Observer owned by oil: Lantin

  • Aug. 28, 2015 5:00 p.m.

Newspaper refutes CHN president’s libelous on-air allegationsCouncil of the Haida Nation (CHN) president Peter Lantin alleges oil companies now own the media on Haida Gwaii.On CBC’s Radio West program Aug. 7, Mr. Lantin discussed a CHN advertising campaign that ran in 12 newspapers across the Northwest, including the Observer’s July 31 edition. It outlined the Haida Nation’s opposition to Enbridge’s attempt to enlist support from northwest B.C. First Nation chiefs. Mr. Lantin also said Enbridge’s tactics included acquiring this newspaper for the purpose of supporting a pro-oil agenda”In Haida Gwaii it’s been more of a clearer picture of how everybody feels about this project,” Mr. Lantin said. “But it hasn’t stopped the proponents from doing certain things. On Haida Gwaii, what they’ve been doing is they’ve acquired the media. So we have a local newspaper called the Haida Gwaii Observer. It was born and bred from a family who used to report the news of our islands. It was recently bought out by Black Press. As soon as that took place the whole profile of what’s going on in our media – where you weren’t hearing about the Haida Nation’s opposition; you were actually getting a lot of pro-oil stories being published in our local newspaper.”Quinn Bender, publisher of the Haida Gwaii Observer, refuted Mr. Lantin’s allegations, calling them baseless. “Frankly, it’s slander,” he said.”We’ve heard this rumour before and we chalked it up to misinformation,” Mr. Bender said. “Instead of attacking the rumours in our newspaper and lending them credence, we decided to let our actions and our stories speak for themselves. Maybe we were wrong. Maybe we should have used the newspaper for our own purposes, but that’s not how we run things.”But to hear someone as respected as Mr. Lantin spout this [allegation] is deeply offensive and a slap in the face to all the Haida Gwaii residents who work on this paper and to the readers who trust them.”I invite Mr. Lantin to find just one pro-oil story in our newspaper. There are dozens and dozens of articles reporting on Haida Gwaii’s opposition to pipelines and oil tankers. In fact, we are on the record opposing all oil tankers in or near Haida Gwaii waters.”Jeff King, former owner of the Haida Gwaii Observer, dismissed the allegation his newspaper was “acquired”, but rather sought out Black Press himself after deciding to retire last year.”I approached Black Press,” Mr. King said. “After 29 years, it’s a lot more fun to create a newspaper on the upswing, but in this economy it just wasn’t fun anymore. The time was right for me to do something else. When you’re selling a newspaper there are relatively few qualified buyers, and I figured Black Press was that qualified buyer. I phoned them first.”While Mr. Lantin has not returned interview requests by press time, his allegations of pro-oil infringement on Haida Gwaii media appear to stem from Black Press owner, David Black’s involvement in the Kitimat Clean refinery project.Mr. Black is adamant his involvement in that project is in direct agreement with many Haida Nation values – to ensure tankers are not allowed to ship oil in traditional Haida territory.”I got involved not to make money, or because I want to change careers at this point in my life,” he said. “I got involved to keep the bitumen oil out of the tankers.” Lorie Williston, president of Black Press North, said Mr. Lantin’s allegation that pro-oil forces were influencing the editorial content of the Haida Gwaii Observer was “absurd”. “David Black has visited the communities all along the line. He’s been very upfront with his plans for the refinery, and very clear that the papers remain independent of that. But I understand people’s concern on Haida Gwaii – of course I do. Black Press got its start in the Northwest, in Williams Lake, over 30 years ago and we all know the issues of the region. It has a massive influence on our values as a company,” she said. “I think people have to keep in mind that we always run every one of our divisions as a stand-alone operation. And every one of the papers operates independently of the other. The local publishers and editors decide what the content is going to be, and what direction the paper is going to take. We take great pride in that. If there is one thing we preach, it’s that the interests of the community, the drive of the community, dictates the paper’s direction.” In the advertised notice discussed on Radio West, several council signatories decried Enbridge’s attempt to employ Haida members, saying talk in the community of “chiefs on the take” has distressed the nation and cast a shadow on an ancient institution based on respect. The letter encouraged members to remain united against oil developments in the Northwest. “Aboriginal participation in the industry, or even the ownership of an oil pipeline, will not lessen the risks,” the notice reads. “The only way to avoid the risk of contamination of our life source is by disallowing the movement of oil, raw or refined. Those who would profit are prepared to risk all that is precious to us, while we who live here are expected to bear the consequences.”The notice is signed by the CHN as well as the councils of the Hereditary Chiefs, Old Massett Village and Skidegate Band.All of the Northwest newspapers approached to run the ad were Black Press owned. None refused the request.Todd Hamilton, publisher of the Prince Rupert Northern View, one of the papers that ran the ad, told the Observer that Mr. Lantin’s comments on the CBC program also told another story.”If Black Press was run by pro-oil concerns, why would we run the ads for CHN, we could have easily said, ‘no’, or why did they choose us to get out their message? We were happy to run CHN’s ads in the Northern View,” Mr. Hamilton said. “I think Mr. Lantin said something to the effect [on radio] that after running the ads he was extremely pleased with the response and the effectiveness of the ads. Hell of a testimonial to what we do.”

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