J School’s Connie Walker returns to give 38th Minifie Lecture

By Greg Duck Posted: March 14, 2019 10:00 a.m.

CBC investigative journalist Connie Walker presented the 38th James M. Minifie Lecture on March 12.
CBC investigative journalist Connie Walker presented the 38th James M. Minifie Lecture on March 12. Photos: U of R External Relations

Indigenous representation in Canadian media has taken much-needed steps forward in the past decade, and one of its trailblazers returned to campus to tell her story. 

Investigative journalist Connie Walker was welcomed back to the U of R as the keynote speaker at the 38th Annual James M. Minifie Lecture. Walker, a proud Cree from Okanese First Nation in Saskatchewan, attended First Nations University of Canada (then known as Saskatchewan Indian Federated College) from 1997-2000. Although she now lives in Toronto, Walker is always happy to return. 

“My family can attest. I always love a good excuse to come home, so when the opportunity arose to deliver this presentation, I had to take it!” said Walker. 

03-142.jpg

Hundreds packed the Education
Auditorium to hear from the
award-winning reporter.

speaker
Dean Dr. Gennadiy Chernov
noted J School’s commitment
to Indigenous values and
perspectives.

In 2000 in her final semester – after a successful internship with the CBC - Walker was offered a permanent position as a journalist with Canada’s broadcaster. For the past 19 years, Walker has worked to improve the representation of Indigenous peoples in the media, and to ensure that their side of the story is told. 

“There is a hidden world in Canada, and we are just beginning to discover the story.” 

Her presentation, We don’t need a voice. We need more microphones, highlighted the struggles and successes she has had as an Indigenous journalist, and how things are changing for the better. As part of the lecture, Walker underscored that three key items have helped to improve the understanding of Indigenous issues: Truth and Reconciliation; increased Indigenous representation in media; and, a shift from traditional news mediums to digital. 

“With digital and social media, we can see exactly how many people are looking at something, for how long, and can interact with them. For the first time in history, we have metrics to prove that there is an audience for Indigenous issues.” 

After years of fighting racism and discrimination as an Indigenous reporter, Walker earned the position as lead for the CBC Indigenous Unit. One of her projects turned into the wildly successful Missing and Murdered podcast series – a format that Walker believes is imperative to helping Indigenous people tell their stories. 

“As a journalist, we can’t just be story takers. We need to be story tellers. There is so much more to be discovered and understood.” 

For the second season of Missing and Murdered: Finding Cleo, Walker has been able to reach critical mass, helping to further educate others about the experiences of Indigenous people. This success comes to the tune of over 18 million podcast downloads, features on prominent international publications, and a listing as one of Apple’s Best Podcasts for 2018.

“There is a ton of popularity within the true crime genre. With Missing and Murdered, people seem to come for the mystery, but end up learning about our history.” 

Dean of the School of Journalism, Dr. Gennadiy Chernov, commended Walker on her contributions and example as the J School aims to further incorporate elements of Indigenous storytelling.

“We are actively working to include Indigenous values and perspectives through cultural teachings, public events, classroom discussions, and community-based learning and storytelling. We are so proud that Connie could be on hand to help us move things forward.” 

Related

Listen to Missing and Murdered here.

Learn more about the history of the James M. Minifie Lecture and its past lecturers.