Thunder Bay - A Serialized Investigative Podcast Series From Canadaland (That I'm Hosting/Writing)
Wait?! What’s Going On In Thunder Bay?
A full year of work went into this. It all started while I was a co-host of @CANADALANDCMNS (Canadaland Commons). Thunder Bay just kept making the news & we (I co-hosted Commons with the brilliant Hadiya Roderique) couldn't ignore it as a podcast - so we’d touch on it the best we could. The truth is, we couldn't dive deep enough into the news coming out of Thunder Bay on our podcast, it was too big a story and the news just kept coming. And, we kept track of that news at Commons, putting the bug in Jesse’s ear, “There is a much bigger story to tell and we want to tell it.”
I asked, Jesse and Canadaland listened.
During Canadaland’s annual membership drive in 2017, Canadaland publisher, Jesse Brown, announced the Thunder Bay podcast mini-series as a stretch goal to the membership drive. Honestly, I wasn’t sure we’d even come close to the goal, but, Canadaland listeners responded and we blew right past it.
The public response and support of the project was shocking & overwhelming and it felt good knowing that I’d be able to dig into this story. It felt good that I could give voice to this even though I’m not “from there.”
I’m from away, and it sucks when outsiders tell stories about places they don’t understand. But I understand Thunder Bay. I have a pretty deep & personal connection to this place. I have dear friends, family, and colleagues in Thunder Bay. When asking/talking about Thunder Bay with friends/family, everyone had a theory about what the hell is happening here. There are WILD ass theories out there & there are more grounded takes. At the core though, I never felt good about the answers I got about what was happening there.
Hence, the project.
CAN A PODCAST SERIES NAME, UNPACK & ARTICULATE THE WEIGHT OF SETTLER COLONIALISM ON INDIGENOUS PEOPLES?
It's easy to blame colonization on the larger problems in Thunder Bay. But, that's not enough for me. If you say the word "colonization" in Canada, most Canadian's roll their eyes and groan. "Colonization" is a non-starter in Canada. It’s bad dinner party conversation, hell, bring it up at Christmas dinner and Santa Claus shows up and takes the kids’ presents back.
To really understand colonialism, you have to take it a part, look at it, name it, call it what it is. Colonization is hard to quantify/qualify for Joe Canada, generally, Joe Canada doesn’t understand it. In fact, many people in Canada won’t/can’t/don’t admit that it’s even a THING in Canada.
I mean, obviously, we KNOW it when we SEE it, and worse, we KNOW it when we LIVE it. But what does a failing settler colonial project look like, what does it sound like? What is failing? Who is it failing? How and why?
Take it from Indigenous Peoples, the Canadian project has been a failure. Canadian's reading this will clap back, "...one of the most stable countries in the world...a G-8 country cant be a failure...". This past year, I've nearly come to blows many times over this question. I'm willing to fight you, trust me.
What good is violence? It doesn't work. My ancestors raised pipes, entered into a sacred agreement with the settlers that came here. They raised pipes to promise peace, to allow this country to be, to allow this country to build itself.
Their promise is my promise.
I'll continue to work to build a good and just society here.
I will continue being honest, transparent, and forward-looking. This country is only worth salvaging if we can all be this way. Canada must take a long, hard look in the mirror and ask itself, "Am I complicit? In what ways do I, my family, my relatives, my community, town or city, benefit from the destruction of the Indigenous population in Canada?”
That’s a fair expectation of Canadians, a little self reflection?!
No, you might not be threatening to burn reserves to the ground, you might have a Native friend or colleague, and perhaps you’re NOT the kind of bigot we see in viral videos on social media.
But guess what?
You don’t have to be any of those things to have benefited from a colonial system meant to destroy Indigenous Peoples.
Like Dave Chappelle said in his infamous Rick James sketch, “…cocaine is a hell of a drug…”. It turns out, so is colonialism.
Yes. There is racism in Thunder Bay, it's EVERYWHERE in Canada. Yes. There are failing institutions in Thunder Bay, they're EVERYWHERE in Canada. Yes. There are organizations that could've done more, they're EVERYWHERE in Canada.
This podcast will zoom WAY IN on the troubles of a city, and it'll zoom WAY OUT on the troubles of a country. Frankly, “Thunder Bay” could likely be made in dozens of towns/cities across Canada, Thunder Bay is not unique in its challenges and its failures.
There will be some that will love what we've done, there will be some that will not. The truth is, that's okay. I know the work that went into this, the hours spent, the trips, the fear some ppl had to talk to us. I know what we did.
The truth is I made this to fight for Indigenous Youth. I made this to shine a light on the world that kills Indigenous Peoples in disproportionate numbers. I made this to shine a light on a system that simply doesn't work. I made this for anyone that wants better.
We had an incredible challenge in front of us, we did our best, I know we did. There is way more to get wrong in this project than there is to get right.
In the end, I'm proud of this work and it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done professionally.
WITH SPECIAL THANKS
Thank you to @JesseBrown and team at @CANADALAND. I am NOT a journalist and I’m not trying to play one on the internet. The team at Canadaland (Kevin Sexton, Allie Graham, Latifah Abdin, David Crosbie, Brigitte Noel, and Jesse Brown) deserve the praise in regards to the journalism involved in telling a story like this - you were all incredible to work with.
An extra special thanks to Canadaland listeners that supported this during last years crowdfunder. We could only do this because you supported it. Thank you.