Once More, Unto the Breach

As newsrooms shrink, Edmonton Community Foundation funds critical Indigenous journalism.

Inquiring minds want to know – and want you to know, too.

“There’s such an endless well of stories in Alberta,” says Cara McKenna, contributing editor for The Breach and a Métis journalist who grew up in Edmonton. She previously worked for Windspeaker, an independent news site that focuses on Indigenous and environmental stories.

Alberta has the dubious distinction of having the fewest journalists in the country, according to 2021 census data.

“There’s a lot of stories that end up going unreported. Most national outlets only have a couple of reporters. I think the prairies in general end up being very neglected compared to B.C. and Ontario,” says McKenna.

While newsrooms shrink, important stories that would inform the public go unnoticed and unwritten. A $13,750 grant from Edmonton Community Foundation to The Breach aims to address that.

The Breach is an independent media outlet that focuses on critical journalism. It publishes in-depth stories that focus on social justice causes. Using a mixture of analysis, investigations and video content, the site works to tell stories from angles that mainstream media have shied away from covering. “The Breach has an unapologetically progressive angle, without sacrificing any journalistic rigour,” says Martin Lukacs, the managing editor for The Breach.


“I think there’s always a need for more of that coverage in every province… a lot of our reporting was focused on B.C. and central Canada, so this gives us an opportunity to start to do more Alberta- based reporting,” says Lukacs.

The Breach embraces these voices.

“We also try to bring irreverence and humour to some heavy subjects. We did a satirical video in consultation with Keepers of the Water,” says Lukacs.

Keepers of the Water is an Indigenous-led non profit that works to raise awareness about fresh water resources and the effects of mining. The video focused on a plan from the federal government to allow oil companies to release treated tailings pond water into the surrounding Alberta watershed in the northern part of the province. Through a very tongue-in-cheek style they explore the issue of oil and gas companies trying to deal with the ongoing issues of their industrial wastewater.

“We try to be expressly respectful of social movements, Indigenous- led movements among them,” said Lukacs.

The Breach also tries different angles at getting across dense and technical information. Edmonton has one of the largest urban Indigenous populations in the country and many community activists are working to bring awareness to issues such as homelessness and pollution from resource extraction. McKenna recruits and collaborates with talent in the Edmonton area.

As part of its expanded coverage, The Breach has been working with writers such as Crystal Lameman from Beaver Lake Cree Nation, who is part of a landmark Supreme Court case over the impacts of the oil sands.

The Breach has also used the additional funding to cover Indigenous-focused stories about how to pay for a “Just Transition,” a term meaning to move the economy away from resource extraction.

While conversations on police funding have been ongoing, there has been a lack of analysis in Canadian media coverage about how to redirect funding from the justice system to focus on creating wealth in marginalized populations.

This is where The Breach comes in. One of its grant-funded articles examined the money spent on prisons, police and border security, as well as the military and subsidizing the fossil fuel industry.

Investigative reporting and analysis has been a growing gap in media spaces as fewer newsrooms allocate time and money to “slow news,” the sorts of stories that don’t fit in with the 24-hour news cycle.

“We can lend our own perspective in these stories which tends to be in- depth, analytical and accountability- focused,” says McKenna. “We can do some reporting projects that other outlets don’t have resources for and lend a different perspective to the journalism landscape.”

The launch of a trial Alberta bureau has received positive feedback, noted McKenna. The Breach hopes to make the expanded coverage permanent.

“I hope this is something we can continue on after the funding is done … I think the hope is to plant some seeds and we can continue to do more stories,” says McKenna.

Readers can view the articles at Breachmedia.ca.

This story comes from the Summer 2023 edition of Legacy in Action.