Jean-Pierre Blais at the public hearing on applications to operate radio stations serving Indigenous Canadians in major urban markets

Speech

Gatineau (Quebec)
March 27, 2017

Jean-Pierre Blais, Chairman
Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission

Scenario

-   Introduction of Elder, Ms. Renaud, by CRTC Chairman Jean-Pierre Blais.

Hello, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to this public hearing. Before we start, I would like to invite Elder Monique Renaud, Métis of Algonquin and Huron-Wendat descent, to open this hearing with a traditional prayer that will help guide our thoughts in the coming days.

Ms. Renaud was born and has lived in the Hull/Gatineau region all her life. She has a bachelor’s in education and taught for 35 years in Gatineau. She has been retired for a number of years.

For many years, Ms. Renaud has worked in traditional healing in her community. She also gives healing workshops in which she has been teaching the principles of healing since 1993. She welcomes and advises people who ask for this help at her home or at the Kumik or Ishkotew lodges and also offers group instruction in different circles.

Ms. Renaud performs the Indigenous Water Blessing Ceremony, a sacred Indigenous ceremony, and has been doing so since 2002 in this region. She has since taught the water blessing chant to hundreds of women. This ceremony has been held under the bear moon at Victoria Island and at Kumik for several years. She is a water and earth guardian.

Ms. Renaud recently worked with the ministers responsible for the pre-Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. She offered spiritual support to the leaders, families of the victims, the ministers responsible and also met and discussed her vision on reconciliation with the Prime Minister.

Ms. Renaud is a grandmother who uses the Anishinabe’s Seven Sacred Teachings in all aspects of her life and shares them with others.

Ms. Renaud... (Invitation to join Jean-Pierre Blais)

Presentation of present (tobacco)

-  Explanation and prayer by Ms. Renaud, Indigenous Elder.

Check against delivery

Ms. Renaud, I thank you for this prayer. We hope it will guide us, the commissioners, stakeholders, staff and the public, in having informed and open discussions during this hearing in order to then make an enlightened decision. Thank you for also welcoming us on traditional Algonquin territory. I would like to thank the Algonquin people and pay respect to their elders.

The CRTC will examine the applications in order to issue five operating licences for Indigenous radio stations in Ottawa, Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver.

Background

In June 2015, the CRTC revoked the radio station licences held by Aboriginal Voices Radio (AVR) resulting in five frequencies becoming available in these large markets. This decision was made because the broadcaster found itself, on multiple occasions, in situations of severe and repeated non-compliance regarding regulations and its conditions of the licence.

Holding a broadcasting licence in Canada is a privilege. Furthermore, having the mandate to serve the Indigenous community is very important. The CRTC noted with regret that AVR had been in non-compliance since its launch, and did not fulfill its commitments or the specific mandate it was given.

Following the revocation, the CRTC issued a request for applications to operate these available frequencies, while specifying that innovative propositions to serve the Indigenous community would be given priority. We received twelve propositions that will be considered carefully during this hearing.

Champlain’s Dream

At the beginning of my mandate with the CRTC, I received, as a gift, a book titled Champlain’s Dream in which the life and work of Samuel de Champlain is discussed. I believe, as does the author David Hackett Fischer, that Champlain was not one of the many European mercenaries that wanted to take Indigenous lands and exploit them. He was rather a humanist who was welcoming and inclusive. The explorer had a vision of the colony where, and I quote, “people of different cultures could live together in amity and concord.” Is this not a current topic despite the 400 years that separate our era and Champlain’s?

As an outcome of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, the Government of Canada wants to ensure the protection and promotion of Indigenous culture. The Canadian broadcasting system plays an important role in the reconciliation of Indigenous peoples with Canadian society. The Commission also raised the immediate need to serve the Indigenous community as a whole since vital questions of importance to Indigenous Canadians are not completely covered, or not covered at all, by non-Indigenous media.

Since rewriting history is impossible, the CRTC is therefore working to pave the way for the future. Today, is about giving a voice to Indigenous peoples, allowing you to share your history and heal your wounds. This voice, your voice, will allow you to broadcast information on issues of concern and have a means to shape your destiny.

As Elder Art Solomon said so well: “To heal a nation, we must first heal the individuals, the families and the communities.”

As described in our last three year plan, the Commission will soon start examining its policies on Indigenous radio. However, we cannot wait for that process to be completed before granting these licences. The Indigenous communities in these five large markets deserve access to stations that reflect them and that tackle with the issues that concern them. Nothing stops you, however, during this hearing, from starting the conversation about this upcoming consultation.

Finally, I would like to share that I profoundly regret that the panel does not include Indigenous members. Past and present governments have not appointed qualified candidates from your communities for almost 20 years. Unfortunately, there is nothing I can do about this. Nominations are made by Cabinet. However, my colleagues and I promise to listen to you, to hear each argument in good faith and to make a decision to the best of our knowledge. Since all of you cannot obtain a licence, some will be disappointed. But time is of the essence and you need a voice to be able to continue on the road to reconciliation.

Procedure

Before we begin, I would like to make a few introductions.

The panel for this hearing consists of:

  • Linda Vennard, Regional Commissioner for Alberta and the Northwest Territories;
  • Christopher MacDonald, Regional Commissioner for the Atlantic Region and Nunavut;
  • And myself, Jean-Pierre Blais, Chairman of the CRTC. I will be presiding over this hearing.

The CRTC team that will assist us includes:

  • Rachel Marleau, hearing coordinator;
  • Crystal Hulley, Legal Counsel; and
  • Jade Roy, hearing secretary.

I would now like to invite Ms. Roy to explain the procedure we will be following.

Madam Secretary...


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