Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Manitoba chiefs blast CBC for online racism

WINNIPEG - Media organizations are creating a forum for online racism by allowing readers and bloggers to comment on stories on news websites, Manitoba First Nations leaders said Wednesday.

They're now calling on the Manitoba government to investigate the CBC, in particular, for violating Canada's hate laws.

"I'm hoping for a public outcry, that people will say, 'That's racist. That's enough,' " Southern Grand Chief Morris Swan Shannacappo said Wednesday at a news conference.

Swan Shannacappo and Chief Russell Beaulieu of the Sandy Bay First Nation called the media after university student leaders came to them with the results of monitoring news websites from April 2008 to this month.

They say what they read shocked them.

The leaders are now asking for help to prevent racism either by public pressure or criminal deterrence.

There are "persistent bloggers who pounce on almost any story dealing with First Nations or indigenous issues and use it as an excuse to rant against or ridicule indigenous people," Swan Shannacappo said.

"The world will always have its racists and kooks, but the CBC is providing a vehicle for them with a forum to attack our people."

CBC Manitoba was singled out by the Southern Chiefs Organization, but similar comments are on media websites across Manitoba.

Aboriginal leaders called on the Manitoba government to investigate the CBC for violations of Canada's hate laws and pass on the findings to federal regulators.

Jeff Keay, a CBC spokesman, said the CBC news website received almost 200,000 comments in January.

All comments on news sections of the website are reviewed by a moderator before they are posted publicly, he said.

That means some comments make it through that are later removed, he said.

"Providing a forum for people to, you know, express their view on contentious issues brings a risk," said Keay.

"We recognize that occasionally there is material there that shouldn't appear."

Intergovernmental Minister Steve Ashton and Heritage Minister Eric Robinson said they were outraged by the comments posted on the CBC website.

"We believe there should be some type of apology to aboriginal people," Ashton said.

Robinson added: "As Canadians, we don't pay taxes to create a platform for hate speech."

Both ministers said that because CBC and the Internet are federally responsibilities, there is little the province can do except encourage the Southern Chiefs to file a complaint with the CBC's ombudsman and a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

The commission has been at the centre of a debate over hate speech focusing on whether or not it should have the right to police online speech, including material on media websites

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