News / Vancouver

‘Behind the mic’: Indigenous radio to hit Vancouver airwaves

CRTC gives green light to northern B.C. broadcaster to go on-air in Lower Mainland, vowing to put Indigenous voices ‘behind the mic.’

Northern Native Broadcasting's existing CFNR radio station broadcasts live in March 2015 from a Gingolx, B.C. event in the province's north, where it is currently aired.

Supplied/CFNR

Northern Native Broadcasting's existing CFNR radio station broadcasts live in March 2015 from a Gingolx, B.C. event in the province's north, where it is currently aired.

Metro Vancouver’s been approved to get a new radio station on its dial.

And once it hits the airwaves next year, 106.3FM will be the first exclusively by and for roughly 70,000 Indigenous listeners in the region.

Northern Native Broadcasting — an existing private station with five First Nations on its board in Terrace, B.C. — won a coveted radio license from the federal government’s Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) on Wednesday to move south.

“Five of us on our team went to the (CRTC) hearing and we left there very confident — we felt we made a very strong presentation,” said Greg Smith, the company’s CEO and a member of Haisla Nation, told Metro in a phone interview. “But when I got the email this morning, I was beside myself to get the news.”

But it will take roughly a year before the new Vancouver station is built “from scratch,” Smith said. A vital step is to reach out to involve the three nations with traditional territories in the region: Musqueam, Tsleil-Waututh and Squamish nations.

“It’s a really big urban market, so we’ll be providing the aboriginal listeners a voice,” he added. “We’ll give them an opportunity to put them behind the mic and voice their concerns and be an advocate. Right now they’re not being served down there.”

Currently, Vancouver Co-op Radio offers several weekly Indigenous programs at 100.5FM. But once launched, 106.5FM will offer a round-the-clock voice.

The CRTC also approved four similar stations in Edmonton, Calgary, Ottawa and Toronto. According to chairman Jean-Pierre Blais, the licenses come “at a crucial time,” he said in a statement, “in the wake of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report, but also because of the many major issues that affect these communities.”

Whether missing and murdered Indigenous women, lack of drinking water on reserves, or youth suicide, he added, the hope is that the new radio stations will serve “Indigenous communities by dealing with the issues that affect them directly, speaking their languages and promoting their cultures.”

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