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Twenty years later: Family’s Continued Battle for Media Coverage of their Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
Past research on media coverage of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG) has focused mainly on stereotypical images of Indigenous femininity, with limited research on the family’s role and perspectives regarding such coverage. This study examines how family members conceptualise the media coverage of their missing and murdered loved ones, and the family’s role in shifting the dominant media narratives. Drawing on an intersectional feminist framework that pays close attention to decolonization, I reflect on the dominant media discourses about MMIWG. This research focuses on the cases of two Indigenous women – Rosianna Poucachiche, murdered in 2000, and Shannon Alexander, missing since 2008. The primary data was collected through an in-depth interview with a family member of the two young women. Articles were selected from mainstream media platforms, that include, CBC News, The Globe and Mail, Ottawa Citizen, Canada NewsWire and the Montreal Gazette. A qualitative content analysis was conducted to analyse data from the interview and news articles, which produced four main themes: impact of colonialism, police role in addressing MMIWG cases, media’s role and coverage of MMIWG, and the experiences and role of MMIWG families in pushing for media coverage. The findings of this research show that, although stereotyping and insensitive media coverage of MMIWG continues, there has been an identifiable change in media reporting in the past decade as narratives shift to more positive language and empathetic tones. I argue that this has been possible due to ongoing Indigenous family and community activism. The findings further reveal that families and activists have pushed media to not only place a greater emphasis on family narratives, but on issues of systemic and racist oppression as well, to acknowledge how these systems are implicated in the phenomenon of MMIWG. Recommendations from this research suggest that mainstream media platforms need to ensure that the families of MMIWG are not only consulted, but that their narratives be prioritised in public reporting on this issue.