Reflection: Shifting our journalism from historic harm to community healing
Nunatsiaq News reporter Meral Jamal looks back on how she covered the Papal visit
Pope Francis’ visit to Canada this year was a long time coming. Yet, in the lead-up to the actual event, I wasn’t sure how I could contribute effectively to Nunatsiaq News’ coverage.
There are the glaring realities of being in this job with the identity I inhabit. I am not Inuk. I am not Canadian. I have no history with the Catholic Church — I was born and raised a practising Muslim 12,000 kilometres away in the Middle East.
I was also based in Ottawa at the time, the city I called home since I moved to Canada for university in 2017. (I moved to Iqaluit this September.)
It was all a challenge. Knowing that I am not the best or right person to be writing about the papal visit, yet knowing I came into this job feeling responsible for sharing and honouring the richness and diversity of the Inuit homeland, of Nunavummiut.
I joined Nunatsiaq News first and foremost because I wanted to be an ally.
It was also interesting that while Pope Francis was making a stop in Iqaluit on July 29 to apologize to Inuit across Canada and Nunavut, much of the focus was on Iqaluit as a city.
While equally important, the City of Iqaluit has a population of roughly 8,000 people, many of us from the south. Meanwhile, the Inuit population across the territory is around 30,000 and across Inuit Nunangat roughly 60,000.
All this meant that I was curious about Inuit beyond Iqaluit who were following the Papal visit. Those who weren’t present in the city and would have to hear Pope Francis’ apology through television screens and radio coverage. How they would go about their decision to accept or refuse his apology when they weren’t witnessing it all in person.
I reached out to Inuit who were sharing their experience following the visit from their communities on social media. I also reached out to the Hamlet of Cambridge Bay, which was holding a community screening at the Canadian High Arctic Research Station.
What I found in my reporting was that Inuit across Nunavut are resilient as ever. That in spite of the trauma they have experienced across generations and were forced to relive during the Pope’s visit, many of them have made — or are now actively making — the profound personal decision of healing.
“I took off to the land to heal,” one of my sources told me following our interview on the day.
“Just take time.”
I also learned that our journalism needs a continued and consistent shift in focus as well. That our work on reporting on the past and present of the Catholic Church, the ripple effects of the Papal visit, and the ongoing process of reconciliation, isn’t done. That we have the unique opportunity and responsibility to keep holding space for bigger, fuller and deeper conversations about what it means to move forward — with courage and care.
That ultimately, we need to go beyond reporting the harm to reflecting the process of healing — both personal and communal — that so many Inuit have actively taken on.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts and insight. Although journalism needs to be objective, I like yours responsibility as a non-indigenous person that you need to consider what impact your stories will have on a population.
The cultural obsession over identity and who gets to say what is not only exhausting, but also distracting and above all fallacious. What makes anyone the ‘right’ person to speak on any topic is a hard-earned knowledge base and a keen intellect. Period.
Walking around on egg shells and self-flagellating any time you want to discuss a serious topic is, in part, a product of the environment media itself has created, so seeing a member of the media in knots over it is a little fitting I suppose.
From some people’s perspective everything must be compartmentalized and assigned ownership, including opinions on the compartment itself (i.e. identity).
Ultimately it is gatekeeping and that is about control. The entry fee is an article like this that expresses deference and allyship. Of course there is nothing wrong with being an ally or showing respect. The latter, especially should be a given.
My concern is when members of the media abandon objectivity and balance in favor of the carefully guarded narratives that any given community might project into the world, done to maintain a certain status among them.
I wonder if the survivors are feeling better after the apology. I am also a survival. The apology didn’t take away the pain, the nightmares, the anger. They were just words to me. No amount of money, or apologies will never ever take away the pain. Move forward. Stop living the past. Just hurts you and your family.