The Association des Francophones du Nunavut (AFN) was not happy about our article titled ‘No French, no problem’ (March 23, Kivalliq News), in which we featured the opinion of a French-Canadian resident in Rankin Inlet about access to language services and the francophone community here.
Her opinion – that she didn’t expect or need access to French services or a francophone community and would prefer to be integrated in and learn from the Nunavut culture – ruffled some feathers.
“These remarks were presented in a way that portrayed the French fact as optional, even useless, for Nunavummiut living in the Kivalliq region, and the francophone community in the territory as withdrawn and isolated,” wrote the AFN in a March 31 news release.
The release goes on to say that we never contacted their organization for comment, which is incorrect, and we replied with screenshots of the email sent with a request for the AFN’s feedback. But no response came in time for publication.
That said, it’s neither here nor there if we contacted the AFN for that story.
The AFN seems to think Nunavut News — the sister newspaper to Kivalliq News, in which the story was also published — “did not do its ethical duty to seek the veracity of the facts before its publication.”
What facts? It’s one person’s opinion, like so many other stories. What the AFN really means, of course, is that it’s the wrong opinion.
Who made the AFN king of French-speaking Nunavummiut? The article was not about the AFN and didn’t even mention the AFN, so there is no ethical onus to contact them for input, even though we tried.
This gatekeeping culture is rife within the territory. Teachers and principals here can no longer speak to the media without getting Government of Nunavut approval. We had to go through the Department of Education to talk to teachers in Naujaat about a weekend reading program. Everyone involved but the most militant bureaucrats can see what a goofy system this is, but it exists, and so it shall be enforced.
All it means is we get fewer ‘real’ stories, and more government talking points. Bureaucrats are kept busy coming up with speaking notes and playing receptionist, while the line between government advertisement and organic story blurs further.
Some of us prefer the old days of media, before rewritten press releases, turned-off comments and government-endorsed fact checking.
We like being a venue for diverse opinions, stories of success and pain, debates about this policy or that, and celebrations of the always-entertaining rollercoaster of life.
We’d love to get the AFN’s opinion on French services in the Kivalliq, but their opinion is no more or less valuable than any citizen’s. We are not infallible either, and readers are encouraged to contact the paper if they have concerns with coverage, which we will work to address.
But at the end of the day, we want to write something worth reading, and that means talking to real people and getting their real perspectives, even if they go against the ‘official’ stances of the AFN, the GN or whoever else.
Thank you to everyone brave enough to give your voice, even if the big boys in Iqaluit don’t like it.