It’s tough being a reporter at times. Take November 14th when I was kicked out of a Grand Council/CRA council/board meeting. I was told it was a public meeting by one of the secretaries but in sitting in I found I was being ousted because I was media. I told them that I was there as a James Bay Cree beneficiary but was told that I still represented the Nation and had to leave.
I was angry at the way it suddenly became an incamera meeting. I was told that sensitive subjects were being discussed and had replied that I would respect the confidentiality of what was being said. It did no good. I guess one of the reasons was that Deputy Grand Chief Mukash opposed the AIP (Agreement-in-principle) during the meeting.
Still, in-camera sessions should be used as seldom as possible and not as a convenient way to dismiss the media. As media I feel that it is not only our job to inform the public but also to act as recorders of history and this deal certainly will be a part of Cree history whether or not it is signed. I would point out to the Cree leadership that both the US and Canadian government systems have television channels that show the debates and arguments that are prevalent and necessary for a democratic society to survive.
When talking to a fellow Cree media from CBC North I learnt that a consultation meeting with Cree post-secondary students would be closed to the media. Now this was a public meeting as we understood things to be. This meant any Cree could go but us. Understandably we were upset so we all decided to go en masse as it were and if they wanted to kick us out it would have to be done publicly. We went because of the reasons I gave before.
We weren’t given the boot but in the introduction it was said that people might notice cameras and tape recorders around and if they made people uneasy to let the panel know. Added to this were the words “we didn’t invite them, they came on their own.” I felt a little disappointed as I had never seen the consultation process and once again felt ostracized. I mean no disrespect but it felt like because I had a job in the media I had somehow agreed to give up my rights as a Cree citizen. I do not consider this to be true.
Perhaps our leaders are not used to the functions of media so I will attempt to explain some of them. I personally am against the AIP because it calls for the Rupert’s River Diversion and the Rupert’s is near and dear to my heart. That is my personal opinion but in the Nation I attempt to allow all voices in Eeyou Istchee to be heard as best as I can. As an independent paper I could make my magazine as slanted as some in the Council/Board meeting thinks that all Cree media is but I believe in the right of the people to make a well informed decision. It’s only fair.
I have been told the reason why we don’t have as many letters supporting the AIP is that people are afraid to sign their name to such a letter. It is the policy of the Nation that we allow anonymous letters as long as we know where it comes from (legal purposes). The reason why we do this is because the Cree nation is small and yes, there can be repercussions. We do this so a voice that should be heard is not silenced.
As for the AIP I will also abide by any decision as long as the Cree people have the chance to make it in a democratic fashion as I feel it is their right to do so. I will also vote if I am given that chance but in the meantime I will do my job as a reporter and editor-in-chief.