A microphone and filter used for radio broadcasting in a soundproof room. Photo by Kelly Malone
by Kelly Malone
Citizens of La Ronge are rallying to save the only CBC bureau in northern Saskatchewan.
The CBC announced it would be closing the La Ronge bureau March 1. The town responded with a letter writing campaign to tell CBC the voices in the north need to be heard.
“The north has a different set of outlooks, people, and economy… We need to keep the dialogue open between the south and the north so that they hear stories about what it is like up here,” said Hilary Johnstone, a 25-year resident of La Ronge involved in the campaign.
CBC said it plans to move its resources from La Ronge to Prince Albert which is 241 kms south. Johnstone worries northern stories won’t get told.
“We need in the north to hear about ourselves… trapping and wild rice and issues to do with different reserves in the north and a lot of phenomena that has to do with the remoteness and people getting too and from an ice road,” she said.
Mayor Thomas Sierzycki used a council meeting to assemble people from the surrounding communities to help with the campaign. He wanted to show that isolated communities rely on the CBC to participate in a provincial dialogue.
“The north is a vast geographic area with small population pockets so any story you can tell about the people in that area are probably not being translated into the rest of the province,” Sierzycki said.
The bureau’s closure will result in a CBC presence mostly in large centres in Saskatchewan. Sierzycki believes it shows CBC’s priorities.
“If you are pulling back resources from the North, that is one of the poorer regions, it shows that obviously we are not important,” he said.
The CBC explained that its lease expired and the sole employee of the La Ronge bureau’s contract was up. John Agnew, managing director of CBC Saskatchewan, said the move would help cover more of the province.
“I think anytime you are not somewhere you aren’t getting all the stuff you want to get. But we are going to have a difficult job covering a whole bunch of the province as it is,” he said.
Agnew stated that CBC had received many letters but it is unlikely the decision will change. But the citizens of La Ronge will not be discouraged.
“The north is growing; it is not dying away… We are the only people that can make a difference, to let the bureaucrats know that we care,” said Johnstone.