A Critical Discourse Analysis of Indigenous Homelessness: On Social Problems and Silences in Alberta News Media
Keywords: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.
Antoneshyn, A. (2023, March 15). Crime within Edmonton’s transit system continues to escalate, despite new efforts by police and their partners. CTV News Edmonton. https://edmonton.ctvnews.ca/crime-within-edmonton-s-transit-system-continues-to-escalate-despite-new-efforts-by-police-and-their-partners-1.6314014
Best, R. (2010). Situation or social problem: The influence of events on media coverage of homelessness. Social Problems, 57(1), 74–91. https://doi.org/10.1525/sp.2010.57.1.74
Bruch, T. (2023, February 17). Calgary crime rates remaining consistent, despite a changing public perception. CTV News Calgary. https://calgary.ctvnews.ca/calgary-crime-rates-remaining-consistent-despite-a-changing-public-perception-1.6278887
Calgary Homeless Foundation. (2022). Calgary Point-In-Time Count Report 2022 (p. 32). https://www.calgaryhomeless.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/CHF-PiT-Count-Report2022.pdf
Campbell, R., Falvo, N., & Smith, M. (2016). Calgary Point-in-Time Count Report 2016 (p. 40). Calgary Homeless Foundation. http://www.calgaryhomeless.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/2016-Calgary-Point-in-Time-Homeless-Count-Full-Report.pdf
CBC News. (2017). Aaron Paquette. CBC News; CBC News. https://www.cbc.ca/news2/interactives/i-am-indigenous-2017/paquette.html
Clarke, J. (2023, January 19). Winter cold is social murder for the homeless. CounterFire. https://www.counterfire.org/article/winter-cold-is-social-murder-for-the-homeless/
Current state of homelessness in edmonton. (n.d.). #Endhomelessnessyeg. Retrieved 12 February 2023, from http://endhomelessnessyeg.ca/current-state-homelessness-edmonton/
Gerein, K. (2022, November 25). Keith Gerein: Edmonton shelter shortage shouldn’t be an annual winter tradition. Edmonton Journal. https://edmontonjournal.com/news/local-news/keith-gerein-edmonton-shelter-shortage-shouldnt-be-an-annual-winter-tradition
Herring, J. (2022, June 23). ‘I don’t feel safe’: Crime and safety always top of mind for downtown residents. Calgary Herald. https://calgaryherald.com/news/local-news/building-bridges-to-a-safer-downtown
Homeward Trust Edmonton. (2021). 2021 Administrative Count Edmonton (p. 60). https://homewardtrust.ca/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/PiT-Admin-Data-Report-_Edmonton_Final.pdf
Huckin, T. (2002). Textual silence and the discourse of homelessness. Discourse & Society, 13(3), 347–372. https://doi.org/10.1177/0957926502013003054
Jahiu, L., & Cinnamon, J. (2021). Media coverage and territorial stigmatization: An analysis of crime news articles and crime statistics in Toronto.
GeoJournal, 87(6), 4547–4564. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10708-021-10511-5
Klodawsky, F., Farrell, S., & D’Aubry, T. (2002). Images of homelessness in Ottawa: Implications for local politics. The Canadian Geographer, 46(2), 126–143. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1541-0064.2002.tb00735.x
Larson, B. (2021, November 4). Opinion: Wetaskiwin homeless camp shows disconnect between reconciliation and reality. Edmonton Journal. https://edmontonjournal.com/opinion/columnists/opinion-wetaskiwin-homeless-camp-shows-disconnect-between-reconciliation-and-reality
Lindstrom, G., Pomeroy, S., Falvo, N., & Bruhn, J. (2020). Understanding the Flow of Urban Indigenous Homelessness(p. 173). Belzberg Research. http://www.calgaryhomeless.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/Understanding-Flow_Final_print_2020_07_21.pdf
Mao, Y., Richter, M., Kovacs, B. K., & Chaw-Kant, J. (2012). Homelessness coverage, social reality, and media ownership: Comparing a national newspaper with two regional newspapers in Canada. Journal of Mass Communication and Journalism, 02(07), 1–7. https://doi.org/10.4172/2165-7912.1000119
Mauboules, C. (2020). Homelessness & supportive housing strategy (pp. 1–61). City of Vancouver. https://council.vancouver.ca/20201007/documents/pspc1presentation.pdf
Meyer, M. (2001). Between Theory, Method, and politics: Positioning of the approaches to CDA. In R. Wodak (Ed.), Methods of critical discourse analysis (Vol. 113, pp. 13–31). SAGE. https://ebookcentral-proquest-com.ezproxy.lib.ucalgary.ca/lib/ucalgary-ebooks/detail.action?docID=254697.
Mosleh, O. (2022, February 24). In the shadow of an arena: How one hockey-loving, oil-rich Canadian city is again displacing Indigenous people. The Star Calgary. https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2022/02/24/in-the-shadow-of-an-arena-how-gleaming-developments-are-looming-over-indigenous-people-in-this-oil-soaked-city-again.html
Richter, S., Burns, K. K., Chaw-Kant, J., Calder, M., Mogale, S., Goin, L., Mao, Y., & Schnell, K. (2012). Homelessness coverage in major Canadian newspapers, 1987 – 2007. Canadian Journal of Communication, 36(4), 619–636. https://doi.org/10.22230/cjc.2011v36n4a2417
Schneider, B., Chamberlain, K., & Hodgetts, D. (2010). Representations of homelessness in four Canadian newspapers: Regulation, control, and social order. The Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare, 37(4), 147–172. https://scholarworks.wmich.edu/jssw/vol37/iss4/8
Schwan, K. J. (2016). Why don’t we do something? The societal problematization of “homelessness” and the relationship between discursive framing and social change [Thesis, University of Toronto]. https://tspace.library.utoronto.ca/handle/1807/76837
Sohi, A. (2021, December 28). Amarjeet Sohi: Tackling homelessness is up to every Edmontonian. Edmonton Journal. https://edmontonjournal.com/opinion/columnists/amarjeet-sohi-tackling-homelessness-is-up-to-every-edmontonian
Statistics Canada. (2022, September 21). The Daily—Indigenous population continues to grow and is much younger than the non-Indigenous population, although the pace of growth has slowed. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/220921/dq220921a-eng.htm
Van Dijk, T. A. (2015). Critical discourse analysis. In D. Tannen, H. E. Hamilton, & D. Schiffrin (Eds.), The Handbook of Discourse Analysis (pp. 466–485). John Wiley & Sons, Inc. https://doi.org/10.1002/9781118584194.ch22
Van Dijk, T. A. (2006). Ideology and discourse analysis. Journal of Political Ideologies, 11(2), 115–140. https://doi.org/10.1080/13569310600687908
How to Cite
Copyright (c) 2023 Aressana Challand
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
The Motley Undergraduate Journal is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Share-Alike License. Under this license, users are free to share (copy, distribute and transmit) and remix (adapt) the contribution, including for commercial purposes, providing that the original work is properly cited. Under Creative Commons, authors retain copyright in their articles.
Author Self Archiving Policy
Authors are permitted to post their work online in institutional/disciplinary repositories or on their own websites. Pre-print versions posted online should include a citation and link to the final published version in The Motley Undergraduate Journal as soon as the issue is available; post-print versions (including the final publisher's PDF) should include a citation and link to the journal's website.