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How, when and why CBC News investigates claims of Indigenous identity – CBC News

Oct 27, 2023

These are difficult, nuanced stories to tell — and the bar is high

Reporter Geoff Leo and the flagship investigative journalism program of CBC News, The Fifth Estate, reported today on the claims and contradictions of Indigenous identity made by singer Buffy Sainte-Marie over her long and much-celebrated career.

Let me first acknowledge that the story may be upsetting and difficult to process for some of you. I want to explain more broadly what goes into these kinds of investigations.

Stories that raise questions about a person’s Indigeneity require great care and nuance. Our journalists have reported on similar cases involving other notable people in the past. Inevitably, we get questions. What’s the bar?

As the CBC’s ombudsman noted in his annual report, issues around Indigenous identity and ancestry “can be remarkably complicated,” and “these types of investigative stories stir interesting ethical debates about how to weigh serving the public interest against fairness toward the individual at the heart of the story.” He encouraged us to keep the bar high.

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