APTN's Kenneth Jackson on covering First Nation governments

'Someone in a community, on the outs with their band council is in another world.'

For the last decade, investigative reporter Kenneth Jackson has been working for the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) to report on Indigenous communities. A week ago, he published a story about how a local band council has barred some residents -- including several elders -- from becoming members to retain control over their band and its finances.

Such pieces of journalism are rare in Canada. Resource shortages and a lack of institutional knowledge within media organizations mean there is little journalist oversight when it comes to how the members of First Nations are served by their governments and leaders. First Nations operate a little like very small municipalities. Many are well run. But, inevitably, some are not. Over the years, Kenneth and APTN have done invaluable work to hold those institutions accountable. Their work also shows how our federal and provincial governments often fail the same people they say they are trying to help.

Kenneth has also done award-winning work on Ontario’s foster care system, and in 2020 won the Canadian Committee for World Press Freedom (CCWPF) 2020 Press Freedom Award for his coverage of the topic. Having admired Kenneth’s work for several years, I got him on the phone this week to talk about reporting on First Nation governments, the responsibility of the federal government, and how journalism can serve the most vulnerable people on First Nations.

I started our interview by asking about the current status of the money owed to Peters Elders. That took us to a broader conversation about how difficult it can be for Indigenous people to challenge their First Nation’s governments.

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