In partnership with SFU's school of communication


#OccupyINAC: Demanding the Media Catch Up To Crises

Outside the Vancouver offices of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) yesterday, a press conference was held in the name of victory: the achievement of the Council of Mothers to obtain a promise of a meeting with Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett and Minister of Canadian Heritage Mélanie Joly.

Speaker at the press conference, Jerilyn Webster, stressed that the meeting with government officials was a “meeting of action,” and that there are no excuses for it to be simply lip service. She, along with many voices from Indigenous communities across British Columbia, have created a solution based package to present to the government about their own recommendations for how to help their communities.

“It’s is not an abstract thing we are asking for,” Webster made clear that the Council of Mothers’ goal is to: “push and prioritize youth, culture, and language.” Their communities are unique, but they are facing the same chronic underfunding of their languages, and cultures, while the Canadian government holds the responsibility of destroying the structures and support for these languages and culture for generations.

To accomplish this, Indigenous women and children making up the Council of Mothers, occupied an INAC office in Vancouver in solidarity with Attawapiskat for six days. The response to the suicide crisis in Attawapiskat has highlighted many of the problems with the ways the Canadian Government and the media chooses to aide communities. Members of Indigenous communities across Canada started #OccupyINAC to take action, not only on behalf of their kindred struggles with the projects of colonialism, but to ensure that each community’s needs be listened to in order to address their unique situations.

Which brings me to how unique some of the reporting and editorial has been after Attawapiskat declared a mental health emergency on April 9th. There has indeed been a media focus on the projects and strength from within the community (see here and here), along with many personal pieces and thoughtful considerations of the injustices facing Attawapiskat (here and here) that combat the destructive narrative (posed by mostly white men) stating that people Attawapiskat should leave their home. The former coverage has been surprising and encouraging, but we should make note that there should be no critical mass of crises in Indigenous communities for us to see this kind of work. This is not the only community to declare a mental health emergency this year, and living in crisis is not new to Attawapiskat.

How we respond to issues within these communities is in need of serious media analysis. The media must make an effort, to connect the stories without losing the unique identity of each of these communities.

And while we must commend the work of the individuals taking part in #OccupyINAC and demanding that their voices be heard, we also should work to ensure that their stories remain newsworthy, and always result in action.

-Sydney from The Media Democracy Project

Exciting Changes For the Media Democracy Project in 2016

We’re changing things up,

It occurs to us (because we’re not oblivious) that there is a wealth of cultural and media production in this city that fits with our mandate: Know the media, be the media, change the media. Our small team want to grow to
provide space for more kinds of work to be included in Media Democracy Days’ programming in the future, as well as ensure that we’re paying attention to the excellent and wide-ranging voices of activists, artists, and creators that work in the lower mainland.

Over the next few months, we’ll be using this blog and our calendar to promote some of our favourite happenings in the city, reflect on our community’s impact, and hopefully expand our understanding of what it means to participate in democratic media.

Part of this project means focusing on the people and spaces in Vancouver that are leading in community education. And with that, be it’s a pleasure to mention the innovative work done at Groundswell Café in the Downtown East Side. Groundswell is a project that actively provides entrepreneurial training while creating an inclusive community that focuses on economic alternatives. If you haven’t taken a look into them yet, this week is the last week in 2016 to apply to become part of their cohort, which provides the opportunity to expand your knowledge base and connect with a community that launches projects with the common goal of positive social impact.

An incredibly easy way to become involved with this space is to attend their free information sessions, happening on most Tuesday evenings at 566 Powell Street. The last session we attended revolved around platform cooperativism, and how internet based co-ops can replace the capitalist, top-down sharing economy. Platform cooperativism asks “Could the Internet be owned and governed differently? What if Uber drivers could set up their own platform, or if cities could control their own version of Airbnb?”

MDD collaborators and champions Tara Mahoney, Katherine Reilly, and Marianela Ramos Capelo all spoke at the event at Groundswell, after attending a summit in New York in the fall to celebrate ideas and talk about the struggles of platform cooperativism. We encourage you to find out more at, where you’ll find recordings as well as some fantastic video material created by participants.

Stay tuned to our social media channels and the ‘calendar’ section of this website for more events on the horizon and word on more excellent Vancouver based projects.
Looking forward in 2016,

Sydney on Behalf of the Media Democracy Project

MDD 2014: Thank you!

On behalf of the whole Media Democracy Days (MDD) team we want to share our gratitude and happiness for incredible support and help you all have offered to us; thanks to you we are certain this year’s MDD was one of the best!

And while there are so many people to thank that listing each of them might take a while, of course we cannot avoid mentioning our particular appreciation to those who made sure MDD 2014 was such a success: SFU Harbour Centre’s and the Vancouver Public Library’s staff, who worked with us tirelessly and showed incredible support to this project; our wonderful line-up of speakers and moderators, who prepared interesting and engaging presentations and workshops; the many organizations and projects who organized their staff and volunteers to come share a day at our Media Fair and Lounge; the many organizations and individuals whose invaluable contributions made the event happen; the thousands of people who helped amplify our message through their social media, web and person-to-person networks; everyone who chipped in and totally rocked at “Bandwidth”, our pre-MDD fundraising party; the close to 70 volunteers who offered their time and energy as volunteers and helped us run such a massive event; CiTR for broadcasting LIVE from MDD; MArianela Ramos for her amazing graphic design work; the thousands of people who attended; and everyone in-between. In short, every last one of you! Read more

MDD 2014 set to rock your world!

Friday Nov. 7th brings you an evening of exciting video premieres, and Saturday Nov. 8 offers a full day, jam-packed with panels, keynotes, and workshops.

Media Democracy Days 2014 starts this Friday, November 7th, and we’re launching our program with a bang!

First up, Ricochet‘s video interview with journalist Glenn Greenwald, whose work with the files leaked by Edward Snowden rocked the surveillance establishment to the core, will be a great opportunity for you to hear what Greenwald has to say about Canada’s role in shaping international privacy and surveillance regulations.

Then, a special partnership with the Vancouver Observer to launch their most recent documentary, TarNation. This short documentary, produced as part of the Tar Sands Reporting Project, brings us closer to the impacts and resistance of locals to Alberta’s destructive tar sands project.

Finally, our feature film, Preempting Dissent sets the stage for a wonderful panel discussion with the filmmakers, Greg Elmer and Andy Opel, as well as journalist and researcher Gareth Kirkby and SFU Professor Enda Brophy.

This evening, so full of awesome, is close to getting full, so reserve your spot right now!
Read more

Reilly Yeo and Kai Nagata to close MDD 2014 with Keynote presentations

Media Democracy Days 2014 is a days away and we’re proud to introduce our Closing Plenary keynote speakers Reilly Yeo and Kai Nagata. Please join us from 4:15-5:00 pm on November 8th at the Vancouver Public Library to hear what they have to say to bring MDD 2014 to a close.

Reilly Yeo is a Community Engagement Specialist for, a community-based organization that safeguards the possibilities of the open Internet through citizen-based campaigns. She is a passionate advocate for participatory, democratic political and economic systems. This shows in her diverse background including work with Amnesty International, The Walrus magazine and the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Her passion shines through in her latest endeavor as co-creator of Groundswell – an alternative business based in Vancouver that trains young people to start alternatives-to-business together and recreate the economy in the process.

Kai Nagata has led a highly successful journalist career with the CBC and CTV. His writing often appears in the Toronto Star, the Tyee, DeSmog Canada, and the Vancouver Sun He is now the New Energy and Democracy Director at the Dogwood Initative – a non-profit that works to give British-Columbians decision-making power over their land and water. Kai is committed to building democracy through nonpartisan citizen engagement, fact-driven debates and speaking truth to power.

We hope to see you at Media Democracy Days 2014! Check out the other panels on our website, and don’t forget to tune into the media reform conversation on Facebook and Twitter.