News / Toronto

'It's about time:' New Indigenous radio stations soon to hit airwaves

The Toronto and Ottawa stations were approved by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to serve urban Indigenous communities.

Two Indigenous new radio stations are planned to launch in Toronto and Ottawa this year.

Brian B. Bettencourt / Torstar News Service Order this photo

Two Indigenous new radio stations are planned to launch in Toronto and Ottawa this year.

Preparations are in full gear for two Indigenous radio stations to start broadcasting in Toronto and Ottawa by June this year.

The two stations, for which the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) secured a licence last summer, were among a total of five approved by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) in an effort to serve urban Indigenous communities. Three other stations are slated for Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary.

APTN's CEO Jean La Rose told Metro that First Peoples Radio Inc. has already secured space for the Ottawa studio and is closing in on the Toronto space as well through agreements with Corus Entertainment. Studio equipment and transmitters are ready to order as well, he said.

"We've already got many people who have applied for jobs with us," La Rose said, noting each station will have a staff of between eight to 12 people, with special consideration given to Indigenous applicants.

The stations will have a variety of content, featuring more than 120 hours of programming per week, with at least a quarter of that time dedicated to Indigenous music. Each station will have its own news bureau for local coverage and will be complemented by the APTN news service for national content. Morning and afternoon drive shows and call-ins will be hosted by strong Indigenous personalities.

La Rose said the plan is to make the stations national by enabling online streaming. Negotiations are underway with other Indigenous stations across the country to create shared programming.

"Part of the programming will for sure include the use of traditional languages so that people can hear their language on air and it validates the strength of their history and culture," he said.

Toronto was home to the Aboriginal Voices Radio Network, a non-profit that operated radio stations in five major cities. But the CRTC revoked the network's licence in 2015 for failing to provide enough local Indigenous content.

La Rose said both Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities stand to benefit from the new stations, especially at a time when the country is working through reconciliation.

"Most Canadians don't really know who we are. For many, we're sort of that creature in the corner that they hear about only when there's a protest or any other issue of concern," he said.

"It's about time. We need to have our own voice on air."

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