Going Beyond Cultural Comfort Zones 1 / 6 Amy Hadley, CBC Thunder Bay

Going Beyond Cultural Comfort Zones with CBC Thunder Bay

Published date: Jan. 28, 2014

CBC Thunder Bay’s programming reflects the preoccupations and demographics of its large broadcast area, populated by both Aboriginals and non-Aboriginals.  Included in that area is the City of Thunder Bay, with a mixed population numbering 120,000.

Some of CBC Thunder Bay’s local programming and activities is aimed directly at bridging a gap between these groups of citizens, and results have been positive for local audiences and, especially, participants.

CBC Thunder Bay’s 2011 Common Ground Café brought together people from the two communities to discuss local education, employment and safety issues ─ first in small groups over the soup they made together, then on a dedicated Facebook page and later at a public forum.  The project’s success was recognised with the 2012 RTNDA Adrienne Clarkson Award for Diversity and the 2011 Thunder Bay Mayor’s Award to media for Community Safety and Crime Prevention. 

In 2013, CBC Thunder Bay followed up with Embedded, a project designed to help citizens better understand each other by inviting them to participate in experiences from the other group’s daily life.  The result?  Volunteers moved out of their usual cultural comfort zones and developed appreciation for a different perspective.

Here’s a taste of these enlightening exchanges.

Making Bannock:  In a laughter-filled kitchen, Nicole McKay taught Heidi Zettel and Monique Wylie to make traditional bannock, the sort that “reminds me of being back home.”  Nicole recalled asking her Grandmother how to bake such “wonderful, thick, soft, fluffy oven bannock.”  Her Grandmother replied, “Make with love.”  And that was what Nicole taught her embedded students to do, while bridging any cultural divide that might have existed before the baking lesson.   Monique later shared the lesson with her grade four students.

After School Program:  Calvin Redsky, a youth outreach worker, invited education students from Lakehead University to the Biwaase’aa afterschool program at St. James Public School.  Biwaasee provides homework help, Aboriginal cultural lessons, crafts, and physical activities, free of charge, for children in grades 2-6.  Calvin Redsky believes that this program can bring Aboriginal children back to their traditional way of life and offer them something to look forward to.  The university students were looking for ways to incorporate indigenous teachings into the school curriculum.

Mining Company:  Glenn Nolan, from the Missanabie Cree Nation, and Vice-President of Aboriginal Affairs at Noront Resources, welcomed local community educator, Lynda Banning, to his Thunder Bay office.  Glenn explained his motivation for interacting with Aboriginal communities and their Councils, and for finding future opportunities for Aboriginal workers.  Lynda was particularly interested in understanding more about how Glenn engages with First Nations people and about his desire to motivate youth.

Drum Teachings:  Shelby Ch’ng visited a traditional lodge to observe a drumming ceremony with Teresa Trudeau, of the Anishnawbe Mushkiki Health Centre.  Teresa explained that the Thunderbird Drum is central to the Ojibway culture and that ceremonies include four songs: the pipe song, the welcoming song, a woman’s traditional song, and a man’s traditional song.  Teresa hoped that Shelby would gain an appreciation for the gifts that Aboriginals have to share with other nations and other people.  For Shelby, the connection between the drummers most strongly impressed her.  She found the whole experience, even as an observer, very inclusive.

Police Ride-along:  Ken Cyrette, of Fort William First Nation, is a political science student at Lakehead University.  Coming from Confederation College’s Police Foundations course, and potentially heading to Law School in the future, Ken wanted to know the differences in attitudes and actions between First Nations police forces and the Thunder Bay Police Force.  His ride-along was with Constable Gordon Snyder, of the traffic services department.  Ken was particularly interested in observing whether or not racial targeting was present but saw, instead, traffic stops provoked by drivers’ habits rather than their profiles.  Ken enjoyed the experience and was impressed by the all-consuming nature of the job.

Mainstream Newsroom:  Sandi Boucher had no idea of the intricacies of creating and smoothly broadcasting a morning radio program until she joined CBC Thunder Bay very early one day.  She was impressed by what she saw and enjoyed the experience of doing a bit of hosting herself.  Reflecting on the experience of walking in another person’s shoes for a few hours, she said that growing up as a First Nations person, she believed that she was limited in her choices.  She now wonders if that was actually true, or simply a predominant belief.  Speaking of how Aboriginal people are generally portrayed by mainstream media, Sandi suggested that media make the effort to talk to Aboriginals, rather than just about them.

Mayor for a Day:  Catherine Banning, a Tribal Council Economic Development and Community Planning Advisor, spent a 12-hour day with Mayor Keith Hobbs.  On Catherine’s mind was the City’s policy on racism and how they were handling discrimination towards Aboriginals and minorities.  She discovered a knowledgeable and compassionate Mayor, interested in having everyone work together to build a better community.  The Mayor discussed the important economic contribution of First Nations people in the area and his relationship-building with the Fort William First Nation and other local groups.  For Catherine, the day’s highlight was the opening of a new Habitat for Humanity house.

Quick facts

    CBC Thunder Bay serves a broadcast area in Northwestern Ontario of around 240,000.

    The station’s programming and activities help local Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal citizens to understand each other.

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