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Canada's largest private sector union condemns arrest of First Nations journalist, warns of threat to democracy

Giovanni Torre -

Canada's largest private sector union has slammed the arrest and charging of an Indigenous journalist as a threat to "Canadian news democracy".

Unifor, which has over 315,000 members across a range of industries, urged authorities to drop all charges against Cree and Iroquois journalist Brandi Morin as she was set to appear before court on Friday, March 1st.

Ms Morin, an award-winning journalist and author, was arrested on January 10 while covering residents, mostly Indigenous, living in an encampment as the Edmonton police cleared the un-housed people out.

She was arrested for allegedly not keeping to the exclusion zone police had set up for reporters.

On Thursday Unifor said Ms Morin's arrest and subsequent charges "directly undermine press freedom in Canada and is extremely concerning".

"According to Women Press Freedom, since 2019, almost 70 Canadian women journalists have faced harassment or intimidation for doing their jobs, including smear campaigns, online harassment and assaults while at work," the union noted in an official statement.

"The union believes the treatment of Canadian journalists and media workers needs to be supported by all political leadership in this country and the government has a responsibility to ensure police comply with the laws of democracy.

"Journalists and media should not be obstructed for doing their jobs, but respected, supported and protected."

Unifor warned that when reporters are unable to do their jobs, it "can lead to censorship and a chill in news coverage and can result in fewer important stories published and broadcast".

The union also condemned "the racist online harassment" Ms Morin is now facing on social media.

"In the face of increasing harassment of journalists and media workers online and in-person, made worse by polarising politics and the anonymity of social media, Unifor launched the Help is Here website to allow journalists and media workers to get the support they need when they need it," they said.

Unifor noted that last week Ms Morin won this year's Freedom to read Award by the Writers' Union of Canada.

"Storytelling is a right. Silencing such talented and fastidious journalists erodes democracy, one arrest at a time," they said.

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