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Toronto Metropolitan University and Journalism at the Creative School

JRN 350 / JN 8420 - Reporting on Indigenous Issues

Section 011 - Winter 2021

Instructor Information

Karyn Pugliese
Email Address:
Phone Number:
Office Hours:
Tuesday Tuesdays 16:30-17:30


Karyn, aka Pabàmàdiz, is best known for her work as a Parliament Hill reporter and as the Executive Director of News and Current Affairs at APTN (Aboriginal Peoples Television Network), where she ran the news department for seven years. She joined Ryerson's faculty in the Spring of 2020 while completing a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard University. Karyn has worked in both daily news and on long-form investigations at a variety of outlets including ichannel, VisionTV, CBC and CTV.

Karyn is currently the past president of the Canadian Association of Journalists, and she is a board member of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression. She is a Journalists for Human Rights Ambassador and worked as an expert trainer for the program in South Sudan in 2018.

Her journalism has been recognized by the Canadian Association of Journalists, the Canadian Screen Awards, the Native American Journalists Association and the Public Policy Forum. She holds degrees in Journalism and History.

Karyn is a citizen of the Pikwàkanagàn First Nation in Ontario, and is of mixed Algonquin and Italian descent. When she is not engaged in acts of journalism, you'll find her paddling a canoe, shooting photos and eating frybread.

Course Overview

Course Description

Journalism has influenced the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadian peoples, including the story of colonialism, the residential school system, and reconciliation processes. Students will learn this context as well as the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the way in which governments interact. Students will report on Indigenous issues, developing their cross-platform skills as well as networks of knowledge. Key will be the development of relationships with Indigenous communities.

Course Focus and Scope

A non-Indigenous reporter, and friend of mine, described his transition into covering Indigenous issues as "walking through the looking-glass."

This course will introduce to Indigenous world views and help students understand the impact of colonialism historically and in the present. It will challenge students to think historically and holistically about issues covered by journalists. Students will learn to identify gaps in media coverage and think about how to improve coverage and relationships with Indigenous Peoples.

Guest lectures provide further insights to topics by Indigenous and non-Indigenous journalists.

Learning Outcomes

By successfully completing this course you should be able to:

  • Recognize the diversity of Indigenous peoples in Canada.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of Indigenous/non-Indigenous relations in Canada.
  • Understand the skills and approach necessary to work with Indigenous communities.
  • Evaluate coverage related to Indigenous peoples.
  • Design effective questions for discussion and interviews.
  • Improve your reporting, editing and production skills

Teaching Methods

The course runs both synchronously and asynchronously. What does this mean? You can plow ahead and complete readings and materials in the order and as you like. For each topic, you’ll have to complete a quiz that tests for comprehension of the required readings/materials.

BUT to keep everyone on track and with some sense of shared purpose, there are two elements which must be completed at specific times:

1/Discussions: Everyone will have a chance to lead a discussion topic, and these are scheduled. As well, you are required to post to four discussions throughout the term. You may of course contribute to more than four, but four is the requirement.

2/Assignments: Everyone will have to complete an interview,  a feature piece or an essay. These are to be completed by the dates which appear below.

Required Course Textbook(s) and Materials

There is no required text for this course.

Recommended Course Readings or Resources

All readings/broadcasts/materials will be found through D2L. Please note that some materials are required (they form the basis of quizzes in addition to current events and in-class discussions), while others are optional. The ‘extras’ should be useful for those who choose to report on specific topics.

I also recommend using Elements of Indigenous Style: A guide for writing by and about Indigenous peoples by Gregory Younging. You can buy this online in hard copy or e-formats. There is also a copy in the Ryerson library at: PN147 .Y68 2018

Style guide: Assignments should conform to The Canadian Press Style (login at

Marking Scheme

For more information about exams, please see Ryerson University’s Senate Policy on Examinations No. 135. For more information about grade appeals and reassessments please see relevant Senate Policies: 

Assessment Course Weight Week Assigned Week due
Participation in a Pitch session 15% Jan 22 Feb 12
Profile 20% Feb 26 March 26
Feature  or essay 30% March 26 April 23
Summary Papers 4 (should be on longer items not 5 min items)  16% (4x4%) Students will choose a reading  The week the reading is scheduled (Weeks 3-12)
Discussion lead  4% Students will lead a discussion about a reading of their choosing The week the reading is scheduled Weeks 3-12)
All Assignments are due by the start of class at 4PM ET

Classroom Management

In this classroom: It is always ok to ask questions. It is ok to try something ambitious and have it not work out. We treat each other with professional courtesy and respect. Racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia are not tolerated. We respect one and other’s unique lived experiences. We aim to be thoughtfully critical, and always kind.

A note about guest speakers:
Throughout the semester, we will have guest speakers from the media industry. They are generously taking the time to share their expertise. You are expected to give them your undivided attention. As part of your participation mark, you are expected to have read background information on invited guests and ask questions after their talk. It is desirable that you keep your cameras on for guest speakers to demonstrate active listening as a sign of respect for their time.

Late Assignments

Deadlines matter in journalism, they matter at RSJ and they matter in this class. Extensions will be granted for on health or compelling compassionate grounds. Considerations are given considering the pandemic.  If you think you will have issues meeting a deadline, please do not wait until the last minute to reach out. This MUST be discussed BEFORE the work is due.
All other late assignments will receive grade deductions based on the university's senate policy and be penalized one letter grade (from B to B- etc.) for each day or portion of day beyond the deadline. That means an assignment due at noon ET and handed in beyond
that deadline will lose one letter grade every 24 hours past the deadline



Missed Term Work or Examinations

Health Certificate:

If you will miss an assignment, test or examination due to illness, you should let your instructor know in advance and then submit an Academic Consideration Request Form within three working days of the missed assessment. If you are a B. Journ., student, this form should go to RSJ student affairs coordinator, Bev Petrovic; all other students should submit the documentation to their home department or program's student affairs coordinator or program administrator.

If this happens only once per semester, you will NOT have to provide a health certificate or other documentation from a health-care provider — Ryerson University’s new policy on missed assessments indicates that students need a health certificate signed by a physician only if they miss more than one assignment, test or examination in a course in a single semester. If you are going to miss a second assessment, please let me know in advance or ASAP after the fact.

Students are expected to complete all assignments, tests, and exams within the time frames and by the dates indicated in this outline. If you need accommodations according to Policy 159: Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities, the student and instructor must discuss any modifications as soon as possible.

Exemptions or deferral of an assignment, term test, or final examination may be permitted for a medical or personal emergency or religious observance. Please provide documentation.


Ethical and truthful work

Your work should be accurate, verifiable and your own; using fake interviews, misrepresenting or making up sources, data or using misleading visuals/audio, are all serious journalistic and academic offences. Your work also must be free of any copyright restrictions.  If you have ANY doubts, please speak to the instructor. Details are in the School of Journalism's Rules of Conduct, which contain greater detail about truth-telling issues specific to the practice of journalism. These are in the student handbook.

All work you submit must be entirely your own. Penalties for fabrication, plagiarism or other forms of cheating will range from failing an assignment to failing the course and will include a disciplinary notice being placed on your academic record.

You are required to adhere to Ryerson University's Academic Integrity policy which covers plagiarism and other transgressions. It is at:

Unless explicitly permitted by me, you may not use close friends, relatives, bosses or other journalism students as sources. You must tell me if there is any emotional or financial involvement, or any other potential conflict of interest with a source. Every source must be available for fact checking.

Course Information

The following section addresses course-specific issues and general information about student access and support.

Departmental Policies and Course Practices

To learn more about course management expectations, please review Ryerson University’s Course Management Policy No.166

I know you are all adventurous journalists who want to get the story, and when doing documentary-style work, we go to where the story is! But please always keep your personal safety in mind while reporting. Always leave a situation or interaction in which you feel unsafe or harassed. Avoid going into private residences on your own, and make sure someone always knows where you are while reporting. If you are reporting a story that involves listening to accounts of traumatic events, be sure to check in with yourself often and take breaks before you need them. Speak to me if you have a story that you think requires some planning around health and safety and I will be happy to assist.


Ryerson University’s Student Learning Support office will work confidentially and directly with you if you have temporary and permanent disabilities that impact your academic functioning; your rights and responsibilities are outlined here: 

 Ryerson Senate Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities No. 159

Once the instructor receives an accommodation letter, the instructor should meet with the student to discuss what arrangements should be made to assignments, classes or other issues in the course.

Ryerson Student Email

All students in full and part-time graduate and undergraduate degree programs and all continuing education students are required to activate and maintain their Ryerson online identity at in order to regularly access Ryerson’s email, RAMSS, the portal and learning management system, and other systems by which they will receive official university communications.

Student Support and Assistance

If you are experiencing technical or administrative issues with your course, help is available by completing the Ask RSJ form.

Ryerson University offers services to address a broad range of common challenges students face. Don’t hesitate to ask your instructor for assistance connecting with any of these great resources.

There is a wide range of other services available to Ryerson students; if you need any kind of assistance, PLEASE just ask—ask your instructor, the course lecturer, the student affairs coordinator or any other RSJ instructor or staff member.

In addition to Ryerson’s services and supports, Good2Talk is a free, confidential helpline providing professional counselling and information and referrals for mental health, addictions and well-being to post-secondary students in Ontario, 24/7/365. Students can reach Good2Talk by calling 1-866-925-5454 or by dialing 2-1-1 and asking to be connected to Good2Talk.

This is a demanding program; our expectations are high and the standards are rigorous. But please know that, when you encounter problems, we are here to help. For that reason, you should never hesitate to reach out.

Weekly Schedule

Introduction to class



Introduction to course

In this session we will go over the class outline; assignments and reasons for studying Indigenous journalism.



Reporting on Indigenous issues: voices of reporters

Recommended Readings

All materials will be posted in D2L.




Politics, political relationships and colonialism.

Learning Objectives

Politics in Canada involves Indigenous peoples at all levels, although the federal government is the primary "partner" for Inuit and First Nation. It is important to understand the historic issues of colonialism and power in these relationships. Students will learn the structure of and evolution of national political bodies (NAOs) such as the Assembly of First Nations, The Metis National Council, Inuit Tapirrit Kanatami, Native Women's Association of Canada, Congress of Aboriginal Peoples.

Recommended Readings

Recommended readings are in D2L

Land and Sea



For many years the federal government argued the Indian Act defined its relationship with First Nation peoples. For many First Nations peoples, the basis of the relationship has always been the treaties, whether expressed in wampum or written documents such as the numbered Treaties and modern-day Treaties. In some places Metis are included in Treaties and Inuit have modern-day Treaties to govern their territories.

Events on the east coast regarding fishing rights reexamined through the world view of the Mi'kmaq. Discussions include how the evens unfolding over fishing rights are similar to other disputes over traditional lands and territories. What does this all mean for how we report on these issues? A podcast lecture will be posted for this section.  Guest Speaker: APTN reporter Angel Moore.

Required Readings

All readings and materials are in D2L


Pitch Session

Week 6: Self-care, and interviewing vulnerable sources



This week looking at issues of missing and murdered Indigenous women, child deaths, and links into the child welfare system raise the issue of trauma, both for the source, and second-hand trauma for the journalist.  Journalists have a profound responsibility to tell the story well. Their work can reflect, reinforce, and calm — or exacerbate — the grief and distress that ripples out from death and injury. We focus on how to care for ourselves and others while truth-telling.




While there are no required readings assigned this week, week 7 exceeds 2 hours of preparation material; it is recommended to look ahead.

Justice and Reconciliation



This week we examine the conditions in government policy and the implementation of Calls to action by examining Child Welfare. This opens a context for journalism and reconciliation: what exactly is reconciliation and why are there so many different understandings of what it is? What is the role of media in reconciliation?

Required Readings

All materials are in D2L




Business stories tend to focus on First Nations, with Metis and Inuit stories often limited to arts and crafts stories. Indigenous business stories, like everything else we have learned about, are complex. On-reserve business development depends on remoteness, access to land and resources and disputes over ownership; infrastructure, education levels, and the mental and physical health of people living in the community.  Cultural values sometimes also play into development.

Below are some stories focused on the Osoyoos First Nation, a community that went from poor to wealthy over a 20 year period. The shift is largely attributed to the leadership of Clarence Louie--- who was first elected when he was 23 years of age. As well there are short stories speaking to First Nations along the pipeline.

There will be a podcast lecture on Comprehensive and Specific Claims.

Required Readings

All materials are in D2L

Art and culture



Indigenous Art ranges from the modern, the traditional, includes fashion and comic books. We'll explore the variety of themes in art, and how it is informed by First Nations, Metis and Inuit culture.  The past few years have seen a number of important debates about Indigenous-Canadian relations take place in the arts and entertainment pages. Whether about someone's individual identity (Joseph Boyden) or cultural appropriation writ large, journalists have been involved in not only telling the stories but sometimes, have become part of the story itself. Students will learn the importance of arts as a means of transmitting and preserving Indigenous identity and culture. Students will think critically about the difference of how Indigenous people portray themselves versus how they are portrayed and sometimes stereotyped and exploited by others in the industry. This generates the context for issues surrounding appropriation.

Required Readings

All materials are posted in D2L

Spirituality and religion



Using traditional concepts of religion in application to Indigenous spirituality isn't very useful. The idea of sacred/secular, for example, contradicts the more holistic view of spirituality that is present in most Indigenous communities. When reporting, you need to remember that a majority of Indigenous Canadians still self-identify as Christians.

Learning Objectives

Students will learn about the diversity of views, from "traditional" to Western religion.

Guidance is provided for learning how different communities embrace concepts of the sacred and how to approach the topic in Indigenous communities.

Required Readings

All Materials are posted in D2L




Lacrosse may be Canada's official national sport, but that hasn't always meant that Indigenous athletes have been welcome to play. These stories will give you some insight into not just lacrosse but also Olympic hockey players, and the Arctic Winter Games. Students will gain insight into traditional sports, the place of sport in Indigenous communities through the examination of lacrosse Olympic hockey players, and the Arctic Winter Games.

Required Readings

All materials posted in D2L


Profile is due




The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was, of course, driven by the horrific history of the residential school system. Understanding this history, and the way in which educational institutions including Ryerson respond, is key to addressing current traumas and chronic obstacles.

Recommended Readings

All readings are in D2L

Health and Science



Indigenous people in Canada may face serious barriers in getting access to the most basic of healthcare despite a Treaty right to healthcare.  Learn more via these sources about the effect systemic racism as well as logistics related to distance can have for treatment. There are also many stories to be told by journalists with respect to the new appreciation for Indigenous knowledge as applied to science, in this case, climate change. (Readings to be posted Shortly)

Recommended Readings

All readings are in D2L


A reminder that the final assignment is due April 23.