A veteran prairie broadcaster is being publicly blasted after lending his voice to a radio ad that tries to diminish the impact of residential schools on Canada's indigenous people.
Tammy Robert, a Saskatchewan blogger, was sitting in a rural restaurant recently when she heard a troubling ad with a familiar voice come over the airwaves.
"My ears perk up when I hear a bombastic male voice say 'Indian residential schools' ... and then my jaw drops," she wrote on her OurSask.ca blog.
"We have been told that the residential school system deserves the blame for many of the dysfunctions in Indigenous society — abuse of alcohol and drugs, domestic violence and educational failures can all be blamed on the school system which did not finally end until the 1990s,'' Roger Currie says in the ad.
Listen to the ad, as captured by CBC News. Story continues below:
Currie says it was a myth that residential schools robbed Indigenous kids of their childhood because the average stay was less than five years and the radio spot claimed most Indigenous children never went to the schools.
The two-minute ad, put out by the Frontier Centre for Public Policy (FCPP), a Winnipeg-based think tank, has since been pulled from their website, but an edited transcript of the ad remains online.
For any Canadian paying attention, there is no doubt of the lasting trauma caused by residential schools.
Approximately 150,000 Indigenous youth attended 80 residential schools across the country from the 1880s to 1990s.
In 2007, the Indian Residential Schools Settlement agreement recognized the damage inflicted by residential schools — a forced system of assimilation that was funded by the Canadian government and administered by church groups — and the federal government appointed $2-billion in compensation for more than 85,000 survivors and family members.
In 2008, then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized to Indigenous people for the harm caused by the residential school system, and in 2015 Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission released a report that found that the system amounted to cultural genocide.
Currie was an oft-heard voice on Saskatchewan radio over the years, with stints at the CBC, CJOB, and Harvard Broadcasting.
He's since been working at CJNU in Winnipeg (his LinkedIn profile lists him as the station's News Director), but the station was quick to distance themselves from Currie's association with the FCPP in a series of tweets Monday.
UPDATE Mon September 24th at 1:30pm CST. From the CJNU Board of Directors: CJNU would like to sincerely apologise to our listeners, sponsors, and supporters for any implied connection with the commentary issued by the Frontier Centre for Public Policy (FCPP) on September 13th (1)— CJNU (@CJNU937) September 24, 2018
A person who happens to serve as a volunteer with CJNU has also been a contractor for the FCPP, and voiced a piece for that organization that questioned the impact of the historical injustices on indigenous peoples of Canada. (2)— CJNU (@CJNU937) September 24, 2018
CJNU does not endorse the commentary in any way. We are currently investigating the situation. (3)— CJNU (@CJNU937) September 24, 2018
*We can confirm that we did not air the piece in question, and have no intention of doing so.* We have no relationship with the FCPP, and have never aired any material that they have produced.— CJNU (@CJNU937) September 24, 2018
We regret that this has happened and acknowledge the hurt it could have caused. (4/4)
The FCPP declined to be interviewed about the ad, but said in a statement that Currie was paid for the voice work but had no editorial control. They said they had purchased air time for the commentary program which has been running across various stations since 2004, and that said stations have zero control over topics or content.
When contacted by CBC News, Currie said he was "regretful" of his decision to lend his voice to the ad.
""I regret doing it. I apologize for any hurt and offence... that my participation may have caused. These are not my thoughts, but that's not a real, valid excuse."
He also said he has no plans to work with the FCPP in the future.
Currie's listeners expressed their disappointment on Twitter.
Heartbreaking to hear once-beloved Winnipeg broadcaster Roger Currie voicing that hurtful and false @FrontierCentre "commentary" on residential schools. A lifelong career now stained by a shameful bit of piecework.— Murray Oliver (@journalist_guy) September 25, 2018
Tsk , tsk what was Roger Currie thinking?He didn't read the TRC report? Didn't we work for community news? You were not aware of it. Ignorance is not a excuse. Make amends and donate the fees. pic.twitter.com/o3CKoH7crB— V. Ketchum (@ketchum2003) September 24, 2018
And then we're still dealing with crap. Roger Currie says it was a mistake and he should've walked away. At what point did you think it wasn't a mistake? You presumably read the words coming out of your mouth, right? #trchttps://t.co/QHMHELOIxF— David A. Robertson (@DaveAlexRoberts) September 25, 2018
With files from The Canadian Press
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