Journalists have failed aboriginal peoples, says Alain Saulnier, president of the Quebec Federation of Professional Journalists.

“We have done our jobs badly. We should review our work as journalists.”

Saulnier pointed to a recent survey by La Presse that found that 52 per cent of francophone Quebecers believe that their quality of life is worse than in native communities. “This survey is revealing. It shows we have failed,” he told The Nation.

Saulnier ignited a debate at a recent conference of Quebec journalists by taking the media to task for its biased coverage of native issues. Joining him in criticizing the media was Quebec Ombudsman Daniel Jacoby [see Briefs, page 9].

Saulnier said Quebec reporters fall into one of three categories: journalists who do their jobs well; those who by ignorance use racist stereotypes; and those who are openly bigoted and use “racist hate propaganda.” As an example of a journalist who falls into the third category, he pointed to CJMS radio host Gilles Proulx, who regularly links Mohawks with criminality and calls for an armed invasion of Mohawk communities.

Saulnier hoped that his criticisms would marginalize media figures like Proulx and would spark some reflection among reporters and editors. He said there is widespread “ignorance” of native life among journalists and in the wider population.

More evidence of racism in the media surfaced in late March. A Montreal anti-racism group made public transcripts from radio shows on which aboriginal people were referred to as “savages” and were threatened with violence.

“At one point, Serge, I think there are going to have to be a couple of rifles that come out,” said Russell Bouchard, a regular commentator on CJMT of Chicoutimi, to morning host Serge Cloutier last November. “And after that, I know the Indians, I’ve studied them; for 500 years, the very minute one falls (dead), the others run. ”

Bouchard continued, “If the Quebec government had understood that, knocked off one or two, it’s really too bad, I’m anti-violence but at some point, I feel personally assaulted in my life when I see injustices like this.” Bouchard was referring to the arrest of a French-Canadian man for selling contraband cigarettes, while natives were supposedly going unpunished for doing the same thing.

Louis Champagne, the morning host on Jonquiere’s CKRS radio, made racist remarks on several occasions, repeatedly calling native people in Chibougamau and Pointe Bleue “savages.” Champagne told Gazette reporter Alex Norris that “savage” isn’t a bad word. “They way they [natives] work with us is a bit savage—putting all the laws on their side like they do,” he said. “They have incredible advantages, those people. Look at them. They get welfare and they don’t even pay for it!”