From runaway to award-winning journalist and advocate

Wawmeesh Hamilton | 49 Langarans Award Recipient

Award-winning journalist Wawmeesh Hamilton is no stranger to Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

He lived there once himself, having ran away from home as a teenager, and now returns periodically for nostalgic visits.

The Langara College Journalism program graduate also returns there for his work, which involves advocating for increased, deeper journalism in Canada about Indigenous people, communities and issues.

In June, he walked through the homeless camp at Oppenheimer Park, where at least 100 people are living in tents located between Powell and Cordova streets. He was chronicling the work of a Vancouver First Nations outreach worker originally from Kitimat who works in the area he once got high in, but now encourages people to seek supports.

“His job was to walk through the whole Downtown Eastside looking for his own people, to connect with them, to encourage them to seek services, detox and treatment,” Hamilton said. “That’s when we went through the homeless camp.

“It wasn’t the first time I’d been through the park, but it was the first time I met some of the inhabitants.”

After meeting inhabitants of the park, Hamilton noticed that most of them were Indigenous. He hadn’t seen mention of that fact in Canadian mainstream media, so he made a mental note.

“Two things struck me,” he said. “One was, who are these people and what First Nations are they from? Second, where are the Assembly of First Nations, Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs and the First Nations Summit in all of this? Are they helping?”

With these questions in mind, he returned to the tents with his recorder and interviewed the inhabitants. Many people told him they felt forgotten by their leaders.

The web and radio stories were published on Nov. 5, and Hamilton hopes they will lead to further involvement by the three major political Indigenous groups in the province.

“It remains to be seen what the Assembly of First Nations and other groups will do with this,” he said. “If or how they get involved is up to them.”

That being said, Hamilton hopes they will decide to “wade into the fray.”

He also said the stories are a good reminder of why he continues working as a journalist.

“Speaking for people who have no voice, defending people who can’t defend themselves and holding bodies accountable that have influence over the lives of marginalized people, those things remind me why I got into journalism,” he said. “It’s the difference you can make.”

About Langara College’s 49 Langarans Celebrating its 49th year on 49th Avenue, Langara is honouring 49 Langarans; those who are making an impact in the community and have helped shape the College into what it is today. From theatre directors and journalists to small business owners, community advocates, and dedicated employees – the stories of the award recipients are as varied as the College’s journey over the past 49 years.

Meet the 49 Langarans at beyond49.langara.ca

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

North Island College hosting nursing info session

Info sessions will take place Monday, Jan. 27 at Port Alberni and Campbell River campuses

Photographer captures Port Alberni personalities in black and white portraits

Meet John Douglas, Courtney Naesgaard in double exhibit Jan. 18 at Rollin Art Centre

Alberni Valley Community Foundation opens grant application process for 2020

Nearly $30K available for Port Alberni-based charities

Stray cat with ‘serious burns’ recovering at Alberni SPCA

The BC SPCA’s Alberni-Clayoquot branch is asking members of the public for help with medical costs

B.C. government puts kibosh on drag racing at Alberni Valley Regional Airport

AVDRA was hopeful for a three-year temporary contract to race at the airport

UBC, Iranian-Canadian community create memorial scholarship in honour of victims

The Jan. 8 crash killed 176 people, including 57 Canadians

Disrespectful that Horgan won’t meet during northern B.C. tour: hereditary chief

Na’moks said he was frustrated Horgan didn’t meet with the chiefs

Canucks extend home win streak to 8 with 4-1 triumph over Sharks

Victory lifts Vancouver into top spot in NHL’s Pacific Division

BC Green Party leader visits northern B.C. pipeline protest site

Adam Olsen calls for better relationship between Canada, British Columbia and First Nations

‘Extensive’ work planned at Big Bar landslide ahead of salmon, steelhead migration

Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan visited the site of the slide from June

B.C. society calls out conservation officer after dropping off bear cub covered in ice

Ice can be seen in video matted into emaciated bear cub’s fur

Royal deal clears way for Harry, Meghan part-time Canada move: experts

Keith Roy of the Monarchist League of Canada said the deal is exactly what Harry and Meghan asked for

Most Read