Improving Wikipedia’s coverage of Indigenous Canadians

Improving Wikipedia’s coverage of historically marginalized populations has long been a driving force behind our work, so we’re proud to highlight the incredible work of two classes from Fall 2020 that sought to advance Wikipedia’s content around Indigenous populations of Canada. Both courses tackled the systemic biases that continue to pervade Canadian institutions as they relate to Indigenous peoples and communities and how these communities have sought to legally enshrine their rights.

Students in Gina Starblanket’s class at the University of Calgary added almost 30,000 words to Wikipedia on a range of topics relevant to Canada’s Indigenous communities. They added critical information to Missing Women Commission of Inquiry, an attempt by the government of British Columbia, launched in 2010, to better understand and manage cases of missing women in the province. The inquiry found that Indigenous women represented roughly 33% of cases, while only representing 4% of the total population, highlighting the tragic reality that Indigenous women are at greater risk of experiencing violence than other populations. They created the entry, Indian Rights for Indian Women, a group developed to restore Indigenous status to Indigenous women who marry non-Indigenous people, further highlighting the specific challenges faced by Indigenous women. In 1969, the Canadian government proposed a White Paper to address the socioeconomic disparities faced by Indigenous populations. Thanks to Professor Starblanket’s students, Wikipedia now has an article on The Red Paper, a counter-proposal issued by the Indian Association of Alberta that highlighted the short-comings of the White Paper. The White Paper was ultimately rejected in large part as a result of the Red Paper’s wide influence.

Students in Nykkie Lugosi-Schimpf’s class at the University of Alberta focused their attention on the treatment of Indigenous communities by Canada’s criminal justice system. They created the article R v Ipeelee, a 2012 Canadian Supreme Court case that reaffirmed an earlier ruling mandating that an individual’s circumstances as a member of an Indigenous community be taken into account when passing judgement and sentence in a criminal case as well as Prisoners’ Justice Day, an event held annually on August 10 to highlight prisoners’ rights and to commemorate those who have died while in custody. Both articles highlight the overrepresentation of Indigenous peoples in the Canadian criminal justice system. The class also created Indigenous peoples and the Canadian criminal justice system, outlining the many systemic and institutional reasons for the disproportionate number of Indigenous peoples within the criminal justice system of Canada. While Indigenous peoples only comprise about 4% of the total Canadian population, they make up roughly 30% of all those incarcerated.

Professor Lugosi-Schimpf’s students also tackled the challenges unique to Indigenous women. Students contributed to the article on Missing and murdered Indigenous women, which discusses the high rates of violence that Indigenous women face both in Canada and in the United States. Another student wrote the article on the Death of Loretta Saunders, an Indigenous woman who was tragically murdered in 2014 while writing her criminology thesis on the high rates of missing persons and murder among Indigenous women.

2020 has brought the ongoing inequities that many communities of color continue to face on a daily basis to the forefront of our collective social conscience. Professors Starblanket’s and Lugosi-Schimpf’s students work could not be more timely as the pandemic continues to highlight and unfortunately deepen these societal disparities. Thank you to both classes for taking on these challenging, but critical topics.

Image: ibourgeault_tasse, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons


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