Russia’s attack on Ukraine sparks outrage in Canada’s multilingual media

Useful overview:

In a dramatic shift, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine caused a complete pivot in ethnic media attention in the past week. While for many Eastern European outlets the war triggered vivid memories of the past, media across the board expressed outrage and concern over the attack and focused on responses from Canada and the international community.

The events in Ukraine are of particular interest to Canada for two reasons, as the Russian Canadian portal Russian Week put it in its commentary. For one, “as a smaller country sitting next to the world’s largest superpower, Canada has a massive stake in ensuring international norms and laws are respected to protect itself and global stability. Those include preventing one country from being allowed to invade or otherwise seize parts of another country. The fear is that ignoring Russia’s actions weakens this prohibition.”

In addition, “the fate of Ukraine is a personal matter for the more than 1.3 million Canadians of Ukrainian descent, many of whom still have strong connections to their ancestral land and are opposed to Russian interference in the country,” Russian Week wrote. “Because of its size, the Ukrainian community is seen as having significant influence, and it is demanding Canada support Ukraine.”

At the forefront of these demands, and of solidarity rallies and marches in Canadian cities, has been Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Chrystia Freeland, who is herself of Ukrainian descent.

“But not all the outraged voices are Ukrainian,” says MIREMS President Andres Machalski, whose father comes from Western Ukraine. “These demonstrations have been reflected widely in the ethnic media of all language groups in Canada.”

The Canadian Punjabi Post highlighted that Canada is home to the world’s largest population of Ukrainians after Ukraine and Russia, and that several Canadian political leaders are of Ukrainian origin. The paper sees Ukraine as a bridge between Russia and Europe, and “the collapse of that bridge is like inviting a major flood.”

The Tamil East FM radio reported that protests were held in Toronto, Montreal and other major cities in Canada to urge the Canadian government to undertake stronger action against Russia. Speakers at the protest condemned Russia’s action and expressed shock and dismay over this “senseless act” by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Punjabi Red FM radio in Calgary reported on the rally in Calgary and interviewed several participants, including a Russian citizen there to show his solidarity with the Ukrainian people and to send the message that ordinary Russians do not support their president’s “insanity.”

Russian Canadian media condemn the invasion of Ukraine

Obviously the most active discussion has been in the Ukrainian and Russian community media, but with a Canadian twist. The Russian website Knopka cited Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) Quebec branch head Michael Shwec saying that the whole world has a duty to rally behind Ukraine, as a failure to act would send a signal to other authoritarian countries and spell trouble for democracies across the world.

The Russian Torontovka quoted several UCC representatives who organized the protests in Montreal and Edmonton calling the events “an opportunity for people from the community to come together and raise awareness about Russian aggression in Ukraine” and to express their disappointment with the international response to the conflict.

MIREMS Ukrainian and Russian languages analyst Oleg Schindler says that most Russian Canadian ethnic media condemn the aggression and support sanctions against Russia. Yet, on Facebook pages of different media sources as well as different Canadian public groups, there is a strong verbal battle between the communities. It appears that quite a lot of Russians in Canada write comments in support of Putin’s invasion. The Ukrainian side accuses them of being brainwashed by the Russian narrative about “fascists” in Ukraine.

Eastern European outlets rally behind Ukrainians

Other Eastern European media in Canada were also deeply triggered by the events, says MIREMS Editor in Chief Silke Reichrath. Many of the outlets and their readers have long considered Russia an “uncomfortable neighbour” and vividly remember a past life behind the Iron Curtain. A Latvian protester explained on OMNI Italian News that having been occupied by the Soviet Union for years, Latvians understand the consequences of Russian aggression.

The Polish Gazeta featured the Polish-Canadian organization Konekt, which joined the Sunday march for Ukraine in Toronto organized by the UCC. Konekt stated, “what has been to our generation a nightmare from the past century has become an unthinkable reality for our Ukrainian neighbours.”

The Polish newspaper Goniec described how Latvians, Estonians, Lithuanians, Poles and others joined together in the protests to support Ukraine. The Polish Radio 7 Zycie aired a heartbreaking interview with a Ukrainian woman living in Toronto who worries about her family in Ukraine. The woman suggested donations to Come Back Alive, a Kyiv-based NGO, and thanked people in Poland for opening up their homes to those fleeing the war. The broadcaster has also launched its own crowdfunding campaign.

The Romanian Observatorul showcased in a long article how Romanians are rallying to help Ukrainian refugees arriving in their country, despite the sometimes difficult history of the two countries.

Echoes of Second World War and fears of another global conflict

The Jewish community has close ties to the Jewish community in Ukraine, which is the second largest in Europe and, by some counts, fourth largest in the world. The Canadian Jewish News has been posting podcasts of interviews with Jewish leaders in Ukraine: a rabbi spoke of spending Shabbat in synagogue basements for safety. Funds for Ukraine are being raised by the TanenbaumCHAT high school in Toronto and the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg.

One of the podcasts featured Ukrainian-Canadian Alti Rodal, a Ukrainian-Canadian historian and daughter of Holocaust suvivors. She has been running a group called Ukrainian Jewish Encounter to bridge the longstanding distrust between Jews and Ukrainians that dates back to the Second World War. Rodal said Putin’s claims to want to de-nazify Ukraine were absurd because Ukraine has a Jewish president and defence minister.

Some German outlets see spectres of a potentially nuclear Third World War. An opinion piece in the German monthly Der Albertaner reflected that Putin justified the invasion of Ukraine by saying he was restoring peace in the Donbas, which is reminiscent of Hitler justifying the invasion of Poland with the argument that he was retaliating for a Polish attack on a German radio station in Silesia.

Concerns about emboldening China

Chinese community media are clearly concerned that Russia is setting an example for China to follow with respect to Taiwan. A1 Chinese Radio host Mary Yang called Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “heartbreaking” and wondered if it was giving inspiration to Chinese President Xi Jinping to attack Taiwan.

Sing Tao Daily referenced Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations, Bob Rae, who said that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could inspire other invasions if it is not stopped. Rae’s comments came as speculation was growing over whether Russia’s invasion would embolden China to invade Taiwan.

Mixed reactions to expected inflow of Ukrainian refugees

Many ethnic media outlets have also zeroed in on the prospect of a large number of Ukrainian refugees, as immigration is generally a topic of great interest to newcomer communities.

Russian Week featured Michael Bociurkiw, a Canadian security expert, who argued that many Ukrainians are talented and have multiple degrees, so they are exactly the type of immigrants Canada needs. OMNI Filipino News featured immigration lawyer Chantal Iannicielo, who pointed out that Ukraine is the only country in the region whose citizens require visas for Canada, so if Canadian authorities really want to allow people to leave Ukraine quickly, they should lift the visa requirement.

Countering foreign media reports that some people of colour fleeing the war cannot get through the Ukraine-Poland border due to the colour of their skin, an article in the Polish Goniec quoted Polish UN Ambassador Krzysztof Szczerski, who said that assertions of race- or religion-based discrimination at Poland’s border were “a complete lie and a terrible insult to us.”

MIREMS Chinese-language analyst Vivian Kwan notes that the Chinese media have traditionally held a more negative view of refugee acceptance in Canada, especially when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accepted a large number of Syrian refugees between 2015 and 2016. To that point, the Chinese website Van People quoted Trudeau’s statement that Ukrainian immigrants will be prioritized. The editor commented that Canada has a goal to recruit 1.3 million newcomers in three years, but the spots have all been reserved for “these people” (i.e. refugees).

Van People also reported on increasing animosity between Russian and Ukrainian residents of Toronto, who have been tearing flags off and damaging each other’s cars. “Other than history, one part of the explanation for this cleavage … is that people in both communities do their best to follow homeland news and media as well, perhaps out of concern for families there, and become polarized by the atrocities of war,” says Machalski.

Source: Russia’s attack on Ukraine sparks outrage in Canada’s multilingual media

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.


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.


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.


ICYMI: Dole out funding for COVID-19 ads soon, say experts, as ethnic media outlets face cash crunch

Of note as there is a percentage of the visible minority and immigrant population that ethnic media has greater reach than mainstream media:

As Ottawa looks to reach communities that do not speak English or French during the COVID-19 pandemic by buying ad space in some ethnic and Indigenous media outlets, one expert fears these news organizations could come “under the gun” in the next few weeks if ads are not rolled out soon.

“The viability and sustainability of ethnic media is under the gun,” said Madeline Ziniak, chair of the Canadian Ethnic Media Association. “We’ve been hearing from our membership [who say] that, ‘I don’t know if we can sustain another month, another month and a half, and things are getting very difficult.’ ”

Like many other mainstream and independent news outlets, ad revenues for ethnic media have begun to evaporate, with the mass closure of restaurants and other businesses that place ads.

On March 11, as part of its $1-billion COVID-19 aid package, the government said it would dedicate $50-million to the Public Health Agency of Canada’s  national public education campaign. Health Canada spokesperson Eric Morrissette said in an email on April 1 the goal was“to encourage the adoption of personal protective behaviours.”

About $30-million of that funding is set aside for advertising in 15 different languages: French, English, Italian, Farsi, Mandarin, Tagalog, Punjabi, Spanish, Arabic, Tamil, Urdu, Korean, Hindi, Inuktitut, and Cree.

According to the 2016 census, 7.6 million Canadians speak a language other than French and English at home, amounting to 14.5 per cent of the population. The Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages listed Mandarin, Cantonese, and Punjabi among the top five languages in the country, along with French and English.

Mr. Morrissette wrote that French and English ads have already begun airing, along with some radio ads in Farsi, Italian, and Mandarin.

Those three languages were chosen “based on the need to urgently share information in communities with links to countries where travel health notices were in place at the time of production,” but did not specify when those ads were produced, and which outlets had begun running them.

He also did not specify which newspapers will be running the ads in the remaining languages. The government’s list, he said, “is evolving because some publishers of content in languages other than English or French have suspended or closed operations because of COVID-19.”

Ms. Ziniak said the association has a database of 1,300 media entities “in languages other than English and French across Canada,” which could be useful for the government in its efforts.

“We’ve lobbied for a long time that there should be a relevant and updated database list of who’s out there,” she added. “And now, we’re in a situation where people are scrambling, and we’re offering our services as a nonprofit, free, volunteer organization.”

Mr. Morissette wrote that the languages for print ads were chosen based on the “top ethnic languages spoken in Canada,” and that consideration was given to the “availability and reach of the outlets in these languages.”

He did not provide a timeline for when the newspaper ads will begin appearing, nor specify the metrics for what the reach needs to be for such outlets.

He noted that the government is sharing fact sheets and infographics “in a variety of languages” online. One resource listing preventative measures that can be taken in the workplace, for example, is available for download in Bengali, Dutch, Gujrati, Vietnamese, and Somali.

According to Andrew Griffith, a former senior director in the government’s immigration department, there is an urgency with which the government should begin rolling out ads to target non-English and French speakers.

“I think you have to work on the assumption that not everybody is receiving the messages,” Mr. Griffith said in a phone interview this week. “The ethnic media, by and large, does not aim at second-generation Canadians. It basically is for the immigrant ones, and there are some that have limited knowledge of English or French.”

While he said the messaging around social distancing measures from ministers, the prime minister, and public health authorities has been “pretty  clear and consistent for the last week or 10 days,” thanks to daily press briefings, he added that “getting [ads in] ethnic media out in another 10 days, means you’ve probably missed the boat.”

In an effort to reach some of their constituents, some MPs like Liberals Omar Alghabra (Mississauga Centre, Ont.) and Salma Zahid (Scarborough Centre, Ont.) have shared their own online messages in Arabic and Urdu, respectively.

“It’s important that we get the message across to everyone. Sometimes there are language barriers, sometimes our seniors don’t understand English or French,” said Ms. Zahid in a phone interview.

Ms. Zahid, who herself was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer in 2018, said she is encouraging “community leaders” to similarly put out messages on COVID-19 in Tagalog, Tamil, Bengali, and Gujarati, which are spoken prominently in her riding.

Former MP Olivia Chow suggested that if the government is running broadcast ads, it should consider featuring prominent voices within Chinese-speaking communities, for instance.

“If they want the ads to be amplified, having community partners of each of those language groups would be useful,” said Ms. Chow in a phone interview, listing Dr. Joseph Wong as an example. A physician and philanthropist, Dr. Wong founded the Toronto-based Yee Hong Centre for Geriatric Care in 1987 and was chair for the United Way of Greater Toronto from 1990 and 1992.

“Different people [who speak] different languages from different communities have different spokespersons, that could know their media market and social media very well,” said Ms. Chow.

Daniel Ahadi, a Simon Fraser University professor in B.C. who studies ethnicity and media, suggested that funding could also be shared with community organizations like settlement agencies.

That would allow groups “to do outreach on their own terms, because I think most ethnic community organizations, they’re quite well-established within ethnic communities, and they have a broad network and can navigate those using email lists, newsletters, and other formats they’ve been using over the years,” he said in a phone interview this week.

But Andrés Machalski, president of media-monitoring firm MIREMS, which has worked with the Canadian Blood Services, Canada Post, and other federal departments in the past, cautioned against such an approach. The firm translates reports from a range of ethnic media outlets.

“I respect what agencies are doing, but you’re looking at an information distribution and communications program, not a help program,” he said in a phone interview.  “This is a journalistic job, a propaganda job, an advertising job, not a social service organization. And the people who are working there, are devoted to hands-on attention, [finding] solutions to problems. They don’t have people to go out and hand out flyers.”

Mr. Machalski later added that some shows, including  one hosted in Punjabi by B.C.-based Harjinder Singh Thind, explore multiple angles of the outbreak, such as details around wage subsidies and repatriation efforts. The show also has “a Punjabi speaking doctor come in almost daily to talk about COVID-19 and clarify any misinformation,” he wrote.

Mr. Machalski said that as of March 31, MIREMS tracked 650 stories under its health stream alone since the outbreak began, and noted that some outlets depend on taking existing stories from mainstream outlets and translate them for their own audiences, a pattern Ms. Ziniak said she too noted in her membership.

Ms. Ziniak also pointed to reports that noted some religious institutions, including some mosques, remained open last week, despite calls from public health officials to limit gatherings to contain the spread of the virus.

Over the past few weeks, officials from multiple levels of government have told Canadians to limit gatherings to under 50 people, a number that has since dropped to five, in the case of Ontario. According to CBC, one imam said some people may believe that “50 is a loophole in the law,” as some mosques tried to limit the number of worshippers to below 50 at the time.

“The seriousness of the situation has to be conveyed to a trusted source,” Ms. Ziniak said.

Source:  already under financial strain

Douglas Todd: How the election is playing out in local Chinese-language media

More in-depth look at Chinese-language media election and related coverage:

The conflict between Hong Kong and China. The pros and cons of immigration and refugees. Beliefs on abortion and same-sex issues. The tension between paying taxes and benefiting from social services.

Specialists who monitor Canada’s roughly 290 Chinese-language newspapers, websites, radio stations and TV channels say the political coverage not only echoes the mainstream media, it also reveals the distinct concerns of people with origins in East Asia.

Immigration and refugee issues garner more attention in the Chinese-language media than they do among the general Canadian public, say professional observers.

And even though Chinese-Canadians with roots in Hong Kong, Taiwan and China show a complex range of political opinions, Andrew Griffith, a former senior director in Ottawa’s immigration department, has concluded: “There is more of a conservative trend among Chinese-Canadians than, for example, South Asians.”

Like other Canadians, the 1.3 million people of Chinese origin switch party allegiances according to broader political patterns, said Griffith, who works with, a website highlighting political coverage in the country’s ethnic media. But their votes could make a crucial difference in dozens of urban swing ridings with large immigrant and visible-minority populations.

Roughly three out of four Chinese-Canadians live in either Greater Toronto, where they make up 11 per cent of voters, or Metro Vancouver, where they account for 20 per cent of voters. In the Vancouver suburb of Richmond, which has two federal ridings, 54 per cent of the population is ethnic Chinese.

Andres Malchaski, president of MIREMS International, which monitors the ethnic-language media and helped create, says that, while a large portion of Canadians tell pollsters the environment is their top election issue, that issue is far outweighed in the Chinese-language media by debates over immigration and refugees.

Chinese-Canadian media outlets, including their discussion forums, contain frequent criticism of Liberal leader Justin Trudeau for bringing in more than 60,000 Syrian refugees since 2015, said Machalski, who has analyzed Canada’s ethnic media for three decades.

Media outlets that target Canadians from China are often wary of refugees from Muslim countries, Machalski said, an attitude that reflects the way China’s authoritarian leaders have restricted the religious freedom of millions of Uighur Muslims.

“The feelings expressed by some of the calls and comments on phone-in shows and in newspaper columns (in Canada) certainly support the idea there will be segments of Chinese voters that might even go so far as to support the People’s Party of Canada,” which is calling for reducing immigration and refugee levels, Machalski said.

Still, Machalski emphasized that the views expressed in the Chinese-language outlets in Canada offer a “kaleidoscope” of perspectives, which often reflect whether their respective audiences are connected to Hong Kong, Taiwan, Hanoi or Beijing.

That is especially so in regards to the recent anti-Beijing protests in the financial centre of Hong Kong.

More than 300,000 people living in Hong Kong hold Canadian passports — and Oct. 21 marks the first Canadian election in which they can cast a ballot, says a article by Blythe Irwin.

The Chinese media is picking up on everything Canadian politicians are saying about the special administrative region of China. Ethnic-Chinese media commentators, she says, are both approving and sceptical of the way Trudeau says he is “extremely concerned” about Hong Kong, while Conservative leader Andrew Scheer went further by declaring in a tweet: “We are all Hong Kongers.”

Fenella Sung, a former Chinese-language radio show host, said that Chinese-media perspectives about the conflict largely reflect whether the Canadian-based outlets are aimed at audiences rooted in Hong Kong or China.

It’s not surprising that readers of media directed at the large mainland-Chinese population in Canada “would think the Hong Kong issue is China’s internal affair and that it would not be appropriate for Canadian politicians to comment,” said Sung, who is a member of Canadian Friends of Hong Kong.

Long-time immigrants from Hong Kong, Taiwan and other parts of East Asia, Sung said, tend to have political concerns that are in line with Canadians at large, such as jobs, housing and protecting the environment.

“But newer and younger immigrants, mostly from mainland China, are very consistent and focussed on economic growth, expansion of trade, less government bureaucracy, and lower taxation. They don’t like social spending.”

Prior to the B.C. election in 2016, some opinion polls suggested that, even while the province’s more than 500,000 ethnic Chinese voters held diverse views, they generally leaned to the centre-right B.C. Liberals, and had almost no interest in the Greens.

In an article on politics and Canada’s ethnic media published Wednesday in Policy Options magazine, Griffith said Liberal and Conservative party approaches to same-sex marriage and abortion have been widely commented upon, suggesting so-called “family values” are important to many recent immigrants and people of colour.

“While the Liberals and Conservatives get widespread coverage of their electoral promises and commitments, the NDP and Green Party are under-covered,” Griffith added, after reviewing 1,200 recent articles in the ethnic media.

“In contrast, the People’s Party of Canada, given its focus on restricting immigration and its initial exclusion from the leaders’ debate, received more than twice as much substantive coverage as the NDP and Greens combined.”

Chinese-language and other ethnic media outlets in Canada don’t necessarily reinforce cultural silos, Griffith says. But it’s clear they also offer a special window into political discussions of particular concern to certain ethnic groups.

Source: Douglas Todd: How the election is playing out in local Chinese-language media

How does ethnic media campaign coverage differ? My analysis in Policy Options

Drawing on over 1200 ethnic media pieces in the eight weeks prior to the election call as part of, my analysis assesses the major themes and issues covered:

Canadians who rely on ethnic media as their main information source receive coverage of issues comparable to that of mainstream media.

A major focus of this 2019 election for the various campaigns will be courting voters from immigrant and visible minority communities, who are a majority of the population in 41 ridings, and 20 percent or more in an additional 93 ridings.

For full article: How does ethnic media campaign coverage differ?

Diversity Votes — February By-elections: Matching Census Data with Ethnic Media Coverage (Final report with results 24 February to 1 March 2019)

For background data on the riding demographic, economic, social and political characteristics, see: February By-elections: Matching Census Data with Ethnic Media Coverage (1-18 January 2019). 

Note: While Chinese in the chart of ethnic media coverage refers to written media, Cantonese and Mandarin to broadcast oral media, I generally summarize all three as Chinese media except where indicated. 

Ethnic Media Coverage

As expected, by-election day generated the most articles since the by-election call, with a mix of pre-result (32) and post-result result (57) articles. Most articles continued to focus on Burnaby South given NDP leader Singh’s successful campaign. The chart below shows the by-election coverage by language from the start of the year (321 articles), along with the breakdown from last week. 

During the past week, while pre-result coverage was Punjabi (43.8 percent)  and Chinese (34.4 percent, almost half of the result coverage was Chinese (48.3 percent) with Punjabi at 29.2 percent. The results were also covered by more language groups, a similar pattern to that of by-election call coverage.

Pre-by-election coverage was a mix of factual stories regarding the three by-elections and articles highlighting the stakes for NDP leader Singh, particularly in Punjabi media. Other articles of note included articles on PPC leader Bernier’s visit to Burnaby South and PPC candidate Tyler Thompson (Punjabi), Chinese Canadian support for the PPC (based on the Star article How Canadian populism is playing out in the Burnaby South by-election), Conservative candidate Shin’s opposition to edible cannabis (Chinese), and NDP candidate in Outremont Sanchez’s comments on what people are talking about, the most interesting being comments regarding NDP leader Singh’s turban (Filipino).

 Commentary was largely analysis of the prospects of NDP Singh in Burnaby South and the NDP more generally, with the general tone being somewhat pessimistic while noting the SNC Lavalin scandal may increase his prospects.

Post-results coverage featured a similar mix of factual stories on the election results, again with the focus on Burnaby South, and how NDP leader Singh “tightened his shaky grip” on his leadership with his win. The anticipated Liberal win in Outremont over the NDP defeat was also covered in some depth as the counterpoint to his win. (The anticipated Conservative win in York South was merely noted.)

Post-results commentary focussed on the immediate impact for the NDP of leader Singh’s victory as well as some broader opinions and analysis on what the results may mean for the October general election. One commentary in Punjabi media noted that Singh’s victory showed he could take on “tough challenges.” Another in Chinese media considered that the Liberals should be considered the “biggest winner” as they appear to have been unaffected by the SNC Lavalin scandal in Quebec while another, also in Chinese media, quoted UBC professor Allan Tupper’s comments that not too much should be read into these results with respect to the general election, a point also covered in Hindi media.

While the strong results of the PPC in Burnaby South were not subject to analysis or commentary in Punjabi media, they did provoke a number of commentaries in Chinese media. One explained Chinese Canadian support as reflecting “church influence, different values of their native country and Canada, and their dissatisfaction with Trudeau” as the main reasons for the Chinese Canadian community to turn to the right (note: Chinese Canadians tend to support Conservatives more than other parties). Another stressed their social conservatism as a reason and a third the PPC’s highlighting the murder of Marissa Shen, allegedly by a Syrian refugee.

See the MIREMS blog for some of the stories being covered: MIREMS blog.

Diversity Votes — February By-elections: Matching Census Data with Ethnic Media Coverage (9-16 February 2019)

For background data on the riding demographic, economic, social and political characteristics, see: February By-elections: Matching Census Data with Ethnic Media Coverage (1-18 January 2019). 

Note: While Chinese in the chart of ethnic media coverage refers to written media, Cantonese and Mandarin to broadcast oral media, I generally summarize all three as Chinese media except where indicated. 

Ethnic Media Coverage

The ongoing focus on Burnaby South continued, in particular given the visit of PM Trudeau to the riding to support Liberal candidate Richard Lee. Overall, coverage remained stable at 26 articles, compared to 25 articles the previous week .

While Punjabi ((30.8 percent) and Chinese (38.5 percent) comprised the majority of ethnic media coverage of the by-elections, this was less than previous weeks. New to ethnic media coverage were two stories covered in Caribbean (English) media.

The Prime Minister’s visit featured was covered by all ethnic media covered during this period and was the focus of virtually all the articles in Chinese media. There was some mention of the ongoing scandal regarding possible interference in the judicial process involving SNC Lavalin and former justice minister Wilson-Raybould. Calls by Conservative leader Andrew Scheer and NDP Jagmeet Singh for the PM to waive solicitor-client privilege were reported in Punjabi and Caribbean media.

NDP leader Singh appeared to have more success getting his messages out regarding housing and pharmacare than previous weeks, particularly in the Punjabi media, with only one article reporting on the criticism over the NDP opposing recognition of Juan Gerardo Guaidó as acting Venezuelan president.

In Korean media, there were reports on a campaign event for Conservative candidate Jay Shin attended by Richmond MP Alice Wong as well as a visit by NDP candidate Singh to Northroad Korean town.

 In Urdu media, there was a report on Conservative criticism of the impact of the mortgage stress test on housing affordability.

In Caribbean media, there was coverage of Outremont, largely a profile of Liberal candidate Rachel Bendayan.

 Only two commentaries this week. One article in Punjabi media picked up on the arguments by Macleans writer David Moscrop (What if Jagmeet Singh really did have a $5.5 million mansion? Should we care?) without stating their own position. The other article in Chinese media focussing on Burnaby South provoked a range of comments regarding the prospects of the Liberals in the by-election and the upcoming general election.

Most of the general election coverage continued to focus on the government’s announced measures to reduce foreign interference in the federal election as well as the CBC analysis of the impact of Twitter trolls on political debates in Canada (Twitter trolls stoked debates about immigrants and pipelines in Canada, data show) and the Nanos survey showing that 60 percent of Canadians believe Facebook will have a negative impact on the election (More than six in 10 Canadians say Facebook will have a negative impact on fall election: survey).

Chinese media has also been covering extensively, as one would expect, the ongoing developments of the US extradition request of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, speculation regarding possible additional Chinese retaliation and former Ontario Liberal cabinet minister Michael Chan’s concerns regarding anti-Chinese sentiment of the Conservatives and populists.

See the MIREMS blog for some of the stories being covered: MIREMS blog.

Diversity Votes — February By-elections: Matching Census Data with Ethnic Media Coverage (31 January to 8 February 2019)

For background data on the riding demographic, economic, social and political characteristics, see: February By-elections: Matching Census Data with Ethnic Media Coverage (1-18 January 2019). 

Note: While Chinese in the chart of ethnic media coverage refers to written media, Cantonese and Mandarin to broadcast oral media, I generally summarize all three as Chinese media except where indicated. 

Ethnic Media Coverage

The ongoing focus on Burnaby South continued, with more articles commenting on the risks to  Jagmeet Singh’s leadership of the NDP should he not win the by-election in both Punjabi and Chinese (Chinese, Cantonese and Mandarin) media. Overall, coverage increased slightly to 25 articles compared to 18 the previous week (earlier weeks had 41 and 97 articles) .

Media coverage was roughly evenly split between Punjabi (44 percent) and 40 percent in Chinese media. 

In addition to the risks to Jagmeet Singh’s leadership, NDP fund-raising difficulties were covered as well as the Party’s poor prospects in Outremont based on polling data in Punjabi media. Singh’s universal pharmacare plan received coverage but was largely drowned out by stories concerning the risks to his leadership.

Stories covered in Chinese media included the risks to Singh’s leadership, that former Liberal candidate Karen Wang would not run as an independent (and noting her pregnancy), the visit of Andrew Scheer and his criticism of how the Liberals have handled the dispute with China over the requested extradition of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, and that NDP leader Singh appeared to be in the dark regarding the change in his caucus’s position on the legitimacy of Venezualan leader Maduro. 

The all candidates meeting for Burnaby South was covered in both Punjabi and Chinese media, with the latter noting the “fiery debate.”

Korean media coverage focussed on the visit to Burnaby South of Conservative leader Scheer and the formal launch of Conservative candidate Jay Shin, who is of Korean descent. Scheer’s visit was also covered in Chinese media but curiously not in Punjabi or South Asian English media. An article in Arabic media focussed on the importance of Outremont to both Liberals and the NDP, as well as Quebec ridings overall to the Liberal re-election plans.

Five commentary pieces in Punjabi media appeared this past week. Three of these focussed on the electoral prospects of Singh and the NDP, with two highlighting the risks to his leadership and the generally poor prospects of the NDP. One noted that Singh’s prospects had improved given the controversial remarks of former Liberal candidate Karen Wang while another one criticized those who circulate fake news and rumours regarding Singh. Tarek Fatah’s previously published critique of ethnic voting (The Bankruptcy of Ethnic Vote Banks) was reprinted in English in the Punjabi media.

In general election coverage, the government’s announcement of measures to reduce foreign interference in the federal election continued to receive considerable coverage. Other stories of interest included former NDP leader Mulcair’s comments regarding the possible shift of NDP voters to the Green Party, and questions surrounding the controversial $300,000 fundraiser by Brampton area MP Raj Grewal in both Punjabi and Chinese media. Cantonese media covered the Conservative plans to assist candidates in their communication skills.

See the MIREMS blog for some of the stories being covered: MIREMS blog.