United States. Corporate owners are also ideologically aligned with the right-wing U.S. government. They wouldn’t want their newspapers, TV and radio stations to report stories that contradict U.S. foreign policy.

    In addition, most editors know what’s expected of them. Many of them still have their minds set in the years of the Cold War: Ruskies and Chinamen are bad people. The thinking is that communists are out to destroy democracy, so what they say does not deserve to be covered.

    The victim in all this is the Canadian public, which is denied learning about the views and positions taken by governments in much of the world. The biased coverage also encouraged people to support U.S. policies and think that there are no worthwhile alternative views.

    Can old media be changed to provide a better balance of international news? No. This would require a total revolution occurring in mainstream media, and this isn’t going to happen. Canadians who want better and more balanced news should support the growth of independent media. The future of media exists on the Internet, and several news sites are working hard to provide a strong alternative to old, biased corporate media.

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    A Different Point of View....: Now I know why my friends don’t want to hear about climate change

    About three years ago I decided to devote a lot of time to writing about the threat of climate change. I felt then – and feel now – that the planet is going to be in one hell of a worse mess in a few years unless we take action on a scale never seen before concerning any other threat in history.

    After I had published two or three items on various news sites, I was surprised – actually shocked – to learn that, compared to other topics I have written about – such as international financial mismanagement and the evils of neo-liberalism – very few people read the climate change articles.

    To try to find out why this is the case, I spoke with a few friends. Most said the thought of dramatic changes occurring on earth were too overwhelming to deal with. Worse still, they felt they couldn’t have any influence on what will happen.

    As it turned out, hardly any of my friends wanted to learn more about the threat or find out how they might help fight climate change.

    People reacting emotionally to climate change

    I don’t know the psychological state of my friends, but an Australian psychologist believes she knows why millions of people are reacting emotionally to climate change.

    This climate activist traveled to Paris to demonstrate during the UN climate change conference in December. Masses of people must show the same resolve if we are to hold climate change at bay.

    Dr. Susie Burke of the Australian Psychological Society says that, as life on earth becomes more abnormal over time, it can bring on all kinds of feelings in people. Knowing this, I’d say some of my friends are in what is perhaps an early anxiety stage concerning the threat of climate change. As conditions worsen, their symptoms can be expected to worsen.

    “Many people may feel seriously concerned, frightened, angry, pessimistic, distressed, or guilty in response to climate change,” she says. “Qualitative research finds evidence of some people being deeply affected by feelings of loss, helplessness, and frustration due to their inability to feel they are making a difference in stopping climate change.

    “New terms such as ‘eco-anxiety’ or ‘climate change anxiety’ are sometimes used to describe this.”

    Dr. Burke says that if people experience something like an extreme weather disaster, the impact on them can get worse.

    Mental health in danger

    Disasters occurring because of climate change, in addition to destroying our environment, will also affect us psychologically and mentally.

    “Depression, PTSD and complicated grief reactions are the most common mental health problems,” she says, “and many, many more people who do not end up with a diagnosis of depression or PTSD, nonetheless end up with heightened distress, grief, stress and strain.”

    The most disastrous impacts are occurring in some developing countries. Recently a city in western India suffered through the country’s highest ever recorded temperature – a scorching 51 degrees Celsius (123.8 F). As a result of crops being wiped out by excessive heat, hundreds of depressed farmers across 13 states have killed themselves.

    In Karachi, Pakistan, in anticipation of another heat wave this year, officials hired a digger to excavate three elongated trenches big enough for 300 bodies. In Canada, while climate change is not nearly as damaging – at least so far– as in many other countries, it already is having an impact on the mental health of many people.

    Worst affected are the northern First Nations and Inuit, peoples who have a close relationship with nature. Melting permafrost is damaging vital ice roads, making them unstable and unsafe.    In the past, roads in Ontario used to import vital goods, were safe about 70 days a year. Now they’re passable only about 35 days. The changes have made hunting more unpredictable.  Changes in ice flow patterns have made hunting walrus more difficult.

    First Nations people despondent

    Isadore Day, Ontario’s regional chief for the Assembly of First Nations, says that despair over climate change is contributing to mental health and social problems, possibly even record-breaking suicide rates.

    Cunsolo Willox, an assistant professor of indigenous studies at Cape Breton University, says the impact of climate change on northern peoples was evident back in 2009, when she did her PhD dissertation in Labrador. She says family stress was elevated. Anxiety and depression seemed to be amplified. More people were turning to drugs and alcohol and having suicide thoughts.

    Interestingly, Willox said the people she interviewed weren’t talking to each other about their fears – which, I think, is similar to the way some of my friends are responding to the emerging crisis.
    Some farmers on the Canadian prairies are also experiencing severe anxiety. Farmers have always been at the mercy of the weather at the best of times.

    But Kim Keller, who worked on her family’s grain farm about 200 kilometres northeast of Saskatoon, told The Toronto Star that climate change is hitting some farmers hard. The dramatic changes are amplifying mental distress as farmers struggle with floods, unseasonable frosts, and windstorms scientists say are becoming more frequent and severe.

    Extreme weather battering farms

    Planting crops year to year is becoming a “roll of the dice,” said Keller, a third-generation farmer. “The weather we tend to experience lately seems to be at one extreme or the other — drought or flooding, -40 C or 35 C. These unpredictable and extreme weather patterns add to all the other stressors farmers experience and deal with.”

    In Alberta, the lives of thousands of people have been upended by the massive Fort McMurray wildfires, caused largely by climate change. It’s not hard to predict that many people who will continue to live in the area will suffer anxiety. Meanwhile, the CBC reports that children who experienced the fires are suffering from stress.

    On a worldwide scale, it appears that the impact of climate change on human health will be receiving much more attention in the future. A report by the United Nations Human Rights Council released in May says that massive action is needed to protect the human rights – particularly the mental health – of people.

    The report warns: “The negative health impacts of climate change will increase exponentially with every incremental increase in warming. Limiting warming to the greatest extent possible and achieving the target of 1.5 C above pre-industrial levels should therefore be the objective of all climate action.”

    The problems in developing countries the report addresses also apply to native groups living in the Canadian North and prairie farmers: “States should establish, inter alia, early warning systems; utilize community-based monitoring, including traditional knowledge; enhance emergency response capabilities; and improve coordination in addressing climate migration . . . .”

    No health-related action in Canada

    While many Canadian mental health and some government officials are aware of the impact of climate change on human health, it does not appear that the actions recommended by the UN are being carried out in Canada.

    Finally, thinking back to all those people who don’t want to deal with climate change: this is a serious problem. If the planet is to be a livable place, the masses of people have to become involved in the fight. Environmental groups must do a lot more on climate change than they’re doing – they’re failing to educate the public.

    Governments must be both criticized and encouraged over what they’re doing. If fossil fuel corporations don’t embrace technologies favouring carbon reduction, they must be attacked and eliminated.

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    A Different Point of View....: Protest against Kissinger/Peres like the ‘70s; maybe it’s time for some new tactics

    One afternoon last week I took part in a protest against former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres being allowed into Canada. Both spoke at a Simon Wiesenthal Centre fundraiser deep inside the bowels of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

    The protest was staged by the group Actions4Palestine, but, as someone who was a regular at protests 40 and 50 years ago, I was disappointed by the small size of the protest crowd, and that our group made no attempt to explain their cause to passers by.

    The protest was definitely justified. Kissinger, who turned 93 last week, is one of the worst living war criminals. In 1973, he masterminded a U.S. scheme to help a brutal military dictator overthrow Chile’s democratically elected government, and supported brutal regimes in a number of other countries.

    Shimon Peres supported several Israeli actions against Palestine, include serving in the Haganah, a Zionist Militia that massacred Palestinians during 1948-1952.   He was involved in the massacre of Jenin and gave the green light for Israel’s violent incursion against besieged Gaza in 2008.

    The Canadian Jewish News reported that almost 2,500 people attended the fundraiser, which raised more than $3.75 million for the Centre.

    While some 130 folks said on Facebook they would come out for the protest, fewer than 70 showed up.

    A bullhorn was used to blast out slogans that were repeated by placard-carrying protesters as they walked back and forth on the street and later stood on the street in front of the Metro Centre.

    The demonstration reminded me of any one of a number of protests I took part in during the 60s and 70s, except perhaps more people would have shown up in those days.

    Our group had no intention of trying to disrupt the meeting by getting into the building, perhaps by a back entrance. Many of them were long-time protest warriors who have experienced police violence.

    Police not taking chances

    For their part, the police were taking no chances. On hand were about 15 police officers, all with big black batons, a paddy wagon, three police cars, and a dog barking viciously from the paddy wagon. When protesters moved beyond where they were supposed to be, police asked them to move back.

    We didn’t see Kissinger or Peres, but I hope the two war-hawks were told that our group was out there. Kissinger is dogged everywhere he goes, and he could be arrested for war crimes in some countries.

    If one of our group’s goals was to inform the public about what was going on, we failed badly. Folks walking along the street awkwardly passed us by.

    Early in the protest, three small groups of people were gawking at us from in front of the Metro Centre entrance. I decided to walk over and talk to them. I asked a group of four female lawyers taking part in a law seminar if they knew what was going on. “No, we have no idea,” said one of them, as they gathered round. They could hear the word Israel being blasted out from the bullhorn.

    I explained to the group what Kissinger had been involved in. After a brief chat, heads started nodding. Now that they understood, they agreed the protest was a good idea. I moved on to talk with three businessmen, and they had a similar reaction.

    I wondered if I would have the same luck with the police. I strolled past the paddy wagon with the vicious dog, and stopped in front of four policemen. They didn’t know what the protest was about. After I explained what was going on, two of the officers seemed sympathetic.

    Even though the protest didn’t accomplish very much, I don’t want to belittle those taking part. Some of them and/or their families had personally experienced the wrath of the brutal Israeli regimes. They have no doubt tried different ways of protesting without much success.

    Nevertheless, with such a small turnout, and failing to communicate with people, the protest seemed it was pretty much a wasted activity.  The kind of event we staged alienates everyday people.
    If groups want to be effective, they need to change their methods.

    First of all, perhaps the groups that stage protests should meet and make plans to support each other’s campaign better. Old rivalries should be put aside. Forming a co-ordinating committee would be a good idea. Some unions officially support the causes groups are campaigning on, so they should be expected to support activities.

    Small protests should be cancelled

    Protests that attract fewer than 100 people probably should be called off.

    In terms of confronting the likes of Kissinger, without tipping off anyone, three or four people could have tried to meet his airplane. Where was he staying? Picket the homes of the people who brought him to Toronto.

    A bullhorn can be effective if used in a way that passer bys understand what’s being said. Union-style moving picket lines can be effective if they are more friendly than aggressive.

    Whenever there’s a protest, three or four people should try to talk with passers by and gawkers. This is a chance to politely convince folks of the importance of the demonstration.

    I don’t know what other actions are taken by groups these days. But with the Internet such a powerful tool now, skilled techies can disrupt communications and close down websites. Actions4Palestine has an excellent Facebook page:

    The organization behind the visit, the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies, also should have been targeted.

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    A Different Point of View....: 50 years of great Investigative Journalism, from ‘This Hour’ to Amy Goodman

    Over the years I’ve been fortunate enough to hear some of North America’s top investigative journalists speak.

    One recent evening it was Amy Goodman, the amazing do-it-all journalist with Democracy Now, the independent U.S. radio and TV program. She gave an uplifting (for any journalist or would-be journalist) talk – ironically from the bowels of the CBC, where a lot of great journalism has been dying in recent years.

    (Note: The hour-long Democracy Now radio program is available on some university or community-oriented stations in Canada. I highly recommend it. )

    The evening was sponsored by the Canadian Journalism Foundation, which was created to boost corporate journalism in the country. Asking the questions was Globe and Mail Editor-in-Chief David Walmsley.

    When it was announced Goodman was coming to Toronto, I was surprised and disappointed that her journalistic integrity might rub off on the Globe and Mail, which, among other things, fired all of its progressive columnists over a period of time.

    From Left: Amy Goodman | Michael Maclear | Walter Stewart 

    Goodman, a tiny, engaging woman, has certainly been one of America’s top journalists over the past 20 years. She emphasized the importance of journalists giving voice to the voiceless – going to the places where (in terms of media) there is silence.

    Goodman described how she and fellow investigative journalist Allan Nairn came close to being shot at point blank range while trying to stop the military from massacring dozens of people in East Timor in the early 1990s. Goodman and Nairn were spared, possibly because they made it clear they were Americans and the weapons used by the soldiers were made in the U.S.

    In those days, I knew Allan Nairn as a sometimes nervous and distant voice over the telephone. I was a producer with the CBC Radio Sunday Morning program, and we took in Allan’s dramatic stories over the phone about the atrocities in East Timor, as well as his stories from other hot spots.

    I never got to meet Allan Nairn, but over the years I learned a lot by listening to speeches by some of North America’s top journalists.

    Several of them came to speak at the conferences of the original Centre for Investigative Journalism (CIJ)  (now the Canadian Association of Journalists), an organization I helped set up in 1978.

    Several of them are/were Canadians: Walter Stewart, as good an investigative reporter and author as you’ll find anywhere. When he passed away, The Globe and Mail headed his obituary with: “He was Canada’s Conscience.”

    The little-known Ron Haggart, a bit of a grump who didn’t like speaking publicly, was one of Canada’s greats as the guts and backbone of the fifth estate for many years. A prolific author of letters to newspapers, Haggart never suffered fools gladly.

    We also heard from Linden MacIntyre, recently retired from the more recent era of the fifth estate. MacIntyre, now an author, has great journalistic instincts, and is a wonderful story teller. He also was probably the most trusted journalist in Canada over the last 20 years.

    British-born Michael Maclear became a legend among Canadian journalists who idolized the man for his independent-minded coverage of the Vietnam War. He worked for both CBC and CTV. Maclear strongly believed that documentaries needed to reflect a point of view. He was most proud of his independent film, Vietnam Goes to War.

    This Hour Has Seven Days was probably Canada’s best-ever current affairs show. Its’ confrontational methods were used so effectively to hammer unsuspecting politicians that the CBC took it off the air. It ran for less than two years in the 1960s. Over the years, the CIJ showed many of the program’s amazing episodes, and heard from its hosts, including the cool Patrick Watson.

    On the U.S. side, I got to hear and know Seymour Hersh, perhaps America’s most outstanding modern-day journalist. Hersh reminded me of Walter Stewart because they both had a nose and determination to uncover a big story. Hersh is the guy who broke the story about the Vietnam My Lai massacre and cover-up . His Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation helped turn Americans against their futile and insane war in Southeast Asia.

    Noam Chomsky, perhaps America’s most important progressive/anarchist thinker, to my knowledge, has never been a journalist.  But several of his many books have set high standards for investigative journalism. He can talk about any topic under the sun for at least three hours non-stop. When Chomsky spoke, we needed a heavy-handed moderator to try to keep him on the topic he was supposed to speak about.

    I’ll briefly mention two other greats of a bygone era I’ve heard speak: Jessica Mitford exposed the corruption in the U.S. funeral business; and Morton Mintz  investigated corporate misconduct in the tobacco, automotive and pharmaceutical industries for The Washington Post during the days when it was a great paper. In 1971, he co-wrote America, Inc.: Who Owns and Operates the United States

    Over all those years, I heard only one famous journalist give a laughable speech. Dan Rather  was once Mr. All-American Journalist. He built a bit of a reputation working in small cities in Texas, rose to the face of CBC Nightly News, and went on to be a star with 60 Minutes.

    By the way, I’ve always felt that 60 Minutes aired a lot of “pretend investigative journalism.” The show almost always sought out and exposed “bad guys” on the fringes of corporate America. Easy pickins. They never took on the systematic problems of any aspect of capitalism. The public though the program was great. The on-air presenters were pretty much all millionaires.

    I also had no respect for the 60 Minutes staff because of its unethical behaviour in some situations. Producers monitored other media across the U.S. for little-known but excellent investigative pieces. The pieces were often written by low-paid journalists at small papers. Then 60 Minutes would swoop in with a TV crew for perhaps four days and do up the story. What bugged me was that 60 Minutes broadcast its phoney scoop, usually with no credit given to the local journalist and certainly no compensation. 

    Back to my story: In the 1980s, I was a member of the Board of Directors of the U.S.-based Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE). I’m not sure what year it was, but we were excited that Dan Rather was coming to deliver the keynote address.

    The first part of the speech was okay, though I can’t remember what he said. The room was full of many of America’s top investigative journalists. So what was the message of this icon of journalism: He explained over and over again that good journalism had to be: “Deep and down the middle.”

    What? That’s it? While there was no laughter in the room, there was a lot of snickering. Maybe Rather though he was addressing a first-year journalism school class.

    Following Amy Goodman’s speech on Thursday there was a tense moment. Earlier, she made it clear that she has no time for corporate journalism. This caused the Globe’s Walmsley to squirm a little in his chair. During the question period, someone in the audience asked Goodman what she thought about the fact that the Globe had endorsed the Harper government.

    Avoiding a possible dust-up with the Globe, Goodman politely said she didn’t know the situation well enough to respond.

    During the question, the Globe Editor-in-Chief squirmed even more than before, and I seemed to detect his face turned a little red. He nervously leaned forward and said to the effect: “Wow I dodged that one.”

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    A Different Point of View....: The tale of two communities in crisis: Fort McMurray and Attawapiskat

    Crisis situations are shaking two Canadian communities to their very core – the terrifying wildfires that destroyed Fort McMurray, and the epidemic of attempted youth suicides on the Attawapiskat First Nations reserve.

    The question arises: Why are billions of dollars being pumped in to deal with one crisis while the other is all but being ignored.

    By the time Fort McMurray is rebuilt, it’s likely that governments will have spent $2-billion or more.   Donations from Canadians will reach into the millions. And a representative of one of the big insurance companies estimated they will be required to pay as much as $9-billion to restore homes and businesses.  

    Justin Trudeau receives a gift of sweetgrass and a canoe
    from  National Chief Perry Bellegarde after addressing
     the Assembly of First Nations. 

    I have no quarrel with anything that is being done to help the people and community of Fort McMurray.  The destruction and emotional distress suffered by residents is taking a heavy toll. Like thousands of other folks, I have made a financial contribution.

    What I do object to is that, in comparison, the federal and Ontario governments are doing practically nothing and spending a pittance to alleviate the suicide crisis in Attawapiskat, a poverty-stricken, isolated community of 2,000 located 720 km north of Sudbury.

    The youth crisis reached epidemic proportions just days before the fire outbreak in Fort McMurray. Eleven Attawapiskat young people attempted suicide during the same night. Local hospital staff, unable to deal with the situation, became frantic.

    Following an urgent appeal for help, the federal and Ontario government sent a handful of medical specialists to comfort the young people.

    The support didn’t help much.

    Last week, on the second day of the fires in Fort McMurray, Attawapiskat experienced nine suicide or overdoses attempts.

    Chief Bruce Shisheesh of Attawapiskat urgently contacted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and asked for a second meeting.  He told Trudeau it was now “a matter of life and death” in his community.

    “While the efforts of your ministers is appreciated to date, it falls short [of] finding  Attawapiskat has been under a state of emergency since early April, with chief and council saying it has been overwhelmed by ongoing suicide attempts.”

    The Prime Minister’s Office replied that Prime Minister Trudeau could meet with native leaders in Ottawa when it was convenient to both parties.

    Earlier, Trudeau charmed native leaders and reserve folks with vague promises and double-talk:

    “I don’t want to pretend that any of us have the answers to the challenges facing indigenous peoples in Canada, but what I will tell you that as a country, we can build those answers.”

    Clearly, compared to the human touch extended to the victims of Fort McMurray, governments are being callous in their responses to the Attawapiskat crisis.

    Where is the empathy
    in those kinds of promises?

    A lack of money is not the problem. The federal government is sitting on about $4-billion to be used to improve lives, particularly education facilities, on reserves. http://communica.ca/summary-the-2016-federal-budget-and-aboriginal-programs/

    What is hard to understand is why the federal government isn’t dipping into its stashed away billions to assist First Nations communities such as Attawapiskat.

    If respect for human life is a factor, surely the greatest threat is at Attawapiskat. In Fort McMurray, luckily, only two people lost their lives, due to a vehicle accident. In Attawapiskat a 13-year-old girl committed suicide last October.  Since last fall, others have died and there have been more than 100 suicide attempts in the community.

    Children – kids who should be growing up bright and enthusiastic – are trying to kill themselves.

    The federal government could use one of those giant aircraft being used at Fort McMurray to airlift gifts to the depressed children into Attawapiskat. It would be great if they were given all kinds of things they’d love to have – from computers, to new bicycles, to dolls, etc.

    Instead of loaning psychiatrists and medical support to the sad little hospital on the reserve, staff levels should be doubled or tripled until well after the suicide crisis is over.

    Much of the housing on the reserve is uninhabitable and contributes to suicidal feelings and other problems.  The same military planes that were used to help Fort McMurray should be deployed to air-lift new pre-fabricated houses and community buildings to Attawapiskat.

    I contend that the decades of poverty, the murder of more than1,000 women, the many youth suicides, and the general degradation of a race of people deserve equal attention to the aid and love being bestowed on Fort McMurray.

    So, why is one crisis receiving massive support, while another, perhaps more serious in some ways, is getting little attention?

    Governments and the public reacted so positively and so quickly to the Fort McMurray situation because the fire was so immediate and horrific. Now millions will be spent to allow the energy companies to get back to scraping up oil sands.

    While I don’t have a lot of faith in Liberal governments, I am surprised that, given the strong stand Trudeau has taken concerning aboriginal issues, he hasn’t taken more action more quickly.

    On the other hand, the problems on reserves such as Attawapiskat have been with us for generations. While there have been improvements in the attitudes of many Canadians toward indigenous people, many others still don’t think they should be helped.

    If there were overwhelming pressure on the government to help Attawapiskat, it would be happening. Of course if a non-aboriginal community were threatened by dozens of children trying to commit suicide, government and public response would be overwhelming.

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    A Different Point of View....: MEDIA IN CRISIS – 1: Why feds should step in to help democracy’s watchdogs

    “I think newspaper readership is strongest 

    among people who are soon going to be dead.”

    — John Miller 
    former senior editor at The Toronto Star 

    A flourishing, capable news media is the oxygen of democracy. In Canada, our traditional oxygen-providers, the mainstream corporate-owned newspapers, are dying. We need to come up with something better to serve our communities.
    Since the beginning of the year, we’ve seen papers in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, and Ottawa bizarrely merged; a potentially disastrous strike in Halifax. The Guelph Mercury’s last print edition. The closure of The Toronto’ Star’s printing press, and gradual shaving back at every paper in the country.
    Not all papers are losing money, but none is flourishing. And none still provides the scope or depth of balanced news essential to a citizenry that wants to be engaged.

    How has this happened?

    First, corporate news, as a product, has been debased beyond recognition. Newsrooms are so short-staffed that in many communities they don’t report even important civic events. There’s as much fluff as news. Pages are filled with slapdash opinion pieces that are cheap to produce. For most papers, good analysis and investigative journalism are things of the past.
    Second, with good reason, people no longer trust what their papers say. I could find no recent independent survey that gauged Canadian opinions of the media. But I assume that our opinion of our papers is likely only slightly better than Americans’. A 2013 Gallup poll reported that fewer than 25 per cent of the Americans surveyed had “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in their newspapers.
    All the dailies – with the exception to some extent of The Toronto Star espouse  – corporate values that cater to the rich and powerful and help determine what is considered newsworthy. So right-wing policies detrimental to the general public are praised, unions and social change opposed. There’s much more, but you get the idea.
    In the face of widening consumer disdain for a diminished product, corporate media owners would have investors believe they will somehow come up with a new formula that will magically make them profitable. It is nowhere in sight.
    With corporate-controlled media highly unpopular and facing a life-threatening crisis, it’s the perfect time to come out in favour of public support for independent Canadian news and information on the Internet.
    Canada has a small but enthusiastic number of news and opinion websites, but we need to think in terms of supplementing those with well-funded sites that can provide communities and cities with the news and information they will need in future years.
    Unfortunately, while sites work hard at raising money, most of them do not bring in enough revenue to have the size of staff necessary to provide full coverage for their chosen market area.

    If Justin Trudeau’s apparent concern for our democracy is sincere, he must know that Canadians are not getting the basic information about events and developments that we need to be able to exercise our role as citizens.

    Sooner rather than later, the Liberals need to acknowledge the problem and find ways to step in and provide funding. Communities – especially those that will be launching new sites – need better sources of news.
    However, the public would not look favourably upon the idea of government giving financial support to media corporations that gobbled up millions of dollars in executive salaries and shareholder dividends while reducing coverage and chopping jobs.
    By contrast, Scandinavian countries regularly subsidize privately-owned daily newspapers. The media in those countries is viewed much differently than in Canada: readership is much higher than here, papers haven’t in the past raked in grossly high profits from tons of monopoly advertising, and executives are paid much less than in North America. As a result, Scandinavians actually like their papers, and governments have no trouble supporting them. 
    Canada’s crisis is worst in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Ottawa, the cities where Paul Godfrey’s Postmedia has forced once competing papers into shotgun marriages.

    Their situation may soon be even worse. If Postmedia cannot meet a $336- million debt payment by August 2017, the chain will likely go bankrupt. Beyond that is another payment of about $36-million by July 2018. At either point the papers may be put on the block.

    At the same time, there is speculation that if the chain’s debt were paid off, it might be profitable – depending on how much journalism it invested in.
    But would Canadians stomach a multi-million dollar bailout for Postmedia’s fleet of journalistic ghost ships after Godfrey, its CEO, walked off with a pay packet of $1.7-million and vast currents of cash have flowed to a hedge fund in New York?
    Other corporate media owners that opposed government support for weaker competitors in the past, may also change their minds and seek tax breaks for those properties. Their pleas deserve the same scrutiny.
    The Guelph Mercury, which closed last week, is part of the massive Torstar Corporation, owner of The Toronto Star and many other properties.  In view of its purchase last year of Vertical Scope, a digital media firm, for $200-million, what does the Canadian public—or the government—owe it to keep the Mercury alive?
    Yes, governments need to ensure that communities get the news they need, and that doesn’t include helping for-profit media. Even if the government wanted to, it would cost many millions of dollars to subsidize the failing newspaper industry. 
    However, to help cover the news gap left by the failing newspapers, the government could increase the funding of both CBC Radio and TV News and Current Affairs.
    Part II – Click here
    Contact Nick Fillmore at fillmore0274@rogers.com
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