Last week, seven newspapers owned by Metroland Media, a subsidiary of Torstar Corporation, in Simcoe County (Canada) published this cartoon by Steve Nease.
The scene shows the pope saying“I’m sorry” to two indigenous-looking people who reply:“How (or how much) sorry?“where the S is replaced by a dollar sign suggesting that the indigenous people are asking for financial compensation.
The cartoon alludes to the pope’s recent statements, which asked for forgiveness the cartoon is a reference to the Pope’s recent statements, which he made to the indigenous peoples of Canada for the systematic physical and sexual abuse they suffered between 1831 and 1996 by the Catholic Church in the assimilation” boarding schools“where they were locked up to erase all traces of their cultural identity.
The leader of Hiawatha First Nations laurie Carr said it was “disturbing” that such a cartoon was published in 2022 and that “when you have Metroland Media reaching out to indigenous peoples to sit on these advisory committees to work together to bring better media and truth to the Canadian population at large… it’s really disheartening”,
The other First Nations leaders in southern Ontario believe the media needs to do a better job of reconciliation and called the cartoon offensive.
Steve Nease wrote in an email to CBC News that he believes a papal apology is the first step in righting the wrongs that residential school survivors suffered at the hands of the Catholic church and that the pope should “put his money where his mouth is, and financially compensate the victims”.
“I know many have been offended by my cartoon, and I deeply regret that.”
“It was never my intention, nor that of the newspaper that published it, to cause such hurt.”
Laurie Carr said she is grateful for the apology, but would have preferred it to be just an apology, rather than explaining the intention behind the cartoon.
Adam Martin-Ronbbins managing editor of the media group that publishes the seven titles apologised in a statement in which, among other things, he said the cartoon should not have been published. This is the full text:
Dear Simcoe County readers, we owe you an apology
The cartoon published in our newspapers last week was offensive, and we’re sorry, writes Adam Martin-Robbins.
It’s about trust. Our relationship with our readers is built on transparency, honesty and integrity. As such, we have launched a trust initiative to tell you who we are and how and why we do what we do. This article is part of that project.
Let me start with this: We Are Sorry.
The cartoon we published on the editorial page in our seven local newspapers last week was offensive, and we apologize.
We apologize, in particular, to our Indigenous readers including our Beausoleil First Nation and Rama First Nation neighbours as well as the Métis residing in Midland and surrounding communities. We recognize the generational trauma of the atrocities related to the residential school system.
The cartoon was intended as a satirical look at how the Pope’s long-awaited apology to Indigenous people falls short without the Roman Catholic Church also delivering on its promise of providing compensation to residential school survivors. But this wasn’t the way to depict that opinion and we shouldn’t have published it.
Second, I’d like to thank the many readers who reached out by email and social media to call us out and express their concerns.
Your responses are an important part of our reflection and learning as we strive to do better.
It’s also an important reminder of how impactful the work we do is and what we must consider before publishing content about or in reference to Indigenous peoples.
We must, we can and we will do better.
Since the cartoon was published, we have reviewed and changed our processes so this won’t happen again. We have added an extra layer of review and oversight for our editorial page content to ensure it meets our ethical standards.
We’re also aware we have more learning to do. We’re committed to ongoing training focused on anti-oppression, anti-racism, inclusion and diversity, among other things.
In our daily work as journalists, we’re regularly confronted with tough ethical decisions and we often do the right thing. But, on occasion, we get it wrong.
When that happens, we know how important it is to own up to our mistakes.
Owning up to our errors is part of what makes us a trusted news source that our readers count on to keep them informed about what’s happening in their communities.
We recognize, for some readers, this error in judgment has undermined your trust in us.
I know our dedicated team of editors and reporters will strive to re-earn your trust.
I assure you, we’re committed to delivering fair, balanced, and ethical journalism rooted in values of respect and dignity, which readers expect from us.
Reg Niganobe, grand chief of the Anishinabek Nation council, whose members include some Simcoe County First Nations people, accepted the apology, but said these types of cartoons reinforce the stereotype that indigenous people are only after money when something bad happens and that the media should take steps to include more context and historical background when reporting on issues related to indigenous people.
Humour in trouble, a collection of cases (III)
Cases of cartoonists who have had problems of some significance because of their cartoons or satirical illustrations. There are also some stories of other people who, without being cartoonists, have got into trouble for sharing them.