A Critical Discourse Analysis of Indigenous Homelessness: On Social Problems and Silences in Alberta News Media


  • Aressana Challand University of Calgary




Critical Discourse Analysis, Indigenous discourse, homelessness, settler-colonialism


Following the Covid-19 pandemic, homelessness became much more visible and dire social crisis within Calgary and Edmonton. Despite comprising a fraction of Calgary and Edmonton’s overall population, Indigenous peoples disproportionately represent the homeless population but are rarely discussed by the news media. This Indigenous media deficiency is sharpened by the lack of qualitative research that studies the communication of Indigenous homelessness in the news media. Drawing on Van Dijk’s critical discourse, this study employs a critical discourse analysis to ask, “how is Indigenous homelessness discussed as a social problem in Alberta news media?”. This research constitutes the first qualitative study on the discourse of Indigenous homelessness in news media. Findings identified the dominant themes of homelessness to be: accidentally becoming homeless, homeless individuals as welfare freeloaders, violence, danger, social disorder, the criminalization of homelessness, drug addicts and alcoholics. Together, findings suggest that these dominant themes operate to blame individuals, remove responsibility from the system, create public resentment, construct public fear, and dehumanize homeless people through situational links to poverty, disorder, disease, and violence. This study argues that homeless people undergo a process of othering, leaving them primarily spoken for by journalists in the news media. This study offers insight into Indigenous themes of homelessness, including the overrepresentation of homeless statistics, the cycle of homelessness and reconciliation. However, main findings identify the operation of a Western discourse, where the ideology of individualism and the cultural values of hard work, wealth, property, and self-sufficiency silences the settler-colonial legacies attributable to Indigenous homelessness. Alberta’s news media discussions of homelessness disenchant the unique oppressions Indigenous peoples face which increase their vulnerability to becoming homeless. Conclusively, this analysis reveals the important of studying the communication of social problems through an Indigenous lens to deconstruct hegemonic portrayals and reinstate the voices of our most vulnerable.


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How to Cite

Challand, A. (2023). A Critical Discourse Analysis of Indigenous Homelessness: On Social Problems and Silences in Alberta News Media. The Motley Undergraduate Journal, 1(2). https://doi.org/10.55016/ojs/muj.v1i2.77322



Research and Analytical Articles