Following the arrest and detention of two journalists and 13 others by the RCMP in British Columbia on Friday night, legal experts and journalists say continued restrictions on press freedom while covering up indigenous rights are an attempt to silence the voices of land defenders , as well as curb reporting. to the point.
And this is something that has happened before, especially when police action and violence against indigenous peoples need to be documented, he says.
“It is appalling that this is happening… but it is also not surprising because this is how indigenous peoples and indigenous nations behave on a day-to-day basis,” said Brandy Morin, a reporter for Treaty 6 in Alberta, who lives in Cree, Iroquois and identifies as. French.
Photojournalist Amber Bracken, who was reporting for The Narwhal, and independent filmmaker Michael Toledano were arrested while reporting from the Suvaten area of Wet and remain in the custody of the RCMP.
Both were covering land guards who were blocking an access road used by Coastal GasLink pipeline workers. The blockade was built by members of the Gidimten clan, one of five in the Wet’suwetan Nation, who have long opposed the construction of the Costal GasLink pipeline that would cross their unrelated territory.
The RCMP said in a press release that they arrested 15 people, including two journalists, for enforcing the prohibitory orders. Those arrested were asked to go or be taken into custody, he said, adding that the journalists identified themselves as the media. Indigenous elders are also among those arrested.
Several organizations have called for his immediate release, including the Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ).
In July, CAJ along with other media organizations won a court challenge in the Supreme Court in BC on freedom of the press in the Fairy Creek area. The judge’s final decision agreed with media groups, indicating that the RCMP could not interfere with coverage without providing an operational reason for doing so.
And the rights of indigenous peoples to be on the land should be discussed together as much as the rights of journalists to cover issues, Morin said.
“This is unirrigated land. What is happening is illegal internationally.”
The arrests of Toledano and Bracken are in line with recent incidents of journalists covering indigenous rights being arrested.
In 2016, journalist Justin Braque was charged in criminal and civil court in Newfoundland and Labrador while covering indigenous land defenders in Muscat Falls. His name was included in the injunction to remove the land guards from the site.
Ultimately, all civil charges were dismissed in 2019 and all charges were dismissed by June 2020. Supreme Court Justice Derek Green, in his 2019 ruling dismissing the civil charges, said the injunction is a “blunt tool” and could risk “unduly ditching” on others. rights, including freedom of the press, and protection of the rights of indigenous peoples.
“Indigenous communities have historically been underrepresented in Canadian media. This makes freedom of the press even more important to cover stories involving indigenous land issues,” he said.
Despite this court ruling in 2019, Bracken and Toledano were still arrested, which could result in a chilling effect on future reporting on these issues, said Justin Safayeni, a partner at the Toronto firm Stockwoods LLP, which is publicly traded. Specializing in Law and Media Law.
“Protecting freedom of the press is especially important in a case like this, where there is a strong public interest in documenting police action against those who claim Indigenous rights,” he told the Star via email.
Vincent Wong, an attorney and PhD student at Osgood Hall Law School who previously led the Media Freedom Model Laws Project at the University of Toronto, said courts seem timid to take a strong position against the RCMP for limiting press freedom. especially when it comes to covering. indigenous issues.
“When there is an injunction… it is one of those cases when we need press more than ever. Maybe this is a case where force is being used,” he said. where human rights violations are most likely to occur.”
Wong said there’s also the question of jurisdiction and whether BC has the right to impose injunctions on unincorporated territory.
There is growing concern about press freedom violations that occur in land rights movements or in places where people are fighting injunctions, said Sonya Fatah, an assistant professor at X University, and co-lead on the Canada Press Freedom Project, Which is developing a tracking mechanism to measure press freedom violations.
Only in recent years has some journalism started to move away from covering Indigenous rights with a colonial lens – and this shift coincides with the RCMP action taken against journalists at protest sites, she said.
“The interesting thing about the work that Amber and Michael have done is that there is a distinct change, and one of the coverages that is a real consistent coverage… it is consolidating the public record on land movements, ” He said.
“The point to remember is that the press is not extraordinary under the Charter. It includes the press under the right to freedom of expression and the right to capture these moments. But this right is also given to all residents of the country.”