RPM Journalist Starla Myers arrested by the OPP for reporting on 1492 Land Back Lane
Myers is the third journalist to be arrested by the OPP. The OPP previously detained and restricted Karl Dockstader of One Dish, One Mic, Courtney Skye of the Yellowhead Institute, and a producer with Azaadi Now.
SIX NATIONS – Late Monday evening Real Peoples Media reporter and Turtle Clan Mohawk Starla Myers was contacted by police and informed that she had to meet with them regarding “an issue in Haldimand County”. She met with the Ontario Provincial Police yesterday afternoon at the Six Nations Police Department station in Oshweken.
Before going inside Myers gave an interview for Real Peoples Media in which she expressed concern about which violation she could have committed.“As a reporter, as a journalist I was really concerned about what I could have done in Haldimand that was against Freedom of Speech or the Constitution or my personal rights as an Onkwehon:we woman on my own territory”
In March 2019 Justice Derek Green of the Newfoundland Court of Appeal delivered a precedent setting decision in the case of Justin Brake. Brake had been working for APTN covering a protest by Indigenous land defenders in Muskrat Falls on Nalcor Energy property. Nalcor, Newfoundland’s crown energy corporation served the land defenders with an injunction, including Brake, resulting in his arrest. Green, writing on behalf of a three-judge panel, said that Brake should not have been arrested or named on the injunction as he was “just doing his job”. APTN submitted evidence as an Intervenor in the case which Green accepted.
“The evidence from APTN, which I accept, is that Aboriginal communities have been historically under-represented in the Canadian media, that makes freedom of the press to cover stories involving Indigenous land issues even more vital.”
– Justice Derek Green Newfoundland Court of Appeal, Justin Brake decision March 28, 2019
Myers expressed the need for Indigenous voices in journalism “That’s what was missing in journalism people who are out there, who are able to walk the walk, talk the talk. People who are able to tell stories from a place of knowledge, a place of hereditary knowledge.”
In light of Justice Green’s decision and knowing their rights as Onkwehon:we Dockstader, Skye and Myers all felt they could cover the McKenzie Meadows land dispute without fear of arrest. The actions of the OPP are stifling the ability of Indigenous journalists to cover stories in their own communities. Such arrests would only be valid in the eyes of the courts if the journalists were found to be actively assisting the land defenders.
In addition to the arrests and threat of a criminal record all those arrested have been placed on conditions not to attend the McKenzie Meadows development, participate in protests or contact Foxgate Developments. A journalist must always seek to get both sides of the story and to assess the situation for themselves as closely as possible. If they cannot attend the site or contact all parties involved it severely affects their ability to write a complete story.
Myers said of the conditions “If you’re not allowing the press to cover what’s newsworthy, what’s relevant, to inform people of what’s really happening on the ground, then how are we supposed to make informed decisions?” When asked before turning herself in if she would sign the conditions she said, “No that is not a system that I am a part of.”
Myers has few doubts about the OPP’s motivations, saying before turning herself in: “This is another example of how they are controlling the narrative to ensure that our land is completely removed from us.” She went on to say that “what’s happening to us, not just myself but other Indigenous journalists is that we’re effectively being silenced.”
Upon her release Myers gave an interview with her friend and fellow Six Nations journalist Rhonda Martin of the show Got Something to Say? She was given papers that she did not understand and asked to sign them, she refused to sign however and told Martin: “They said I was not required to sign anything … they said that’s just how it’s done now, that’s the COVID policy.” Myers was charged with 2 counts of mischief and disobeying a court order, it is unclear if the conditions are valid as she did not sign the Promise to Appear.