MediaWatch: Zach Ruiter, Toronto Media Co-Op & BannockGate!


Where’s Zach Ruiter? (LULZ)

Update: Zach Ruiter is no longer working with the TMC, but he did produce this video while with them.

An intrepid young reporter for the Toronto Media Co-Op (TMC) put together an interesting video titled Bannock Canadian Comfort Food? Devouring Culture. It’s a story about natives, anarchists, YouTube, political correctness and Scottish flat breads. And, just for some spice, I’ll throw-in some G20, and connections to the Quebec Student strikes.

Please, join me for an investigation into BannockGate…

The film was made by Zach Ruiter, a reporter for TMC who makes some of the most well put-together videos in the anarchist movement. If Ruiter was up-against Vancouver Media Co-Op’s Franklin Lopez in the Smashy Shashy Anarchist Film Festival® he’d give the Stimulator a run for his money.

Ruiter created the video I wrote about in Black Bloc Courthouse Theatre, I covered another one of his videos about an anarchist field trip from Toronto to the Quebec student strikes. Today I ran across his coverage of a protest against a “grab & go cafe” at the base of the Hudson Bay Company (The Bay) in Toronto’s business district.

The Bay is a common target for radicals who want to protest Canada’s colonialist past- equally, it is a common mistake. But, in this case, the mistake is compounded by another. And, it seems that TMC could take the time to slap their logo on this video, but they weren’t able to spend any time checking the facts.

The man in the video complains the Bannock Canadian Comfort Food restaurant stole the word ‘bannock’ from his indigenous culture and used it without their permission. The film was titled and cut to reflect this message- and spat scorn at the people who were so culturally insensitive.

The problem is that they weren’t. Let’s look at the etymology of the word ‘bannock’:

“thick flat cake,” O.E. bannuc “a bit, small piece,” from Gaelic bannach “a cake,” perhaps a loan from Latin. panicium, from panis “bread”

Next, have a look at what Wikipedia has to say about ‘bannock’:

“Its first cited use was in 1000, and its first cited definition in 1562. Its historic use was primarily in Ireland, Scotland and Northern England. The Scottish poet Robert Burns mentions the bannock in his Epistle to James Tennant of Glenconner, in reference to Alexander Tennant.”

There are two trains of thought on how the Bannock came to North America. First, it may have already existed before western settlers arrived. The second theory is that it was brought here by Europeans- One interesting story is that they were created by the Navajo who were incarcerated at Fort Sumner.

Regardless, they have one commonality- that is, the word used to describe them is rooted in the Gaelic language. So, basically, the claim that the restaurant owners should have asked indigenous people for permission to use the word ‘bannock’ is complete bullocks.

Besides, when was the last time anyone had to ask for permission to use a word? Do TMC now support harsher copyright laws?

This leads us to the most tragic part of the story (besides the fact TMC are hacks). The damage that colonization has done to indigenous cultures was deep- so deep that indigenous people often have large gaps in their understanding of their own cultures. Much of this information has been lost, or eradicated, during the tragedy of Canada’s residential schools.

The pain of this tragedy is still brewing inside Canada’s indigenous cultures. This incident was the perfect storm- anger over the abuses of the past, compounded with a poor understanding of past heritage. And, unfortunately, the people in the video weren’t blessed with a very inquisitive media outlet.

TMC have a history of broadcasting inflamatory bullshit- so, for many of my readers, this story won’t be much of a surprise to them. After all, it was TMC’s Megan Kinch who let Kevin Annett wave around rotting animal bones in front of her face without questioning his incredible story of a (now disproved) mass grave.

Ruiter has spent a lot of his time at TMC felting the unions- particularly the University of Toronto’s CUPE 3903. Besides being a haven for Black Bloc anarchists, the 3903 has also been deeply involved with the radicalization of people at the Six Nations reserve- as have the Canadian Auto Workers. Alex Hundert, who is currently in prison for the violence at the G20, was allied with the CAW in Brantford.

One has to ask a question here- what’s more important to the unions and their media outlets- to broadcast the truth, or to stir-up discontent? Stories like this, and the TMC’s Kevin Annett film, leave us with the impression that they care more about the latter.

People of Canada’s indigenous communities should be very careful when working with the anarchists. Ultimately, what they are trying to do is to incite anarchy. And, as far as my understanding goes, anarchy is not a part of traditional indigenous cultures- quite the opposite really.

In essence, what the anarcho-socialists are doing when they start meddling in indigenous affairs is a modern form of colonization…

Here’s the video…

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  1. Really didn’t know the history of the word ‘Bannock’… This was very interesting to learn about, but what I really liked about this article was how you pulled a lot of elements together.. I am impressed with the links you pulled together… it’s a weird and wacky world the more layers you peel back, that’s for sure.

    • no way for you on October 26, 2012 at 23:55
    • Reply

    Did you read the text on the media co-op that accompanied the article?

    Wholesome. Delectable. Comforting. Colonialism.

    Inside the Hudson’s Bay store in Toronto is a restaurant called ‘Bannock Canadian Comfort Food’. The menu explains Bannock is “a round flatbread traditionally cooked on a griddle or stone; brought to Canada through Scottish explorers and traders, adapted by Indigenous people and settlers.”

    John Jacobs, of the Genaabaajing Serpent River First Nation has a different understanding; “what we have here is a new restaurant they’ve just put up on the South East Corner of Bay and Queen, which uses the name ‘Bannock’ which describes our bread, the Anishnaabe bread”

    Before the Hudson’s Bay Company sponsored the 2010 Olympics on stolen Indigenous land, before it dispatched troops to quell the ‘Riel Rebellion’ by the Metis and the Cree in 1885, before it was established by the British crown in 1670, prior to the violent colonization of Turtle Island, bannock was a traditional food made from corn and other grains.

    According to a well respected chef and instructor, Andrew George of the Wet’suwet’en Nation, the voyageurs transported new ingredients across Canada, which were then adapted into the preparation of bannock.

    Bannock Canadian Comfort Food’s owner, Oliver and Bonnacini’ website claims

    “Bannock is a flatbread originating in Scotland. It came to North America via fur traders and explorers and was adopted by Aboriginal peoples that put their own traditional spin on the basic bread. It was simple to make, easy to transport if needed, and a delightful indulgence.

    Those concepts are what our Bannock is based around – ‘Canadian Comfort Food’. Simple, wholesome, delectable and comforting foods inspired around Canada’s many diverse cultures.”

    There is nothing comforting about it for John Jacobs, “I just don’t like how they’re using our culture to make money, did they ask for permission to use that word? For us we don’t like it when people use our culture and language to promote capitalism”.

    According to Bear Witness who along with DJ Shub and DJ NDN form the musical group A Tribe Called Red, “this crazy appropriation that is going on right now, the hipster headdress, the war-paint, the mukluks, the fringe, the when-did-this-become-okay-again that is going on… take a good look when you are walking around Toronto tomorrow, count how many mukluks, and fringed bags and jackets are around and count the many fake Indian prints– you can buy dream catcher t-shirts at Aritzia – its pretty ridiculous right now.”

    1. The Hudson Bay company was, until the past week, a retail company owned by Lord & Taylor. The relationship between what it is today, and what it was in the past, is no longer relevant. To protest an American retail conglomerate in the name of indigenous rights is almost comical at best.

      Anyhow, some good points on the serving of the bannock- that’s not something I picked-up on. Thanks.

      But, still, we’re talking about a Gaelic word here…

    • no way for you on October 27, 2012 at 00:30
    • Reply

    somewhat arbitrary disconnection of what Hudson Bay was in the past and what it is today, almost like apologies for residential schools, to jettison any connexion, it was in the past, eh? enjoy your iconic hudson’s bay blanket, hope you’re immunized!

    1. The residential schools were (obviously) different than a retail store. The current Hudson Bay Company is hardly an abstraction of what it once was. Today, The Bay sells as many pairs of Jimmy Choo shoes as they do striped blankets. The only part of the company that looks like its old self is the brand name…

    2. As far as I know most cultures around the world make some kind of flatbread made without yeast… what we are arguing here is the use of the word Bannock which is being disputed as ‘belonging’ to either the Scots or Aboriginals… but does this really qualify as cultural appropriation? The term as I understand it applies to those ‘plastic shamans’ out there who get you to sign up for their sweat lodge ceremonies as part of a cleansing ritual before you make contact with the ancient aliens on your ‘Become a Lightworker Workshop and Weekend Getaway”….. BTW I didn’t think Hudson Bay existed anymore… our HBC was converted into upscale studio style apartments…

    • The Hammer on October 27, 2012 at 10:23
    • Reply

    There is a small grocery store near by house with a German word in the name. The store though is actually owned by Indian immigrants, not by Germans. How shocking and disrespectful. Someone needs to notify the activists! Do these owners have permission to use those German words or are they stealing German culture?

      • Heather Martin on October 27, 2012 at 11:13
      • Reply

      I agree Hammer (sarcasm)…….seriously, at what point do people decide to be offended… The First Nations have bigger problems on their hands in the form of the Indian Act, Kevin Annett and Jason Bowman and the Unions….

    • Tamara D. on October 30, 2012 at 10:17
    • Reply

    it looks like the argument is where the bannock came from originally… if two cultures use the same word for something, they BOTH have the tight to use that word to refer to their items or food or etc. Besides, I am pretty sure the bannock has changed since the very beginning, as over times recipes between cultures do. How many variations of bannock could there be now? What if the Scottish peoples went after this restaurant to, claiming they stole the word? It would be nasty, as then the native peoples and the Scottish people would argue against each other too. Perhaps, instead of demanding permission to use an word that obviously at least TWO cultures use, make the history of the word and food known and share the glory? Societies have many of their own versions of flat-breads, why do we need to fight each other over technicalities? Because it seems, in this case, the term bannock could refer to many cultures rather than just one…

    1. Exactly- you hit the nail on the head…

    • Tamara D. on October 30, 2012 at 10:37
    • Reply

    Also, yeah… people shouldn’t have to ask permission to use a word from any language. Perhaps the closest one could get in some situations is to claim false advertising (if a food product doesn’t match it’s name) but in this case there is no false advertising… But to have t ask permission to use a word is ludicrous when you think about it… I don’t have to ask anyone’s permission to speak words or to write them or to record them… It’s not like people are being chased around and arrested for saying words other cultures use without permission (in a multi-cultural city that would be a nightmare)! They are going a bit too far here to expect people to ask permission to use words.

    Also, if they are serving traditional native bannock, here’s a newsflash for you guys: you can find the recipes on the Internet!!! We don’t have to get your permission to look up and copy a recipe! There are many native recipes on the Internet, as well as traditional recipes from countries all over the world! The fact that people would look it up and then cook and eat it should be seen as an honor, not an attack! Hey, they love our food! yay! I love the idea of having foods from all around the world to try. You guys could open up restaurants and serve traditional native food for people too… no one is stopping you. If the bannock they are serving is not from your culture it may be from the others that use the word, or it may be an adaptation. Whatever… recipes are free for foods from here and all over the world and no-one has to ask permission to use recipe!

    God, if we did how many royalties would people be paying just to cook lunch and dinner and sometimes breakfast? Even fried eggs, toast, etc… what culture thought that up in the far past… we owe them money for frying an egg or toasting bread… seriously, no-one needs permission to cook and serve food!!

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