Media Analysis Oka Crisis

There has been a lot of media coverage over the Oka Crisis. The problem with mainstream media, as much as it is supposed to stay unbiased and report solely on the issue at hand, there is biases that help to shape the ideas of the reader. Before focusing on the mainstream news, you must identify the name “Oka Crisis” itself.  For one this term helps to not shift any blame to the government or the Aboriginals and gives it an unbiased name. It is, however, the media coverage that shifts the perception in one direction, either negative or positive. This is extremely important because it allows for media to use their biases to describe the issues at hand and potentially shape the thoughts and ideas of the audience.

First I focused on The Globe and Mail looking at two articles; one at the beginning of the crisis and right after it is over. The first article is titled “Quebec-Mohawk feud headed to courtroom Golf course dispute enters third week.” This article simply shows no biases; instead it lays out the court proceedings, without any real opinions in the mix. However it is important to understand that this article in comparison to the next one focuses on the issues being held in court early on. Yet, this does not happen, instead it is dealt with military and violence (Picard 1990b). This is helpful to keep things neutral for the reader. Unfortunately many mainstream news outlets move towards a focus, either supporting the aboriginal or government actions.

The second article titled “Army withdrawing as Oka conflict shifts to courts Remaining 2,700 troops involved in Mohawk confrontation due home by month’s end.” The importance of this article is their use of language referring to the crisis as war, which can be seen right from the title of “2,700 troops.” They also state by saying ONLY 240 soldiers are patrolling the reserve at any given time, which seems like an outrageous number for a small group of Aboriginals. There is also a shift in focus to Mohawks smuggling cigarettes in which Union vice-president Andre Doyon of Canadian Customs demands that officers work in teams of two and they should be allowed to carry weapons. There is also an interesting sentence in which the article says “Many Mohawks violate laws…. because they believe they are not subject to Canadian Law.” This makes is seem that aboriginal people should follow Canadian laws but it is because they do not believe in them they do not follow them. However, aboriginals have their own laws that they follow. The article also goes in to stating that they cost the government an estimated $250 million annually, thus they are cheating the government out of money. As well as the article refers to them as “radical Mohawk Warriors,” calling them radical makes them seem as extremist (Picard 1990a). This article turns the Oka Crisis into a war, make an “us versus them” and othering aboriginals. This article does not take into account the aboriginals needs, but instead paints them as a burden to the Canadians.

The next article is from 25 September 1990 by the Toronto Star titled “’Ugly’ Oka crisis tarnished Canada’s image, says Jackson.” This article looks at a different view than the one in The Globe and Mail because Henry M. Jackson, a democrat who twice ran for presidency of the United States, discusses that the military brought in was unnecessary. He says that there is no military solution to a political or legal crisis. As well, Jackson criticized Canadian journalists for accepting the army’s restrictions. This is extremely important because rather than journalist, who have a responsibility to tell the story, they needed to protest with acts of civil disobedience which Jackson suggested (Contenta 1990). This media analysis gives a different take and provides a type of remedy to help the situation, rather than just stating the issues. Rather this becomes a refreshing article because it does not just states facts but offers a much more peaceful approach and does not make the issues seem as a threatening to the rest of Canada. If journalist engage is civil disobedience, it allows them to see through a different perspective. More so as a different perspective as opposed to staying on the sidelines.

There is a CBC television broadcast on the crisis, which included three different reporters discussing the issues. One reporter (Neil) is at the scene on the side of the Mohawks, the other (Paul) is at the scene at the police side of the barricade talking to the residents at Oka. The last reporter (Peter) is in the newsroom away from the scene. It seems that the news reporters on scene give an honest description of what is going on, however Peter, the newsroom reporter, is biased against the people of Mohawk. This is clear through his use of language when reporting such as referring to this land claim issue as “a piece of forest,” instead of sacred land. Also stating that the police do not just have weapons but have a court injunction that the provincial government has backed up that has not been followed. As well as the reporter focuses on another barricade south of Montreal by another band of Mohawks who have caused traffic chaos, which makes it seem as though the Mohawk are creating a hassle for others (The National Broadcast 1990a).

Another CBC television broadcast is that of what happens in the end when the Mohawk surrender. Much mainstream news discusses how the Mohawk have surrendered and that was the end. What the CBC television broadcast shows is a different side, a more violent end then just an easy surrender. The video displays Mohawks being grabbed, thrown down and arrested. This video is extremely important because it is one of the few mainstream news that does not simplify the end of the Oka Crisis, but shows how the Mohawks feel betrayed when being taken into custody (The National Broadcast 1990b). The problem is the Mohawk have surrendered but still were treated as criminals in which excessive force was needed. The Mohawk had ended the standoff, yet most mainstream news have ignored the aftermath during the surrender. This included abuse that the Mohawk had endured and the unfortunate part of it all is that they surrendered only to be treated as the enemy.

It is important to not make an assumption based on one article, but to always critique what is presented. From these mainstream articles it can be seen that different ideas are presented thus making sure you understand both sides of the issues at hand.


Contenta, Sandro. 1990. “’Ugly’ Oka crisis tarnishes Canada’s image, says Jackson.” Toronto Star, September 25, p. A9. Retrieved December 3, 2012 (

Picard, Andre. 1990a. “Army withdrawing as Oka conflict shifts to courts Remaining 2,700 troops involved in Mohawk confrontation due home by month’s end.” The Globe and Mail, October 4, p. A6. Retrieved December 3, 2012 (

Picard, Andre. 1990b. “Quebec-Mohawk feud headed to courtroom Golf course dispute enters third week.” The Globe and Mail, July 28, p. A6 . Retrieved December 3, 2012 (

The National Broadcast. 1990a. CBC Digital Archives, July 11. Retrieved December 3,2012 (

The National Broadcast. 1990b. CBC Digital Archives, September 26. Retrieved December 3, 2012 (


One comment

  1. Greetings Sharanmalhi,

    I enjoyed your analysis. I liked the comparison between the factual article and the bias articles presented by the Globe and Mail. When doing my analysis I also found articles that appeared to be factual but when I looked at what was being presented it was always something that undermined or delegitimized the concerns of the protested. Even as a educated reader (and i say that will some hesitation) I still had to look hard for that curveball.

    The Oka crisis itself was a sad point in Canadian history in my opinion. The use of the army on the original inhabitants of these lands is a sad and shameful act. It seems that when aboriginals assert some claims on what has been taken from them the state reacts in one way, to force there submission. Unfortunately this submission is pushing them closer and closer to a ‘buffalo jump’. I hope that Canadians and aboriginals are someday able to find a common ground, but I doubt that will be the case with the current and past events that have taken place and the current government who has forgotten about aboriginal issues completely.

    Great analysis!!



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