Ontario paper apologizes after AFN calls headline on egg attacks ‘insensitive’

THUNDER BAY, Ont. — A newspaper in northern Ontario is apologizing for a headline on a story about a police investigation into two incidents where eggs were thrown from passing vehicles at two men believed to be Indigenous.

The headline in Thursday’s print edition of the Chronicle-Journal referred to the alleged attacks as “egg-toss incidents” that have left police in Thunder Bay, Ont., “scrambling,” prompting the Assembly of First Nations to demand an apology.

In a statement Thursday, the organization called the headline “offensive” and “insensitive,” particularly in a city plagued by reports of violence against Indigenous people.

The Chronicle-Journal’s front-page apology Friday says the play on words was “inappropriate” for a story about an alleged criminal attack.

The newspaper story focused on a police investigation launched after two men reported they had eggs thrown at them from passing vehicles in two separate incidents on Wednesday.

Police said in a news release the following day that one of the men, a 21-year-old, was taken to hospital by ambulance.

The incident comes a little more than a year after an Indigenous woman in the city was hit by a trailer hitch thrown by someone in a passing car. The woman, Barbara Kentner, died of her injuries about six months later.

On Jan. 29, 2017, Kentner was reportedly walking with her sister in a residential neighbourhood when someone yelled “I got one” after the 34-year-old was hit.

She required emergency surgery, but relatives said she never fully recovered.

In the egg-throwing incidents earlier this week, police didn’t say whether either victim is Indigenous, but said its Indigenous liaison unit started an investigation.

Meanwhile, the AFN said “the perpetrators allegedly (yelled) racist insults about First Nations people at the victims.”

AFN Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day said in an interview Friday that he welcomes the Chronicle-Journal’s apology, but said the paper rejected a request to discuss future coverage in an editorial board meeting.

“It’s a missed opportunity because media always has an opportunity to set the proper narrative,” Day said. “If this apology has any meaning behind it, we would ask the Chronicle to reconsider.”

The AFN said headlines that make light of attacks where Indigenous people may have been targeted “only serve to fan the flames of racism and increase fears for the safety and security of our peoples.”

Clint Harris, publisher of the Chronicle-Journal, said in Friday’s apology that “we understand that this headline upset many people.”

“The reaction and feedback is important to us,” he said. ”It helps guide us as we go forward.”

Managing editor Greg Giddens declined further comment.

Thunder Bay city officials also issued a statement on the recent reports “of racially motivated incidents.”

“We condemn hate-motivated crimes and discriminatory attitudes,” says the statement attributed to acting Mayor Paul Pugh. ”We encourage everyone to report hate crimes and stand up to racism.”

Statistics Canada reported in June that most police-reported hate incidents in Thunder Bay targeted Indigenous people, which accounted for 29 per cent of all anti-Aboriginal hate crimes across Canada in 2015.

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