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CBC's Connie Walker discusses reporting Indigenous stories at SFU’s Emerging Leaders in Publishing Summit

March 05, 2019
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By Tessa Perkins Deneault

As part of the 2019 Emerging Leaders in Publishing Summit, SFU’s Publishing Program hosted a public talk about podcasting and Canada’s missing and murdered Indigenous women.

Featured speaker Connie Walker, an award-winning CBC News investigative reporter, spoke about her “Missing and Murdered” podcast, which is approaching 20 million downloads. A member of the Okanese First Nation in Saskatchewan, she explained her motivation to tell Indigenous stories, and how she can tell them in a more meaningful way using the podcast medium.  

“It's critical to create space for meaningful discussions like this one (the event hosted by SFU) to help improve the understanding of Indigenous issues,” she says.

Walker, who grew up on a reserve in Saskatchewan, understands the Indigenous experience. For her, the stories are personal. She said her interest in reporting on Indigenous stories began when she heard about Pamela George’s murder in Regina in 1995 and noticed that media coverage didn’t include much about George and her life.

While working in the CBC Aboriginal unit (now CBC Indigenous) in the 2000s, Walker was part of a team that put together a database of Canada’s missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. The goal was to include stories about not only their deaths, but their lives.

Walker explained that Missing and Murdered has capitalized on the popularity of the true crime podcast genre to expose listeners to content they may not have initially thought they were interested in. The podcast medium also affords Walker the time to delve deeper into these stories — to include more of the context and explanation about specific stories, and about the history and reality of the Indigenous experience in Canada.

“I think the serialized podcast format is actually the perfect platform to fully explore the lives of Indigenous people in Canada,” she says. “We've been able to use this incredibly popular genre to reach people who might not even know that they are interested in Indigenous issues.”   

Ryan McMahon, an Anishinaabe comedian, writer, media maker and host of the “Thunder Bay” podcast, joined Walker for a discussion and Q&A.

“Independent Indigenous media is essential to making this country better,” says McMahon, “as it allows for the presentation of diverse Indigenous voices. Being involved in the summit is a real honour and a privilege. How Indigenous stories are told and who tells those stories is constantly changing.”