Biden Is Reviving An Effort To Change How The Census Asks About Race And Ethnicity

Of note (as Canada continues its review):

President Biden’s White House is reviving a previously stalled review of proposed policy changes that could allow the Census Bureau to ask about people’s race and ethnicity in a radical new way in time for the 2030 head count, NPR has learned.

First proposed in 2016, the recommendations lost steam during former President Donald Trump’s administration despite years of research by the bureau that suggested a new question format would improve the accuracy of 2020 census data about Latinos and people with roots in the Middle East or North Africa.

The proposals also appear to have received the backing of other federal government experts on data about race and ethnicity, based on a redacted document that NPR obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. The document lists headings for redacted descriptions of the group’s “recommended improvements,” including “Improve data quality: Allow flexibility in question format for self-reported race and ethnicity.”

Stalling by Trump officials, however, sealed the fate of last year’s census forms. With no public decision by the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, the bureau was forced to stick with previously used racial and ethnic categories and a question format that, the agency’s studies show, a growing number of people find confusing and not reflective of how they identify.

That has raised concerns about the reliability of the next set of 2020 census results, which are expected out by Aug. 16 and face a tangle of other complications stemming from the coronavirus pandemic, the Trump administration’s interference with the count’s schedule and the bureau’s new privacy protection plans. That detailed demographic data is used to redraw voting districts, enforce civil rights protections and guide policymaking and research.

The review continues under Biden’s OMB

The proposals, however, may be approved by the White House’s Office of Management and Budget under the Biden administration, which has been calling to change how the government produces and uses data about people of color and other marginalized groups.

“We are continuing to review the prior technical recommendations and public comment, and the extent to which those recommendations help advance this Administration’s goal of gathering the data necessary to inform our ambitious equity agenda,” Abdullah Hasan, an OMB spokesperson, tells NPR.

Hasan did not provide a timeline for the current review of the proposed changes to the government’s standards for data about race and ethnicity, which are set by OMB and must be followed by all federal agencies, including the bureau. OMB had previously planned to announce a decision in 2017, before the bureau had to finalize the 2020 census forms.

Other recommended changes include no longer officially allowing federal surveys to use the term “Negro” to describe the “Black” category. Another proposal would remove the term “Far East” from the standards as a description of a geographic region of origin for people of Asian descent.

Support from Biden’s pick for Census Bureau director

This month, Biden’s nominee for Census Bureau director, Robert Santos, pledged to lawmakers that, if confirmed, he would support one of the major recommendations, which would allow census forms to combine the separate race and Hispanic origin questions into one. A combined question, tests by the bureau’s researchers show, would help the bureau address the problem of increasingly more people leaving the race question unanswered or checking off the box for “Some Other Race”— the third-largest racial group reported in 2000 and 2010.

“The census director doesn’t have the authority to include any specific questions,” Santos said in response to a question from Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Calif., during a confirmation hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “But I can use my own personal perspective as a Latino and use my research experience and my leadership position to work with OMB to make sure that the proper attention is given to that specific issue.”

An expert in designing surveys and currently the Urban Institute’s chief methodologist, Santos has written about the need for questions and categories on census forms to “evolve and adapt to ensure everyone is fairly represented,” including the Latinx population, one of the country’s fastest-growing groups.

“Racial and ethnic categories are social constructs, defined and designed by those who have historically held positions of influence,” Santos said in a 2019 blog post co-written with Jorge González-Hermoso, an Urban Institute research analyst. “The policy implications of using inadequate methods to collect data on identity are not trivial.”

During the hearing, Santos suggested that if OMB ultimately approves the proposed policy changes, the bureau may not have to wait until the 2030 census to use a combined race-ethnicity question, which Santos said could potentially be incorporated into the bureau’s ongoing American Community Survey.

COVID-19: Ethnic Media Lessons from 2020 for an Inclusive Recovery

Useful and informative summary and report:

Multilingual International Research and Ethnic Media Services presents its year long research into ethnic media coverage on the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 in the form of five articles. These articles were published or excerpted by New Canadian Media as a result of support from Canadian Heritage through its Digital Citizen Contribution Program. We would like to thank New Canadian Media for giving us the opportunity to write these pieces.

The white paper provides an overview of the lessons learned in 2020 from engaging with diverse communities in the fight against the COVID-19, which may useful in 2021 as the pandemic continues. In order to capture coverage needed to produce this white paper, we spent a year regularly monitoring over 800 ethnic media outlets across Canada in 30+ language groups.

The 30+ language groups/communities whose ethnic media we tracked include Arabic, Armenian, Bengali, Caribbean, Chinese (incl. Cantonese & Mandarin), Farsi, Filipino, German, Greek, Gujarati, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Jewish, Korean, Muslim, Polish, Portuguese, Punjabi, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Somali, South Asian, Spanish, Sri Lankan, Tamil, Turkish, Ukrainian, Urdu and Vietnamese.

The ethnic media outlets we tracked spanned the four mediums of print, web, radio and TV and were mostly based in the metropolitan areas of Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal. These urban centres attract the most immigrants each year, thus resulting in a concentration of ethnic media outlets in Canada’s most populated cities.

The actionable intelligence gained as a result of our ethnic media research provides insight into the impact of COVID-19 on newcomers and racialized communities, who have been some of the most affected by the pandemic. Out of the 1,130 translated ethnic media story summaries we produced in 2020 for this report, 169 were focused on mental health, 193 on the economic impact of COVID-19, 350 on immigration and 118 on the culture vs. economy debate as a cause of the prevalence of COVID-19.

 Our white paper is divided into five pieces, four written by MIREMS Editor-in-Chief Silke Reichrath and one by MIREMS President Andres Machalski. The following are brief abstracts:

 1) Media Representation of Newcomer Communities with High COVID-19 Rates

This channel is extremely influential in the fight against social media disinformation among newcomers. It shows these outlets fulfill a very real need to translate government and expert messaging into culturally and linguistically relevant formats and in adding information from the grassroots. This channel is extremely influential in the fight against social media disinformation among newcomers 

2) Mental Health and Domestic Violence in the Ethnic Media

Stigma around mental health challenges is still widespread in newcomer communities and many newcomers are not aware of available supports through community organizations and settlement service providers, especially now that programs have moved online. In this context, ethnic media have a significant role to play in raising awareness around mental health issues, the impacts of the pandemic on different segments of the population, and the services available to them.

3) Economic Impact of COVID-19 on Immigration Communities

The ethnic media have fulfilled a valuable role during the pandemic in keeping their audiences informed about the latest public health guidelines regarding business openings and closures, and about benefits and aid programs available from the three levels of government. These outlets have raised awareness in general about how the pandemic is affecting the national and local economy, have featured charitable initiatives by the community, and have encouraged community members to support local businesses by buying local, particularly from smaller businesses. Recovery is only a matter of time, and ethnic media can be expected to do their share in reflecting community concerns and advocating for equity in the rebuilding process.

 Ethnic media have been instrumental in highlighting community initiatives to counteract the pandemic spread and in giving voice to grassroots opinions. It shows these outlets fulfill a very real need to translate government and expert messaging into culturally and linguistically relevant formats and in adding information from the grassroots.

  4) COVID-19 Impact on Immigration – Analysis

Over the pandemic year of 2020, the ethnic media has been instrumental in reporting on and clarifying government policy, processes and programs. Ethnic media coverage focused on the impact of COVID on immigration levels, border closures and travel restrictions, visa extensions for temporary residents stranded in Canada, work permit regulations, farm worker rights and COVID safety protocols, COVID-related accommodations for international students, modifications to the Express Entry draws, and the guardian angel program for front-line care providers. The ethnic media also documented the unique challenges different migrant constituencies face, reflecting the lived experiences of the various newcomer communities.

5) The Role of Ethnic Media in the War Against Pandemic, Pandemonium, Poverty and Panic

The ethnic media undeniably exists and is part of the communications fabric of our society, but it is one that is often ignored, despite its key positioning as a conduit to and from diverse communities. These outlets are essential to the central position diverse communications will play in restoring the social cohesion needed to overcome not only the COVID-19 virus, but its fall out. Canadian corporate and government leaders need to recognize the ethnic media as a key asset in the fight against COVID-19, which is at the same time a fight against social disruption, poverty, and mental anguish.


Quebec: Un manque de diversité flagrant dans une publicité gouvernementale

Not surprising, but not acceptable, given that COVID-19 has a disproportionate affect on visible minorities given their overall lower socioeconomic status and more exposed work environments:

Où sont les Siméus, Touré, Obomsawin, Reyes, Saddiqi, Mansourian, Torres, Farhat, Tran, Kpadé?

Samedi dernier, le premier ministre François Legault et son gouvernement étaient fiers de nous présenter une nouvelle publicité réalisée en partenariat avec le Canadien de Montréal. « On est tous dans la même équipe contre la COVID-19 », peut-on y lire. « Fortin, Tremblay, Joseph, Sioui, Lévesque, Bergeron, Toulouse, Sauvé, Caron, Murphy, Boucher et Vaillancourt », peut-on y entendre. Le gouvernement caquiste nous présentait un lineup qui sonnait faux aux oreilles de plusieurs Québécoises et Québécois en raison de son manque de diversité flagrant. Et non, on ne leur donnera pas une tape sur l’épaule parce qu’un Joseph a été inclus comme un bon token noir.

Ceci n’est pas un caprice de « gauchistes », que les détracteurs des mouvements anti-racistes et anti-oppressifs de ce monde aiment dépeindre comme des pleurnichards. Les médias, le divertissement et le sport, en particulier le hockey, marquent les esprits et laissent leur empreinte dans l’imaginaire collectif. Le message pas-si-subliminal que fait passer cette publicité, c’est que l’on n’est pas dans la même équipe. Ce manque de diversité est un manque de respect envers les travailleurs de la santé racisés et issus de l’immigration. En juin dernier, un rapport de Statistique Canada révélait que, lors du plus récent recensement, réalisé en 2016, 36 % des aides-infirmiers, aides-soignants et préposés aux bénéficiaires au Canada n’étaient pas des Fortin-Tremblay-Sauvé-Caron, mais bel et bien des immigrants aux noms trop exotiques pour les oreilles de certains. Il va sans dire que, depuis le début de la crise de la COVID-19, les travailleurs racisés, parfois surqualifiés, ont été au front dans les CHSLD et les services essentiels, avec peu de reconnaissance outre les encouragements du type « J’peux pas t’aider, mais tiens bon ! ».

C’est aussi dans les quartiers les plus défavorisés de Montréal et dans ceux qui accueillent un grand nombre d’immigrants que la COVID-19 a fait le plus de dégâts. Alors que l’opinion publique fait le procès des groupes minoritaires pour les éclosions dans leurs communautés, on se voile les yeux devant les déterminants socioéconomiques qui les rendent inévitables. Des inégalités systémiques font que 21 % des Noirs canadiens connaissent une personne décédée de la COVID-19, contre 8 % pour les non-Noirs, selon une étude du Boston Consulting Group. Augmentation du taux de chômage, plus grandes chances d’attraper le virus — les personnes racisées souffrent davantage des effets de la crise sanitaire, selon l’Observatoire québécois des inégalités, et ce, sans compter l’augmentation des comportements discriminatoires et du racisme anti-asiatique. Vingt-et-un pour cent des personnes issues des minorités visibles vivent et ressentent cette exacerbation des incidents de harcèlement et d’attaques racistes.

Un coup de pub qui aurait interpellé toutes les personnes concernées aurait été bien plus efficace pour rallier nos troupes et atteindre nos objectifs de santé publique, mais le gouvernement Legault a choisi de faire autrement. Il reste à voir si cette erreur, quoique très gênante, n’était que de la maladresse ou le reflet du racisme systémique nié par le gouvernement. Quoi qu’il en soit, ne nous laissons pas distraire et continuons à revendiquer l’élargissement des critères pour les anges demandeurs d’asile. Une reconnaissance et un plan d’action concret contre le racisme systémique, dont cette publicité est un exemple, s’imposent.

Source: Un manque de diversité flagrant dans une publicité gouvernementale

Engage the ethnic press to combat vaccine hesitancy

Star has been featuring a number of similar op-eds, this being the latest:

In recent days, doctors across Canada have been calling for “culturally competent” campaigns to fight vaccine hesitancy. But we need much more than that.

In long-term-care homes, there have been reports of personal support workers (PSWs) refusing to be vaccinated — despite the fact they work in high-risk environments. Many essential workers, including PSWs, are from highly racialized populations.

Some of the worst COVID-19 hot spots across the country have been in population centres with high counts of new Canadians and immigrants.

Knowing that, you might imagine that governments would be placing public health announcements in as many ethnic publications as possible. Unfortunately, that has not been the case.

The Government of Canada only advertises in 11 languages aside from English and French. There are far too many outlets who aren’t receiving any government ads to share with their readership. As some doctors have reported from firsthand experience, the outreach to ethnic outlets has been, in some cases, non-existent.

When the pandemic hit, ethnic media was particularly affected. Most advertisers for ethnic newspapers, radio shows and TV shows are small businesses, hosts of events and conventions — all sectors hit particularly hard from the get-go.

Though some government assistance reached some members of the ethnic press, for far too many, the collapse of advertising was too much to bear. Many outlets weren’t eligible for any government assistance.

What that has meant is that outlets have closed, gone purely digital, cut their publication schedules, laid off staff, cut circulation or some combination thereof.

Day-to-day, this has meant less access to reliable and accurate news for new Canadians and immigrants. Non-English-speaking seniors, who relied on their printed ethnic newspaper to stay informed, have seen their access to news yanked away or reduced.

Even worse is that even if they are still getting a paper, it doesn’t necessarily contain accurate information from government sources — information that is going to be critical as we continue the fight against COVID-19 and misinformation about the vaccine.

While misinformation has spread, ethnic reporters have been laid off. We have tracked this — layoffs now reach as high as 80 per cent. Fewer staff means less news for the outlets who have managed to survive.

There is no magic bullet to fix vaccine hesitancy, but engaging the ethnic press will help in communities that need it. It’s not just about dollars — we need the government to send public health experts onto ethnic shows, press releases to be translated into as many languages as possible and regular government-led briefings for ethnic media.

And yes, we need to keep ethnic publications afloat and help them return to their pre-pandemic publishing schedules.

Canada’s Chinese language press isn’t just combating misinformation from Canada, it’s combating misinformation from around the world. The same goes for outlets publishing in Polish, Spanish and every other language under the sun.

The best way to fight fake news is with the truth. Ethnic journalists are ready to work to spread it in as many languages as possible.


What an Inclusive Recovery from the COVID-19 “Economic Firestorm” Could Look Like: Ethnic and Mainstream Media comparison

Latest overview of ethnic media coverage and mainstream comparison, showing relatively small differences:

Paid sick leave, affordable childcare, reform of the Employment Insurance system, better-quality jobs and higher minimum wage are some of the elements needed to ensure an inclusive recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, which has hit visible minorities and immigrants the hardest, according to ethnic media coverage of the economic impacts of COVID-19.

Especially early into the pandemic, visible minorities and recent immigrants were more impacted by job losses, inability to meet financial obligations and essential needs than white Canadians and long-term immigrants or Canadian-born population, showed several studies cited in the media, as analyzed from May to December 2020.

The July Labour Force Survey (for the first time based on data disaggregated by race and visible minority status) showed that the unemployment rate was higher for South Asian, Arab, and Black Canadians, which Statistics Canada linked to higher representation of these minorities in hard-hit industries such as food services and retail. Immigrant women were also shown to be disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

Questions around lockdowns

As the second wave of the pandemic brought with it new lockdowns (Toronto and Peel region moved into lockdown on November 23, and a province-wide shutdown in Ontario has been in effect since December 26), the media gave voice to those questioning the effectiveness of such measures in places where most infections happen in industrial and essential workplace settings, like the city of Brampton.

Mayor of Brampton Patrick Brown was one of the most often cited critical voices, who called the forced closure of small businesses “tinkering around the edges.” Multiple outlets cited Brown as saying that the lockdown in Peel Region was not likely to dramatically reduce the number of new COVID-19 infections in Brampton without other supports in place: better sick benefits, an isolation centre, and better access to testing.

He stressed that staff in factories and front-line workers lose their paycheque if they do not come to work, so many are forced to choose between going to work with symptoms and making the rent payment or putting food on the table.

In late November, Brown made headlines with an appeal by a group of Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) mayors to the province of Ontario for sick leave benefits for front-line workers. Brampton mayor called the benefits “a missing link” in the pandemic response. As reported, the mayors also asked the provincial government to sign an agreement with employers, reassuring employees that they would not lose their jobs or their salary if they tested positive for COVID-19.

Pressure for sick days came from many sides. A widely cited September report by the researcher ICES found not only that immigrants, refugees and other newcomers accounted for a whopping 44 per cent of all COVID-19 cases in Ontario in the first half of 2020 but also that many immigrants and refugees faced systemic inequities including lower pay and precarious employment without the right to sick leave.

The systemic inequities like the fact that many essential workers cannot afford to self-isolate away from their families need to be addressed, Regional Councillor in Brampton Rowena Santos said in an interview with one of the outlets in November, calling for better access to healthcare, higher quality jobs, sick days and higher minimum wage.

In late November, the media carried a message from Health Minister Patty Hajdu, who said the federal government was working with provinces and territories on sick leave. She admitted it was necessary to have low-barrier access to Employment Insurance (EI) for those working on the front lines, and that workers can be eligible for EI with 170 hours of work.

Calls for EI reform

Problems with accessing EI, especially by underemployed workers and expectant mothers for whom the pandemic-induced job cuts meant not enough working hours to qualify for benefits, prompted calls for the reform of the outdated EI system early on.

A Workers’ Action Centre activist cited in ethnic media in August pointed to the situation of the underemployed, especially restaurant staff and people in the tourism industry, who did not have working hour guarantees in their contracts and who may not be able to obtain a record of employment to access EI when the Canada Emergency Response Benefits (CERB) end. He also pointed to self-employed workers such as Uber drivers or people working in food delivery services

“She-covery” and the importance of childcare

Women, especially racialized women, are over-represented in precarious, low-paying jobs, so the COVID-19 pandemic has had a disproportionate economic impact on them, as demonstrated by various reports cited in multiple ethnic media outlets. A September report by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce entitled “The She-Covery Project” pointed out that women’s labour participation rate had fallen to its lowest in 30 years.

Reports that female immigrants, especially working in health care, were hit especially hard by the pandemic have prompted calls for policies instituting higher pay, paid sick leave, universal childcare and eldercare, and affordable housing.

Since mothers were usually the ones losing their jobs or staying home to take care of the children during the pandemic, the central role of affordable daycare in the economic recovery plans was stressed by the media and the policymakers alike, including in a slew of December media appearances by the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, Ahmed Hussen. Hussen promised the federal government would create a nationwide childcare program, with details to come in the spring of 2021.

“Shop local” campaign to support small businesses

The struggles of small businesses, often owned by immigrants or visible minorities, also featured strongly in ethnic media coverage, with the newest lockdowns bringing renewed fears of severe economic impacts, but few solutions in sight.

The media stressed that while small businesses like hair salons were forced to close their doors, big retailers like Amazon were allowed to operate. One of the victims of the pandemic featured in October was a Black owner of a beauty parlour who was ineligible for government support, as she had opened her salon only in 2020.

The prospects for small businesses appeared bleak yet in August. Jon Shell, managing director at Social Capital Partners and a co-founder of the Save Small Business campaign, was cited as saying that “the recovery looks like it will be very weak for local community businesses, making additional cash flow hard to come by over the rest of the year. Many will not survive.”

Patrick Brown admitted back in May that the pandemic was an “economic firestorm,” and the small stores and businesses were especially badly affected. He called on Brampton residents to support them by shopping locally and ordering take-out food from restaurants in their neighbourhoods. A similar appeal by Ontario Premier Doug Ford was aired in October. The media also reported on Ontario’s NDP Leader Andrea Horwath’s Save Main Street plan, supported by the Canadian Black Chamber of Commerce (CBCC).

The government’s commercial rent assistance program was criticized as ineffective: few landlords decided to participate, as that would have forced them to cover 25 per cent of the rent.

Coverage of other government programs addressed to small businesses was rather limited. Apart from announcements of subsequent extensions of the wage subsidy program, the Canada Emergency Business Account was mentioned only once in a collection of around 200 media clippings—in the context of the government’s recovery plan presented in early December by Minister Hussen.

Comparative analysis with mainstream media

The analysis of Toronto Star coverage was focused on the pandemic’s impact on small businesses. More than half of the articles discussing challenges faced by different types of businesses showcased those owned by immigrants and many told their stories of going through the painful process of closing down permanently.

A lot of coverage was also devoted to government measures and how businesses can access them, for example the Canada Emergency Business Account. Different polls and appeals from business advocacy groups and other stakeholders for the government to do more to help small business owners were also featured.

Like ethnic media, the paper discussed the unfair advantage during lockdown of big-box stores over small businesses. Unlike ethnic media, it also covered the spike in insurance premiums as one of the key factors that forced many businesses to shut down.

In terms of navigating the difficulties of the pandemic, the Star also presented various innovations such as ghost kitchens, a business incubator called District Ventures Kitchen, and other new approaches to doing business in food service. 

Insight from MIREMS media monitoring

Ethnic media “can be expected to become an important voice for ethnically inclusive recovery initiatives,” commented Silke Reichrath, Editor-in-Chief at MIREMS.

“The coverage showed time and again how newcomers often work in essential jobs, which makes them more susceptible to virus exposure,” she stressed. Sectors in focus that rely heavily on newcomers included the taxi industry, the hotel and tourism sector, meat processing plants, long-term care and health care.

Overall, ethnic media have kept their audiences informed about the latest public health guidelines about business openings and closures and about benefits and aid programs available from the three levels of government, Reichrath said.

“They have also raised awareness in general about how the pandemic is affecting the national and local economy, have featured charitable initiatives by the community, and have encouraged community members to support local businesses by buying local, particularly from smaller businesses,” she added.

Methodology: This ethnic media analysis is based on a selection of 200 summaries of articles and broadcast segments in radio, TV, print and web sources between May and December, 2020, with special focus on the last six months of last year. These summaries were found in 450 active ethnic media sources monitored by MIREMS. 

For mainstream media analysis, the ProQuest Databases Platform was searched using the keywords “business owners” and “COVID-19.” A total of 181 articles published in Toronto Star from July 1 to Dec. 31, 2020 were included for review.


As Canadians we’re proud of diversity, so why is multicultural media being left in the dark about COVID-19

While I agree that more can and should be done, one of my observations from tracking ethnic media coverage of the 2019 election campaign was that much of their coverage reflected articles in the mainstream media, and those who relied on ethnic media would be reasonable informed on the electoral platforms and choices.

It may be more a matter of resources than anything else but would be nice to know what governments are doing to publicize COVID health related information on ethnic media:

After writing my last op-ed on the underutilization of multicultural media to disseminate clear COVID-19 information, I’ve received an overwhelming response.

Some messages were from physicians and public health officials interested in utilizing these platforms to inform communities on how to stay safe. Others were a nod of acknowledgment from the Canadian public who finally felt seen and heard. And a lot of them were questions regarding why such important platforms remained underutilized when they could have been important tools to disseminate critical life saving information.

One of the things we are most proud of as Canadians is multiculturalism, yet, there’s a divide: a lack of ethnic and linguistic diversity on mainstream media. This is why multicultural and ethnic media is a much needed voice for minority communities across Canada. Along with providing language and culturally sensitive critical health information and public communication, these mediums foster a sense of culture, and community for the minority and immigrant Canadians.

While these media outlets can be very important for people with no knowledge of English or French, these platforms do more than address language barriers. For many Canadians, it’s a platform to help stay connected to one’s culture and heritage and is a heavily relied upon source of information.

The problem? These platforms can play a substantial role in sharing life-saving critical health information, and have proven to do so with information around cancer pre-pandemic. So why aren’t they getting the clear COVID-19 precaution information now?

Firstly, there is a lack of awareness. What emerged from my discussions with many physician colleagues is that many were unaware these channels existed. At the medical school education level, there needs to be better knowledge dissemination about the importance of these community platforms and how multicultural media can be leveraged to provide health related information to the public.

Secondly, there isn’t a clear bridge between mainstream and multicultural media. Mainstream media needs to do a better job at supporting and amplifying the voices of multicultural media platforms. This could be done by hosting multicultural media representatives on mainstream shows and vice versa. Moreover, government and public health bodies need to develop two-way streets with multicultural media outlets and have an ongoing regular communication with these media representatives.

Thirdly, after speaking to various multicultural media spokespersons, I learned that there is a lack of funding and financial support, particularly for the radio show channels. Their hands are tied and they have to heavily rely on advertisements to cover their expenses and are unable to afford the latest technology or means to be on par with popular mainstream outlets. Their sole profit sometimes is from advertisements; some of these advertisements can be alternative care providers or various sources in radio, TV, and print media. As part of the advertisement package, it’s hard for media channels to control knowledge dissemination. This as one can imagine then can be a source of misinformation on top of an already existing information vacuum due to underutilization of the media platforms which is exponentially dangerous.

We as Canadians are proud of our multiculturalism and public health care system and therefore it is heartbreaking to hear that multicultural media struggles to thrive. It’s an important vehicle to deliver health related and public communication to all Canadians. It is critical for us to engage multicultural and ethnic media to ensure pandemic messaging reaches to everyone nationally.

As we combat the second wave, develop an inclusive vaccination strategy, and disseminate vaccine and COVID-19 related information, it’s still not too late to incorporate linguistic and culturally sensitive print, radio and TV media outlets in our armamentarium to deliver critical health related information.

Source: As Canadians we’re proud of diversity, so why is multicultural media being left in the dark about COVID-19

Foreign workers face a lack of safe conditions, abuse and exploitation: Ethnic and mainstream media coverage

Useful summary of ethnic media coverage and contrast with mainstream media:

Temporary foreign workers and undocumented migrants have been one of the most affected groups during the pandemic, as covered by ethnic media from May to December. “The fact that in 2020, people are dying on farms in Ontario in one of the richest and most socially and technologically advanced countries in the world, Canada, is truly cause for reflection,” an Italian outlet wrote in early July, after multiple reports of COVID-19 outbreaks at farms employing seasonal workers from Latin America and the Caribbean, and deaths of three Mexican workers.

Outlets carried stories by migrants who said they were forced to start working right after arrival (without the 14-day quarantine) or had to quarantine in rooms that had no food or inadequate space to allow for physical distancing. The Migrant Workers Alliance for Change was cited as saying that it had received complaints from more than 1,000 people that their working and living conditions were crowded, they were unable to maintain the two-metre distance and lacked personal protection supplies.

One of the prominent cases was that of a Mexican farm worker, Gabriel Flores, who won compensation from his employer, Scotlynn Farms, in front of the Ontario Labour Relations Board. Flores sued Scotlynn Farms after he had been fired for speaking to the media about insufficient protection at the facility, where almost 200 workers had gotten infected with COVID-19.

Live-in care workers were shown to be highly vulnerable as well. A lot of media attention was devoted to a report titled “Behind Closed Doors: Exposing Migrant Care Worker Exploitation During COVID-19,” based on a survey of 201 migrant care workers and released in late October. The report showed that nearly half of the respondents were forced to work longer hours without being paid overtime. Two out of three workers said they weren’t allowed to leave the house, send money back home or even go to the doctor for fearing of breaking family quarantine bubbles.

What clearly transpired in ethnic media coverage was the fact that temporary foreign workers are the backbone of Canada’s food supply and many other essential sectors, but they are not getting basic rights protection.

In fact, as one Filipino outlet observed, Canada has depended on “cheap immigrant labour” from “Chinese railway workers to the Japanese fishermen, to South Asian farmers and loggers, to the Filipino overseas workers.”

Domestic work, health care and hospitality are all sectors that “capitalize on cheap female labour from the Global South,” wrote another, reporting a story of a Filipino woman who was separated from her son for five years as she was working in Kelowna, B.C., as a housekeeper at a hotel and as sanitation staff at a hospital. The pandemic has cost her and her husband their jobs at the hotel, and she still owes a substantial sum to an immigration agency.

“Guardian angels” of Quebec get pathway to permanent residency

Substantial coverage was given to the precarious status of many asylum seekers working or volunteering at long-term senior care homes and in other health-care settings in Quebec, including the price they have paid with their health.

These workers, whom Quebec Premier François Legault called “guardian angels,” are largely Haitians who came to Canada irregularly from the U.S. According to Montreal’s Haitian community advocate Ruth Pierre-Paul, cited in Caribbean media, hundreds of them have sought out jobs in long-term care homes as a quick way to enter the workforce.

After weeks of advocacy, media attention and petitions to the federal government, in August, Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino announced a pathway to permanent residency for asylum claimants working in health care during the pandemic. Several media outlets praised the move, but many also stressed that the program is closed to asylum seekers doing other essential jobs. This has left many people disappointed and triggered further protests.

International students treated like “cash cows”

International students have faced a lot of uncertainty, anxiety and financial pressure in the pandemic months, and ethnic media have covered these struggles closely. As reported, the main dilemma faced by students before the start of the new academic year was whether to attempt entering Canada at the risk of being turned back at the border (which happened to many) or stay in their home countries and study online.

Until October 20, only individuals with study permits issued before March 18 were able to travel to Canada, and solely for a “non-discretionary or non-optional purpose.” Other students were subject to a travel ban.

For students from China and India, who account for the bulk of international students in Canada, attending university online in their home countries has meant having to study at odd hours and cope with internet issues. As reported, students also missed exposure to local culture, which they thought might later affect their chances on the job market. Some consolation came with a July announcement that time spent studying online abroad would be counted toward a post-graduation work permit.

There has been no relief in terms of cost, however. Universities not only refused to give rebates to those studying online; some have even raised tuition fees for foreign students, prompting comments in ethnic media that international students were treated like “cash cows” by “shameless Canadian universities.”

International students already in Canada also struggled. According to Chinese outlets, many Chinese students decided to stay in the country despite classes going online, mostly because the flights were very expensive and hard to come by. They also did not want to risk being stranded back home. But with high costs of living, few summer job opportunities, almost no help from the federal government, and no social activities, students were reported to be feeling helpless, frustrated, anxious and homesick. 

Punjabi broadcast media noted that many students were under pressure to find work to support themselves and send money back to their families. Concerns were also expressed over “suicidal incidents among international students.”

Non-permanent residents in mainstream media coverage

Similar to the coverage offered in ethnic media, coverage by Toronto Star broadly reflected two major perspectives—conveying government policy and programs and also offering human interest stories reflecting the lived experiences of the newcomers, migrant workers, refugees and international students. 

The paper quite extensively explored how immigrants and newcomers to Canada have been affected by COVID-19 pandemic from the economic, social and health and well-being angles. Dozens of articles addressed the issue of temporary farm workers, highlighting their precarious situation as well as legal battles. Solid coverage was also devoted to refugees and asylum seekers and the processes related to their status, brought to readers’ attention via a number of human-interest stories.

The issues facing international students, whether stranded in Canada or overseas, also received attention. Among others, the Star carried discussion regarding tuition fees and opportunities for foreign students to change their status.

Among the Postmedia Network titles, the Windsor Star appeared to carry the most coverage relating to migrants and the pandemic — perhaps unsurprisingly, given that more than half of the local COVID-19- cases during the pandemic’s first wave were among the thousands of migrant workers employed in the agri-food sector in Southwestern Ontario’s Essex County. 

Another significant aspect of the coverage was the call on the government to create a new permanent residency program for migrant workers, including undocumented workers, in sectors facing labour shortages. Advocates were asking the government to allow migrant farm workers to apply for a 12-month open work permit that would maintain or regularize their status while their application for permanent residency was in process.

Insight from MIREMS media monitoring

“Ethnic media has been instrumental in reporting on and clarifying government policy, processes and programs. It has also documented the unique challenges different migrant constituencies face and has been part of successful lobbying efforts for concrete solutions,” summed up Silke Reichrath, Editor-in-Chief at MIREMS.

Of particular concern were temporary foreign workers, international students, asylum seekers, and undocumented workers.

In terms of immigration policy, a lot of coverage was devoted to the impact of COVID on immigration levels, border closures and travel restrictions, visa extensions for temporary residents stranded in Canada, work permit regulations, farm worker rights and COVID safety protocols, COVID-related accommodations for international students, modifications to the Express Entry draws, and the “guardian angel” program for front-line care providers. Ethnic media frequently aired interviews with immigration lawyers and consultants as well as with lawmakers.

Another concern reflected in the ethnic media has been around family reunification. The processing of spousal sponsorship cases has stalled, and ethnic media has reported repeatedly on protests organized to ask the government to resume processing sponsorships.

Methodology: This ethnic media analysis is based on a selection of 350 summaries of articles and broadcast segments in radio, TV, print and web sources between May and December, 2020. These summaries were selected from about 6,000 items on these issues found in 450 active ethnic media sources in Canada monitored by MIREMS.


I went on Punjabi radio to share COVID information with my community. I learned that multicultural media has been kept in the dark

Ethnic media is often unappreciated at times like these:

“I would encourage listeners to not take medicine as there are lot of side effects.” These are the types of uninformed messages I heard being blasted on a Punjabi radio show as I awaited my turn to speak about COVID-19 precautions.

As a General Surgery Resident at the University of Toronto, I decided to personally reach out to this media outlet to promote awareness around COVID-19 in Punjabi. I had recognized the importance of dissemination of cultural and language specific information while working with my patients, and colleague physicians from different specialties including Public Health, and Infectious Disease.

I was also inspired to connect with Punjabi radio and TV shows after seeing the way my family and friends relied on information from these sources. As part of my social media campaign, Humans in Brampton, I also spoke to a few truck, and taxi drivers who sometimes go on long cross border trips and they informed me that their sole knowledge about COVID-19 is from Punjabi, Hindi, and Urdu radio shows.

Moreover, I came across multiple tweets from community advocates urging physicians and public health officials to speak to the community directly. These tweets were in response to conversations in national media about the rise of COVID-19 cases in specific communities such as North East Calgary in Alberta, and Peel region in Ontario. What emerged from these discussions was the role of socioeconomic status, language barriers, health care and workplace inequities that exacerbated the pandemic burden in such communities.

Speaking to some of the Punjabi Radio and TV media outlets, I was surprised to learn how underutilized these platforms have been throughout the pandemic. One of the spokesmen for such a media platform informed me, “We have hardly been approached by physicians, public health or government bodies to run COVID-19 specific messaging on a regular basis. We would be more than thrilled to have them on our shows,” they said.

In another live Punjabi TV discussion that was being broadcasted throughout North America, I received a question from a New York resident who had tested positive for COVID-19 regarding precautions, and this solidified my belief that these highly impactful public platforms have not been utilized during the pandemic to disseminate life-saving information even across the continent.

I was also shocked to learn that more homeopathy and alternative care providers used these language specific platforms to deliver health related information than government bodies, and physicians. The lack of information and even worse, misinformation, can be dangerous for the community members as they are essentially in the dark about how to protect themselves from COVID-19.

Based on 2016 Statistics Canada data, Peel region in Ontario for instance had the lowest percentage (60.92 per cent) of population speaking in English at home. 4 per cent of the Peel population had no knowledge of English or French. Language, on top of other inequitable factors is another barrier many of these communities face when it comes to inaccessibility to health care and information.

Australia: Governments must stop the patronising attitude to multicultural media

Similar situation in Canada, unfortunately (see the Canadian Ethnic Media Association’s The Need for adequate and equitable recognition of Canada’s Ethnic media):

Since the beginning of the COVID crisis not a single multicultural media outlet has been invited or been granted access into the daily media briefings from the Victorian Premier or the Australian Prime Minister.

Earlier this year as the reality of the pandemic hit our shores and federal and state governments imposed the first lockdown we saw fear enter into the psyche of the entire community. Supermarket shelves were emptied as a collective primal instinct set in. People envisaged the worst, and it was the government and the media’s role to allay those fears.

At Neos Kosmos we immediately assured our staff and our readers that it was ‘business as usual’, in fact our commitment to report the news was heightened, not only for accuracy but with ongoing rolling coverage as developments unfolded. Our community needed us more than ever.

It has been very difficult to produce the essential service we provide to the community. As with most publishers, we had to cut back our freelance contributors and slash costs wherever we could as advertising revenue plummeted.

Meanwhile our ongoing coverage, in Greek and English, was being distilled from the established mainstream news sources (ABC, News Corporation and Nine outlets). This is not uncommon for any small publisher who needs to cover national or state news, with limited resources.

As the devastating aged care crisis in Victoria emerged in July we decided to ask the Victorian government questions directly on behalf of our readers and the community. Our most respected community members, our parents and grandparents, the pioneers of our community, who sacrificed so much, had been compromised by endemic failures, at both state and federal level. Many began to die.

We made our first request to attend the Victorian Premier’s daily media conference on August 3, as the crisis of the second wave in Victoria was unfolding. As a respected publisher with 63 years of journalism experience behind us, it was a no brainer, we needed to ask questions directly to our Premier. To our surprise we were denied access… and have been denied access ever since.

Earlier in the year, the federal government had set up weekly multicultural media briefings by Minister Alan Tudge, the Acting Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs. This was welcome, however, these conferences are more government public relations than the opportunity for media to scrutinise and ask unvetted questions. Media must either submit questions or ask them via chat, leaving it up to the Minister’s advisors as to which get answered and when.

Multicultural media is treated as a second-class citizen, and in the words of a current Victorian Minister, who’s name we shall not reveal, it is being treated in a very ‘paternalistic’ manner. Over the past three and half months we have lobbied our leaders, whilst continuing to request access to the Premier’s briefings. We are continuously denied, being given excuses and that our request will be ‘put forward’.

Well over 150 Greek Australian Victorians have died over the past few months from COVID, an unproportionally high number of the 800 plus that have lost their lives in this state. Our government will not let the community’s represented media ask unvetted questions. Why?

We are told that due to COVID there are limited media placings in the auditorium due to social distancing requirements. We don’t make the cut. We rely on the likes of the ABC, The Australian, The Age and Sky News. When suggesting that we do not need to be physically present, but to be able to ask questions via Zoom, or the like, we were told this suggestion would be ‘put forward’. That was in July. We are still waiting.

That fact of the matter is that no government has wanted to deal with the ‘headache’ of having to manage tens, if not hundreds, of requests from multicultural media outlets to attend conferences. It has even been suggested that it would be easier to consider if we (multicultural media) had a representative group.

Such a suggestion is valid and overdue, and is currently in discussion, however no broad industry group could speak on behalf of vastly different communities and media outlets, each with unique circumstances, needs and even politics.

There is no excuse, governments of all persuasions need to be able to assess a media outlets credibility and public interest, and we need to ask direct questions at briefings. Something must change and government needs to act. Governments must stop the paternalistic behaviour and engage with our journalists. Journalists who understand their communities and who can not only ask the right questions but to make government and mainstream media aware of the nuances of any particular community.

In Melbourne’s most recent outbreak at East Preston Islamic College a mainstream journalist asked the Victorian Premier at his media conference last Friday ‘what improvements had been made in communications with non-English speaking communities’.

The Premier replied “I think that every day we look for different ways, enhanced ways to get to some communities that are pretty hard to get to, they’re hard to sometimes connect with. And that can be language issues, cultural issues, all sorts of things.”

He then went on to say, “we engage with community leaders, we use multicultural media, we use mainstream media, all manner of social media platforms..” and also said “there’s a constant search for ways in which we can better link with the diverse communities that make up our city and state.”

Not a single multicultural media journalist was present at that conference.

Source: Governments must stop the patronising attitude to multicultural media

Major Chinese-language newspaper rejects group’s ad criticizing Hong Kong security law

Of note (worrisome):

Canada’s largest-circulation Chinese-language newspaper recently rejected a full-page ad criticizing the new Hong Kong national security law and one of the law’s Canadian supporters, raising new concerns about a pro-Beijing slant in Chinese-Canadian media.

A loose collection of 40 or so pro-democracy activists had been willing to spend $3,000 to purchase the spot in Sing Tao , a newspaper half-owned by Torstar, the Toronto Star’s parent company, said two of the activists.

As well as being condemned by Western governments and human-rights organizations, the security law imposed by China on Hong Kong last month has alarmed many Canadians with ties to the city.

But the activists said the paper refused to run the statement, partly because it criticized David Choi, chair of the National Congress of Chinese Canadians and a booster of the controversial legislation.

The Congress has a long history of pro-China advocacy.

The activist group re-submitted the ad without mentioning Choi by name. A saleswoman said it had been rejected again because “our senior management do not feel comfortable posting it,” said one member of the group.

“They’re not allowing us to practice our freedom of speech,” complained another of the activists, who asked to be identified only by his surname, Wong, citing the security law’s apparently global reach. “This is scandalous.”

After submitting the advertisement to Sing Tao July 17 and having it rejected first on July 19, then again on July 21, the B.C. group took it to rival Ming Pao . That newspaper agreed to run the version of the statement that did not mention Choi or the NCCC, said Wong.

The incident adds to longstanding complaints that many of Canada’s Chinese-language media outlets eschew negative content about China’s Communist Party-led regime.

But a Sing Tao manager dismissed any suggestion his organization was trying to censor China critics.

The newspaper reviews all ad submissions for “libelous contents, good taste and other legal issues,” said Andrew Lai, general manager of Sing Tao Daily .

“After carefully reviewing the said advertisement (under) the anonymous name of ‘a group of Canadian Hong Kongers,’ we declined the said advertisement,” he said.

The paper has not shied from reporting on both sides of the Hong Kong conflict, argued Lai. He cited a recent story on a protest by Canadians of Hong Kong background in Vancouver against Choi’s support for the security law and his claim that he speaks for most Chinese Canadians.

Lai also pointed to three letters it printed on one day in June that criticized the initiative.

“Sing Tao Daily’s basic aim as a newspaper serving the Canadian Chinese community is to engage in the full and frank dissemination of news and opinion.”

Advocates for human rights in China do not agree.

Both Sing Tao and Ming Pao have for the last ten years refused to run ads from the Toronto association for democracy in China to commemorate the 1989 Tienanmen Square massacre, said association spokesman Cheuk Kwan.

“This rejection of an ad critical of Choi and the NCCC is par for the course,” Kwan said. “Another case of Chinese (government) influence in our civic society and politics. In this case, media self-censorship by the Chinese-language media.”

He charges that the Chinese embassy and consulates exert influence on ethnic media here either directly, through owners tied to Beijing, or via the leverage of advertising by China-friendly businesses.

In a high-profile 2009 episode, a senior Sing Tao editor altered a Toronto Stararticle on Tibet to remove criticism of China before publishing it in his own paper. The editor was eventually fired.

The National Congress itself has often appeared in line with Beijing. Last year, a congress leader echoed Beijing’s calls for the federal government to drop extradition proceedings against Meng Wanzhou, the Huawei CFO. The NCCC has backed installing the Chinese government’s controversial Confucius Institute at the Toronto public school board and allowing state-run CCTV onto Canadian cable. In 2003, the Chinese ambassador offered the congress “our highest compliment” for co-hosting an exhibit at Toronto City Hall that promoted China’s narrative on Tibet.

On a visit to Canada in 2007, Chinese diplomatic defector Chen Yonglin charged that the NCCC was in effect a front for the People’s Republic, a charge the group strongly denied.

Choi could not be reached for comment.

Beijing says the national security law is designed to quell violent demonstrations and restore order in Hong Kong. But critics warn it will crush the limited freedoms that set the city apart from mainland China, criminalizing subversion of government power, support for separatism, collusion with foreign forces and using violence in protests.

In Canada, the alleged self-censorship by Chinese-language media seems to have worsened amid China’s Hong Kong crackdown, said Cherie Wong of Alliance Canada Hong Kong.

Wong mentioned a recent, uncritical radio interview in Vancouver with Beijing’s consul general there, in which the diplomat lambasted Chinese-Canadian critics of the security law.

“There were no follow up questions from the journalist, it was very scripted,” said Wong. With the misleading news and this kind of misleading information circulating in ethnic media, our communities are at risk.”

The B.C. activists say they plan to write to Torstar, which owns about 50 per cent of Sing Tao , to complain about the ad rejection.

Source: Major Chinese-language newspaper rejects group’s ad criticizing Hong Kong security law