Homeless occupy the airwaves

Homeless occupy the airwaves
Broadcasting live from St. Laurent Street outside the Native Friendship Centre in Montreal during last February’s Homelessness Marathon. This year’s programming will be broadcast on CKLB and Radio Taïga in Yellowknife.Photo: Meagan Wohlberg

An annual radio marathon broadcast from the streets is celebrating its tenth year on the airwaves across Canada, bringing issues of homelessness and housing issues to the forefront through the voices of the most affected and their allies.

The marathon, which offers a full night of live programming from the cold streets of cities across the country, will begin at 5:00 p.m. (EST) on Wednesday, Feb. 22 and runs non-stop until 7:00 the next morning. It will be carried by over 40 stations across the country, including two Yellowknife stations, CKLB indigenous radio and Radio Taïga, and can also be listened to online.

Based formally out of the Native Friendship Centre in Montreal in coordination with the Inter-tribal Youth Centre, the marathon focuses primarily on indigenous peoples in relation to housing on a number of issues.

“Aboriginal issues are primordial when looking at any social issues in Canada,” said homelessness marathon coordinator Aaron Lakoff. “In so many cities, Aboriginal people disproportionately make up the homeless population.”

This year, the marathon will feature an hour-long program on “Decolonization and housing issues” featuring the voices of Joey Shaw, a youth from Iqaluit, Metis filmmaker Marjorie Beaucage from Saskatchewan and Algonquin artist Émilie Monnet, among others.

Another program running later in the evening will focus on housing crises on reservations.

“The idea to do a segment on reserves was prompted by the crisis in Attawapiskat in northern Ontario this year,” said Lakoff. “If you dig deeper you can see that unfortunately Attawapiskat is not the exception but the rule on a lot of reserves in Canada.”

The segment will feature interviews with guests from remote communities, including Norman Matchewan from Barriere Lake in northern Quebec – one of the poorest and smallest reserves in Canada.

“Homelessness might be framed as an urban issue, but it’s important to see beyond that,” said Lakoff. “It touches small and remote communities as well.”

Lakoff said the marathon is hoping to expand further north in the coming years.

“There are huge gaps across the country, especially between the North and South,” he said. “It would be great to bridge those gaps and get a coast to coast to coast view.”

The marathon will begin in traditional style with drumming by a Mohawk group from Kahnawake, Quebec. Other programs throughout the night will focus on issues of gentrification, health and food on the street, homeless youth and families, and the criminalization of street people.

For more information on the marathon or to listen online, visit www.ckut.ca/homeless.

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