Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); }

Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair is Anishinaabe (St. Peter’s/Little Peguis) and an associate professor at the University of Manitoba. He is an award-winning writer, editor and activist who was named one of Canada’s Top 20 Most Influential People by Monocle Magazine. He won the 2018 Canadian columnist of the year at the National Newspaper Awards for his bi-weekly columns in The Winnipeg Free Press.

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic – when nervous Canadians were desperately looking for news sources to help them be informed about the sickness – many tuned in to the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN).

APTN National News, which has enjoyed an online viewership bump of 28 per cent during the pandemic, is the primary – and often the only – media outlet covering Indigenous experiences in Canada. The effect of the pandemic on our communities has been a crucial story: Indigenous communities are more susceptible to the spread of the virus due to poor infrastructure, overcrowded housing, and immune systems compromised by poverty, and APTN has been there with reporters, filmmakers, and storytellers across Indigenous territories.

Story continues below advertisement

Like all Indigenous stories, though, it’s not just about telling them; it’s about understanding how to tell them, and what they mean.

For example, it’s evident that the pandemic has laid bare Canada’s century and a half of genocide – its biggest secret. Secrets are exposed by truth, and truth can only be told by those most affected by the secret. This is why, among many reasons, Canada’s “other” national broadcaster is so important.

APTN started with a radical idea: that Indigenous peoples must tell their own stories, to empower us to design our own ways of articulating who we are, why we are here, and where we are going if we are to truly self-determine.

Indigenous writers and actors had occasionally done this on radio programs and television specials, but the idea of a 24-hour network designed, run by, and delivered by Indigenous peoples seemed impossible.

Nevertheless, in the midst of land struggles at Oka and Elijah Harper’s infamous “no” to the Meech Lake Accord, a group of grassroots media activists began to build interest in a network with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.

In 1991, they succeeded, and Television Northern Canada (TVCN) was birthed by a nationwide volunteer board of directors. TVCN would be renamed APTN on Sept. 1, 1999, launching into nine million households over two channels (APTN North and APTN South) with a weekly and, later, daily news program.

Over the years, APTN has developed home-grown documentaries, shows, episodic programs, a website, and an on-demand streaming service, as well as its flagship program: APTN National News, one of the most important media services in the country.

Story continues below advertisement

It’s one of the only places Indigenous languages can be heard in media, with nearly 30 per cent of APTN programming in Inuktitut, Cree, Innu, Ojibway, Dakota, Halkomelem, Maliseet, Mi’kmaq, Northern Tutchone, Oji-Cree and Mohawk.

Writers, reporters, and producers have won national awards – including many from the Canadian Association of Journalists. The organization consistently appears in the list of Canada’s Top 100 Employers.

But APTN is more than just a network; it’s a national institution. The network has fostered a critical mass of Indigenous journalists who have spread throughout the country. It’s become a hub for Indigenous writers who are taking television production in new directions. Its programming connects remote communities and provides a much-needed service for elders to preserve traditional knowledge and youth to hope for the future.

APTN has become one of the most important spaces in this country for conversations, debates, and imagining Indigenous life while creating a different Canada than the one we have inherited.

Evidence of its national importance came in 2015 when APTN was called upon by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to take a lead role in reconciliation and help Canada by providing “leadership in programming and organizational culture that reflects the diverse cultures, languages, and perspectives of Aboriginal peoples.” APTN has taken this role seriously, expanding into markets, creating partnerships, and broadcasting stories never seen before.

For example, APTN partnered with Sportsnet in 2018 to broadcast Hockey Night in Canada in Plains Cree – a first for an Indigenous language. This partnership was so successful the project was renewed, with plans to produce six games a year over the next three seasons.

Story continues below advertisement

APTN is the only place that provides full coverage of Assembly of First Nations elections, political events such as protest camps at Standing Rock, N.D., and the Indspire Awards.

The network’s most popular annual event is Indigenous Day Live, which attracts more than a million viewers and is staged across multiple cities in Indigenous communities across Canada.

It’s been a long 30 years. But the journey has just begun.

Keep your Opinions sharp and informed. Get the Opinion newsletter. Sign up today.

Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies