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Boosting media coverage in underserved communities in B.C. and Yukon

Ontario transplants Julien Gignac and Natalia Balcerzak are now reporting for The Narwhal in Yukon and northwest B.C.

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One key reason The Narwhal was launched was the winnowing down of environment reporters at newspapers across Canada. So when the opportunity presented itself to hire reporters in two critical regions — northwest B.C. and Yukon — we knew we couldn’t pass it up.

The result? The additions of Natalia Balcerzak and Julien Gignac, two stellar journalists who joined The Narwhal’s pod thanks to federal funding through the Local Journalism Initiative. The program was specifically designed to address gaps in media coverage that have left communities without access to news about the important issues right in their backyards. 

And even though they’re barely two weeks into their roles, Natalia and Julien are already making a difference.

From her community of tiny homes in Terrace, Natalia has reported for The Narwhal on Indigenous business owners scrambling to stay afloat in the wake of the coronavirus tourism downturn, and the Tahltan First Nation’s co-operative, multi-pronged approach to mine operations during the pandemic.

Natalia says northwest B.C. sometimes feels like the Wild West, where “rules can seem more like suggestions.” She arrived in Terrace two years ago, after journalism stints in Israel, Australia and the U.K. and adventures in 35 more countries. Natalia says those  experiences propelled her “to search for that human aspect in people through my stories.”

Julien, who’s based in Whitehorse, has written about gold miners ignoring the territory’s social-isolation rules as well as Yukon First Nations calling for the shutdown of mines while voicing concern over a lack of consultation on COVID-19 work-camp guidelines.

Like Natalia, Julien arrived out West from Ontario about two years ago. After stints at The Globe and Mail and Toronto Star, he was eager for an adventure in a natural wonderland where he could flex his investigative muscles. For Julien, who is Mohawk, reporting on Indigenous issues is both deeply important and personal.

“Running through it all is a big dose of responsibility and care for the people and places I report on in order to effect what could be positive change.”

That’s a viewpoint shared by The Narwhal’s entire team, and what drives our commitment to uncovering the truth while also seeking out solutions. We can’t wait to see all the game-changing stories these two bright stars track down. 

We hope you are staying healthy and safe.

Arik Ligeti
Audience Engagement Editor

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Adapting to coronavirus: how B.C. First Nations balance food security and conservation

Heiltsuk First Nation salmon

By Stephanie Wood

Indigenous communities, among Canada’s most food-insecure, navigate unique challenges when it comes to traditional harvesting practices during the COVID-19 lockdown — especially in areas affected by climate change, industrial development and declining wildlife populations. Read more.


‘A dangerous road’: Coastal GasLink pays to kill wolves in endangered caribou habitat in B.C. interior

Mountain caribou above the treeline in winter, Hart Ranges, B.C.

By Sarah Cox

The imperilled Hart Ranges caribou herd will lose a chunk of critical habitat to the Coastal GasLink pipeline, and the company’s contribution to a recent predator cull is raising ethical questions. Read more.


Will the next great pandemic come from the permafrost?

Caribou on permafrost in Tombstone Territorial Park

By Jimmy Thomson

As the Arctic warms, ‘zombie’ viruses and microbes are rising from the thawing ground. But infectious diseases migrating north could pose an even bigger threat to human and animal health. Read more.


Gold miners still showing up in Yukon, ignoring self-isolation rules: Dawson City officials

Dawson City, Yukon

By Julien Gignac

Southerners on the hunt for gold are still heading to the territory and entering grocery stores in a move called ‘negligent’ by the chief of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation. Read more.


Coronavirus pandemic leaves northwest B.C.’s Indigenous businesses at risk of collapse in tourism downturn

Nisga'a Museum

By Natalia Balcerzak

Nisga’a Nation has worked for years to make the Nass Valley a tourism destination, but now business owners are scrambling to stay afloat in wake of COVID-19. Read more.


The Narwhal in the world

Teck Resources coal mine Elk Valley

Following The Narwhal’s lead, The Globe and Mail recently wrote about worker concerns over Teck’s mining operations in B.C.’s Elk Valley during the coronavirus pandemic. 

The Globe made sure to credit our reporting and the changes it prompted, stating that Teck temporarily cut production by 50 per cent “after the publication of a highly critical report from The Narwhal that alleged the company wasn’t taking adequate precautions.” 

Even with those changes, The Narwhal spoke with employees who said the measures didn’t go far enough.


What we’re reading


Note from a Narwhal

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When you have a dog like Glenn, says Narwhal contributor Jimmy Thomson, “the authority is total.” Put a Narwhal toque on your four-legged companion and sign them up for this newsletter.

Arik Ligeti is The Narwhal’s audience engagement editor, with a focus on growing a dedicated community of members and readers.…

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