Skoden: IndigiNews lands 3 nominations for Canadian Online Publishing Awards

It’s all about love and accountability. We’re finalists for COPA’s best feel good story and best investigative article.

The IndigiNews team is thrilled to announce we’ve been nominated for three Canadian Online Publishing Awards (COPA) in categories that are especially close to our hearts — best investigative story and best feel good story.

At IndigiNews we pride ourselves on sharing stories we hope will uplift Indigenous people. 

“We deserve to be seen and made visible because for far too long we’ve been hurt in the dark,” Kelsie Kilawna wrote in a recent newsletter to our community. Kelsie wears many hats on our team as cultural editor, senior Aunty and one of our Okanagan-based reporters.

Being recognized by an industry that we’re actively trying to decolonize and Indigenize is meaningful. It gives us hope for a new future of journalism over the vast unceded territories many people know as Canada. 

Best feel good story

In July, Chehala Leonard (ᐋᐧᐸᓇᒐᐦᑯᐢᐃᐢᑫᐧᐤ) wrote a story about how the COVID-19 pandemic prompted Sncəwips Heritage Museum workers to share captikw (oral stories) through a series of funny videos — like this one about land acknowledgements and this one about Coyote

“They have brought me so much joy, and they are so informative. So important to learn about the syilx community and their history!” wrote a community member on the IndigiNews Facebook page, in response to a post about the story.  

Sncəwips Heritage Museum assistants Coralee Miller and Kayt Ell. Photo by Kelsie Kilawna/IndigiNews

IndigiNews asked Leonard what it means to her to see this story listed as a finalist for COPA’s best feel good story

“That was such a gift to be part of,” she says.

“They’re the community members that are creating healing, that are bringing people together, that are sharing their humor to uplift others during a dark time, in the pandemic, when there was so much uncertainty and disconnection … I think that’s extremely powerful.

“In so many ways those stories are healing for me as well,” she adds, noting that often times journalism can be heavy work. 

Best investigative article

In the spirit of balance, IndigiNews works just as hard to hold power to account, especially when it comes to systemic racism and colonialism. And, as a result, two of our stories were nominated in COPA’s best investigative article category.

The first nomination is for our reporting on birth alerts. In January, IndigiNews revealed that months before B.C. officially ended the controversial practice of birth alerts, government lawyers advised MCFD that the practice was “illegal and unconstitutional” and posed a “litigation risk.”

This story was sparked by information contained in documents we received from B.C.’s Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) through a freedom of information request

It struck a deeply personal chord for IndigiNews reporter Anna McKenzie. 

“As an Indigenous mother, I’d heard whispers in community about birth alerts and about newborns being taken from their parents in the hospital,” she wrote in November, adding that her own labour experience was tainted by haunting stories about birth alerts. 

“What should have been a joyful time was overshadowed by my paralyzing fear that I would be judged as a new mom.”

IndigiNews reporter Anna McKenzie had a moss bag made in anticipation of her first child’s birth because she wanted her to be immersed in her Cree and Snuneymuxw culture right away. Photo by Captured Memories Photography.

After breaking the story, IndigiNews followed up — providing context from across the country, reactions and calls for accountability from Indigenous community leaders and B.C.’s Representative for Children and Youth. We also amplified a Cree Métis mother’s story about the long-term impacts of a birth alert

In September, a proposed class action lawsuit was launched in B.C.’s Supreme Court on behalf of parents subjected to birth alerts. It’s the first step in a “coordinated national litigation effort,” according to one of the firms working on the case. 

Our team continues to follow this story and fight the provincial government for full access to records requested from various B.C. ministries. 

The second nomination that we received in the best investigative article category is for our work investigating claims from workers who were tackling anti-Indigenous racism at the Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA). 

They told IndigiNews that during the province’s 2020 investigation into Indigenous-specific racism in the health care system, detrimental changes were made to their team. This included the firing of long-time cultural safety facilitator and then-Acting South Island Manager of Indigenous Health, Yvette Ringham-Cowan.

“The person that was fired in that whole organization was me, an Indigenous woman,” says Yvette Ringham-Cowan. Photo by Bayleigh Marelj/IndigiNews

The IndigiNews team spent months verifying information from six insiders to confirm what happened before revealing that at the time of publication there wasn’t anyone actively working on the cultural safety facilitation team. 

This team had been focused on working to combat anti-Indigenous racism on multiple levels within the organization. They told IndigiNews their mandate was to provide cultural safety training with a focus on working with leadership, coaching, reviewing policy and documents, supporting front-line health care staff, and developing strategies to combat anti-Indigenous racism. 

This story matters because Island Health is the largest employer on Vancouver Island “with over 24,500 employees, 1,900 physician partners and 3,000 volunteers,” according to their website

“It’s an honour to have a story recognized — especially this one,” says reporter Odette Auger, who expressed deep gratitude for all of the women who took the time and courage to share their experiences with IndigiNews.

“I learned a lot from my editors and from listening to the deep leadership of Indigenous women working through systemic racism.” 

The COPA awards will be handed out in February of 2022. Our sister outlet, The Discourse, received 11 nominationss for their work, the most of any media outlet, so to say we’re excited for the awards ceremony would be an understatement. This work is possible because of the hundreds of people who financially support IndigiNews, and the thousands of people who read and share our work. We are so grateful to all of you. [end]

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