Quebec newspaper articles outrage many Nunavik Inuit

The French-language daily La Presse misrepresents Inuit, critics say


Quebec daily newspaper

Quebec daily newspaper “La Presse” ran this image Feb. 25 on the front of a section containing a series of articles on Nunavik. (IMAGE COURTESY OF CYBERPRESSE.CA)

Many in Nunavik say Montreal’s French-language daily newspaper, La Presse, went too far, running a “negative” and “prejudiced” portrayal of Inuit in a Feb. 25 feature section.

La Presse published a multi-story feature on Nunavik in its Saturday edition called La Tragédie inuite, the Inuit tragedy.

(Note that the story is only available in French.)

La Presse reporter Pascale Breton and photographer Hugo-Sébastien Aubert travelled to Puvirnituq for their series of articles on a recent murder, local school drop-out rates, and foster families. The feature package also included a photo spread on homeless Inuit living in Montreal.

But Nunavimmiut said the coverage focussed too much on the social issues plaguing their region.

And Kuujjuaq-raised law school graduate Joseph Flowers wrote a letter, signed by 60 Nunavimmiut, to La Presse’s editor this week which argues that the series of articles contain racist overtones.

“Pascale Breton….presents a story in which we, the Inuit, are murderers, alcoholics, drop-outs, lazy, homeless, negligent parents, and citizens insensitive and unconcerned about the issues we face in our region,” Flowers writes.

“Breton is simply telling us what she observed when she spent seven long days in the North. It’s true, I reply, that we have major problems in our communities, there’s no question about it,” Flowers says. “But to tell a one-sided single story after having spent a short week in one village in the North is no way to give southern Quebeckers… an idea of the nuances, of the richness, of the potential that northern life offers.

“[There’s] no story about the wisdom of our elders, of the successes of our youth, of the innovative systems of governance we have, of our citizens’ economic, political, and social engagement in the villages,” Flowers says.

Readers in Nunavik were equally incensed with the image that ran on the front page of the feature section in La Presse.

The image shows two photos, which, when pieced together, form the body of a chained sled dog with an Inuk man’s head.

“I find the image outrageous, disrespectful and unprofessional,” said Ivujivik graphic artist Thomassie Mangiok, who wrote his own letter to La Presse. “There are many other Inuit who succeed as I have done in their own field of expertise and not only does this image not represent them, but it misrepresents the content of their success.”

Mangiok goes on to explain that hundreds of Nunavik Inuit living in Montreal lead comfortable lives and pursue successful careers.

“The role of the media is to inform, and it is true that the facts are sometimes positive, sometimes negative, to move our society to learn and evolve,” Mangiok writes. “That said, we can choose how to present them.

“There are so many problems we are trying to find a solution here daily, Nunavik,” Mangiok says. “If racism could be one less, it would make it easier.”

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