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

Ethnic media provides added perspectives on “Freedom Convoy”

Useful coverage by New Canadian Media and MIREMS:

Over the last week, from Feb 3. to 10, various ethnic media outlets offered a wider range of perspectives on three hot-button issues that have dominated mainstream headlines.

From the so-called Freedom Convoy, to Erin O’Toole’s ousting as leader of the Conservative Party, to the Black History Month, ethnic media provided coverage that went beyond the usual suspects interviewed by the mainstream.

By elevating different cultural perspectives, opinions and narratives, ethnic media was able to provide coverage that offers a fuller understanding of the issues at play. NCM has worked with MIREMS to bring readers these added perspectives.

Polarizing ‘Freedom Convoy’

The top story in both the mainstream and the ethnic media was the ‘Freedom Convoy’ protesting against vaccine mandates and pandemic restrictions in Ottawa and provincial capitals as well as land border crossings to the U.S. The Romanian paper Faptu Divers, for example, supported the convoy in multiple articles and likened Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to former Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu for curtailing people’s freedoms, while the Polish paper Goniec reported that that community provided food for the protesters. The Polish Gazeta, on the other hand, focused on the harassment, racism and misbehaviour of the protesters. 

Both the Russian Vancouverovka and Russian Week highlighted comments by CBC host Nil Köksal suggesting that Russian actors are behind the protests because of Canada’s support for Ukraine.

Multiple features on OMNI TV News Filipino focused on the impact the protests had on members of the Filipino community, who reported being afraid to leave their homes because of the harassment from protesters.  

A feature on OMNI TV Italian focused on the racist messaging at the protests. G98.7 FM online radio featured responses from the Black parliamentary caucus to the public display of hate symbols, including the Confederate flag as a symbol for slavery.

Punjabi media focused on Punjabi truckers, who make up about a quarter of all Canadian truckers, and the hardships of the industry. OMNI News Punjabi featured some Punjabis among the protesters, who emphasized that they are against the mandates, not the vaccine, and object to protesters being silenced and insulted as extremists. 

Several other features on OMNI Punjabi focused on Punjabi truckers who are stuck on the U.S. side of the Canadian border by Coutts, Alberta and by Windsor, Ontario. These truckers had to reportedly live in their trucks for days without access to food or medical supplies and were unable to do their jobs, deliver their goods and attend to personal commitments back home. Several other features highlighted that the Punjabi truckers have other priorities. 

According to ethnic media reports, most Punjabi truckers are vaccinated, as vaccine coverage in the Punjabi community is high. Their priorities are around road safety, snow clearance, road maintenance, as well as working conditions and wage theft. 

In fact, the West Coast Trucking Association organized a separate protest in January to demand better road maintenance on B.C. highways, which has not been mentioned by anyone taking part at the ‘Freedom Convoy.’ One trucker started an online fundraiser to “Support Canada’s real struggling truckers,” which had raised $7,866 as of Feb. 9, according to OMNI Punjabi.

Chinese media on O’Toole’s ousting

Another top story was the Conservative leadership race. 

Coverage reflected the vote to oust Erin O’Toole, the selection of Candice Bergen as interim leader, the candidacy of Pierre Poilievre, and speculations around other potential candidates such as Premier Doug Ford, Mayor Patrick Brown, Peter MacKay and Jean Charest. 

However, the race took a particular spin in the Chinese media, where it was coloured by perceptions of the Conservative party’s hostility towards China. Erin O’Toole was perceived to be extremely anti-China, which may have lost the Conservatives several constituencies with a significant Chinese population in the last election, as Ming Pao Toronto reported on Feb. 3. 

Reports reflect that Chinese media were relieved and delighted at O’Toole’s ousting, because having him as prime minister would, in their view, further increase discrimination and hate against the Chinese diaspora, according to reports from Van People. 

And according to a report on Sing Tao Vancouver, Lin Wen, co-founder of the Canadian Chinese Political Affairs Council, figured that no matter who the new Conservative leader is, the Conservative Party’s China policy will not be changed.

Black History Month beyond the usual

Another topic that has more prominence in the ethnic media than in the mainstream has been Black History Month. 

In the mainstream, Black History Month was covered either from a bird’s-eye view of its significance, sometimes with reference to event listings, or with a focus on statements by political leaders, from the Prime Minister to local mayors. It also looked at ceremonies like flag-raisings and museum exhibits. Some contributions feature a Black author or a celebrity like Lincoln Alexander. 

The ethnic media, on the other hand, were more focused on issues of concern to and activities arising within the Black community. 

The radio station G 98.7 FM and OMNI TV reported in depth on the BE-STEMM 2022 virtual conference organized by the Canadian Black Scientists Network. The network has found that there are few Blacks in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) because Black students are not encouraged to pursue these areas in school. The network aims to open doors for Black people in Canada and around the world, as G 98.7 FM and OMNI TV Focus Punjabi reported on Feb. 4.

Another talk show on G 98.7 FM was devoted to a discussion on COVID with members of the Black Scientists’ Task Force on Vaccine Equity. According to the task force, the Black community is over-exposed to COVID because many cannot work from home, have to commute on public transit, work in customer service or care-giving jobs, and have underlying health conditions putting them at greater risk, such as hypertension, diabetes and asthma. 

School disruption was also discussed as something that wreaks more havoc for Black and low-income children’s learning than for other groups. At the same time, Blacks are under-vaccinated because they distrust the authorities, information is not communicated to them appropriately, and they are targets of racialized disinformation using specific triggers from their historical experience.

Ethnic media’s coattails

Often, ethnic media highlights issues of concern to a community that are either not reflected in the mainstream media or which are only picked up by it after they circulate in the ethnic media for a while. 

One such example was a story about the Hindu community in B.C. protesting against a new small business owner who is using an image of Lord Ganesh along with profane language in her logo. 

Community members, including about 40 organizations, are gathering signatures to have her stop using either the image or the wording, have approached local MLAs and MPs, held a protest at the Hindu temple, and are looking into legal action and mounting a PR campaign on social media. 

They feel this is cultural appropriation, Hinduphobia and racism, and they want a new law to protect Hindu culture. MP Sukh Dhaliwal attended the protest and said Canada is a diverse country and that we should celebrate each other’s culture and faith. He was going to approach the Heritage Minister and Prime Minister about this. 

The story broke on the blog on Jan. 31 and then on the Desibuzz Canada news website on Feb. 4. It was only then that it was picked up by CBC Vancouver on Feb. 6 as a report about the protest at the temple and by the Punjabi station Zee TV on Feb. 8. 

Source: Ethnic media provides added perspectives on “Freedom Convoy”

New Parliament has some fresh, diverse faces, but is it enough?

Some good commentary by Erin Tolley. Agree with her that it would be preferable for the Library of Parliament to collect and maintain this data, as they do for women, Indigenous and those born outside Canada:

The number of visible minority MPs and of other historically marginalized communities in Canada’s 44th Parliament, which resumes Monday, Nov. 22, has notably increased, but some analysts question the depth of the changes. 

The number of Indigenous MPs went from 10 in 2019 to 12. There will be a total of eight Black MPs, including the five incumbent from the 2019 Parliament and three new additions.

Based on the validated and judicial recount results posted on Elections Canada website, the Liberals have 160 seats (up by three from 2019), the Conservatives 119 (down two), the NDP 25 (up one), the Bloc Québécois an unchanged 32, and the Greens two.  

Despite seemingly little change on the surface, the election yielded a relatively high turnover — bringing a total of 52 new MPs from all parties who will take their seats in the House of Commons for the first time. 

Critical twists

In at least six ridings where visible minorities were either incumbents or contenders, there were critical twists and turnarounds. 

Liberal Parm Bians unseated the Conservative Kenny Chiu in the riding of Richmond East. Paul Chiang unseated the Conservative Bob Saroya in Markham-Unionville. George Chahal defeated Jagdeep Kaur Sahota in Calgary Skyview, thus swaying an important seat for Liberals in the province of Alberta. Conservative Nelly Shin lost to the NDP candidate in Port Moody-Coquitlam, and the Conservative Michelle Ferreri defeated Maryam Monsef in Peterborough. 

The sixth important riding where visible minorities lost out to a third candidate was Kitchener-Centre, where the dropping out of the race of Raj Saini led to an easier win for the Green party candidate Mike Morris.      

Election 44 reflected the greatest diverse pool of candidates in any election thus far, and as a result, the new Parliament will have greater representation for many historically neglected communities. 

The new Parliament will have 103 female MPs, three more than the previous one, and women MPs in total now make up 30.5 per cent of the House of Commons, a slight increase from 29 per cent. 

For comparison, in 2015, there were 88 women MPs. The Liberal Party has increased its number of female MPs since then from 52 to 57. The NDPs have gone from nine to 11. For the Conservatives, the number of women remained steady at 22, as did the number for the Bloc Québécois at 12 and for the Greens at one. The 44th Parliament likewise marks an increase in LGBTQ2S+ MPs, with eight openly LGBTQ2S+ MPs elected, double the number from 2019.  

In the runup to the September election, a team of Carleton University researchers led by Erin Tolley, Canada research chair in gender, race and inclusive politics, launched a project to track candidate’s diversity. 

The dataset collected includes information about their gender, race, Indigenous background, age, occupation, and prior electoral experience, as well as riding, party, and province. 

Slow and incremental

But while there is visibly increased diversity, Tolley says the progress has been slow and incremental.  

“The snap election and short campaign likely had some impact on who ran for office this time around,” she told New Canadian Media. 

“We know that it takes longer to find and convince women, racialized and Indigenous candidates to run, not because they don’t want to but because politics historically has been inhospitable to them.”

Without being proactive, she says, another election might come sooner than we think. 

“If parties are serious about diversifying politics, they should already be laying out the groundwork, identifying promising candidates, encouraging them to run, and giving them the support they need to do so,” she says. 

Tolley also points out that, based on the observation of successive election cycles, racialized and Indigenous candidates remain somewhat pigeon-holed in a select number of ridings, mostly those with large racialized or Indigenous populations. This, according to her, creates a ceiling in terms of how many can be elected to Parliament. 

“We know that racialized and Indigenous candidates can win in a number of ridings, regardless of the riding’s demographic composition. Parties should think more broadly about the contexts in which they recruit diverse candidates so as not to limit their opportunities,” Tolley suggests. 

Reflecting on the makeup of the new Parliament, Andrew Griffith, a media commentator, policy analyst and the fellow of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, likewise sees it as a “slow and steady progress,” both in terms of the number of visible minority candidates and elected MPs.  

He also considers that growing diversity is reflected in the new Cabinet that was announced on Oct. 26, and expects this to extend into Parliamentary secretaries. 

Not enough data 

Of the 338 candidates during the election, Liberals had 147 women running for office, 25 Indigenous,18 Black and another 50 visible minority candidates and 17 who identify as LGBTQ2S+.  

The Conservatives, out of 338 candidates in total, had 114 female candidates, their largest number so far. Of those, eight were Indigenous and Metis candidates. The Conservatives also had four LGBTQ2S+ candidates in this election. 

There were also 14 Black and 60 visible minority candidates, bringing the total of the non-white candidates to 74. The NDP had 177 women, 29 of them Indigenous. It had 104 visible minority candidates and 69 LGBTQ2S+ candidates. The Bloc Québécois had a total of 78 candidates, including 37 women, and 13 visible minority candidates, which albeit small, in comparison to others, was the most in the Party’s history. 

Based on the final tally of the candidates, the Liberals once again have the highest number and percentage of MPs, with 43 elected to serve. The Conservatives have six visible minority MPs. The NDP has three. One visible minority MP, a former Liberal candidate, won as an independent. 

Such figures, however, are not readily available as neither the Parliamentary Library nor the political parties put them out. 

Tolley is especially critical of the lack of institutionalized collection of demographic data on candidates or the racial backgrounds of MPs.  

“The Library of Parliament does publish information on women and Indigenous MPs, but nothing related to race. This leaves journalists and researchers without reliable and systematic data on diversity in parliament. That makes it difficult to track progress or hold parties accountable”, she says. 

The first item of business when Parliament resumes will be the election of the Speaker.


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.


How Many Immigrants Does Canada Really Need?

Needed discussion and questioning of the 2021-23 immigration plan given the economic and social context:

Canada’s ambitious plan to admit 1.2 million immigrants over the next three years sparks discussion on the nation’s ability to accommodate this surge.

It is hard to find anyone who doubts Canada’s need for immigrants, the only point of disagreement seems to be the number of immigrants Canada admits each year.

In September, the Department of Immigration’s annual tracking study found that four in 10 Canadians believed immigration quotas were too high, and 52 per cent of the surveyed agreed with the statement that “Canada should focus on helping unemployed Canadians rather than looking for skilled immigrants for our workforce.”

This poll obviously wasn’t taken into account because last week Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Marco Mendicino announced a plan to bring in 1.2 million new immigrants over the next three years — a historic high for the country.

Few would argue with the need to bring in around 300,000 immigrants annually, but increasing that number at a time when 1.8 million people in Canada are officially categorized as unemployed (as of September) has taken many aback.

It seems to me that apart from politicians, immigration consultants, manufacturing and business associations, there is little appetite among many Canadians for high levels of immigration during an economic crisis brought about by COVID-19.

The rationale offered by Minister Mendicino is that since the pandemic struck, immigrants and international students played a prominent role as front-line workers in grocery stores, warehouses and in long-term care facilities.

Very supportive of high immigration numbers is the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters association, who are on record stating that the immigration numbers for the next three years were too modest given the shortfall of admissions in 2020.

As the Business Council of Canada President and CEO Goldy Hyder said in a statement, “There is widespread agreement across party lines that immigration is essential to long-term economic growth.  Newcomers bring energy, skills, new ideas and entrepreneurial spirit. They start companies, fill skill shortages, buy houses and pay taxes.”

The reality of the job market

According to StatsCan, as of August, there were still 2.2 million unemployed people in Canada. The unemployment rate for people aged 15 to 69 was 11.3 per cent. As of September, it hovered around nine per cent.

But Canada’s unemployment rate would likely be much higher had it not been for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS), which has ensured that employers continue to keep on their rolls 3.7 million Canadian workers

The CEWS will continue until June 2021, after which a spike in unemployment is a distinct possibility. Most companies across the country are restructuring their businesses, reducing staff and investing more in automation.

Amazon, one of Canada’s largest employers, with 21,000 full- and part-time staff, as well as its rivals are increasingly requiring warehouse employees to get used to working with robots. Amazon alone now has more than 200,000 robotic vehicles it calls “drives” that are moving goods through its delivery-fulfilment centres around the U.S. That’s double the number it had last year and up from 15,000 units in 2014. 

It is quite likely that in a matter of years, most manufacturing companies and warehouses here in Canada won’t be needing more than a few dozen workers to oversee the robots.

Another big employer, Loblaws, began investing heavily in artificial intelligence and automation at the company’s offices, distribution centres and stores in 2019.

So, it is quite possible that those politicians and mostly small-business owners who are up at night worrying about impending labour shortages are not taking into account the rapid pace at which artificial intelligence and other technologies are expected to significantly reduce their staffing needs.

Working from “home” could mean anywhere

Thousands of employees working at some of Canada’s top companies are expected to work from home even after the pandemic passes. Technological improvements over the past year has made it possible for any company to outsource an even greater number of jobs. 

There is little stopping a company from hiring a software engineer anywhere in the world and giving him or her the option of working from “home” without setting foot in Canada. Technology makes “attracting” the best brains and talent from around the world possible on a scale that could never have been imagined.

Immigration has historically been a convenient way to address labour shortfalls which could last for decades, however in today’s fast-changing economy, it may not be wise to bring in permanent residents to essentially do jobs that are expected to become redundant in a matter of years. 

By 2034, immigration will account for 100 per cent of Canada’s population growth, as the number of deaths is expected to exceed the number of births. There will have to be a steady influx of immigrants, but not in the numbers we see today. While most Canadians have been led to believe that fewer immigrants would lead to the collapse of the economy, perhaps one could point to Japan which is facing a steep population decline. In  2014, its population was 127 million and is expected to shrink to 107 million by 2040. Not wanting to stoke xenophobia, the government has not resorted to mass immigration despite a growing labour shortage. There is more acceptance of automation and robots than for immigration and companies are automating at record speed.

At some point in the near future, Canada will have to become more creative when it comes to dealing with its labour shortages.

A case to calibrate immigration with the economy

There is plenty of evidence that in previous Canadian recessions new immigrants suffered high rates of chronic unemployment and underemployment, sometimes with lasting effect — a phenomenon referred to as the “scarring effect.”

For example, immigrants who had been in Canada for less than five years preceding the 2009 economic downturn suffered job losses at a rate far more than their Canadian-born peers. During the current COVID-19 pandemic, several visible minority groups have significantly higher rates of joblessness, such as South Asian (17.8 per cent), Arab (17.3 per cent), and Black (16.8 per cent) Canadians. 

Whether Canada sinks deeper into recession after government subsidies dry up in mid-2021 or rebounds is anybody’s guess. Public hostility toward immigrants could rise and xenophobes could blame them for worsening a bad economic situation when immigrants themselves could well be hurting more than the average out-of-work Canadian.


A cultural policy that overlooks multiculturalism [media focus]

George Abraham, publisher of New Canadian Media, on the need for broader and more diverse journalism (disclosure: I assisted George and New Canadian Media during its early years):

For a multicultural country, we have a rather monocultural media landscape. Our newsrooms and media organizations no longer reflect their audiences.  Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly missed an opportunity to make a policy intervention that would have at least nudged some reform.

Canada’s multicultural media has been decimated in recent years.  There were budget cuts in multicultural programming at the Rogers-owned OMNI Television. A promising media enterprise that published a string of multicultural and community newspapers went under in 2013. It was ironic that the Mississauga-based Multicultural Nova Corporation was being subsidized by the Italian government. These and other outlets help Canadians weave a shared narrative around what it means to be Canadian, at a time when our “ethno-cultural” (to use a favourite expression of bureaucrats) makeup is rapidly changing. Our ethnic media remain as fragmented and resource-strapped as ever.

“Canada’s ethnic and third-language communities do not have access to enough news and information programming in multiple languages from a Canadian perspective,” the chairman of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) Jean-Pierre Blais said in May.

The fact is, Canada is rapidly changing before our eyes, but we continue to sleepwalk through this transformation.

While media organizations and journalism schools appear to have given up measuring the representation of minorities in newsrooms (the last credible industry-wide study was in 2004), the government is aware that this lack of representation is a major handicap for new immigrants. A June 2014 study titled “Evidence-based Levels and Mix: Absorptive Capacity” (bureaucratese for how well Canada integrates its immigrants) stated categorically: “There is no clear commitment to achieving diversity in Canada’s newsrooms or in Canadian news content.” (The study was commissioned by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, and it was released under the Access to Information Act.)

The government’s new cultural policy did little to shift the conversation to the emerging media players who are redefining journalism for a new era. It failed to state the obvious: a shrinking cohort of media organizations that have monopolized national discourse are headed for irrelevance, because neither their audience nor their newsrooms are reflective of Canada at large.

This lopsided media structure means that folks like me don’t get to tell our own stories on our own terms. Somebody else uses the lens of their lived experience to interpret our immigrant stories. A cultural and content policy written in 2017 ought to have been much more mindful of this shift – roughly 40 percent of Canadians are either foreign-born or the children of immigrants (the bulk of them have Asian roots, like Jagmeet Singh). The minister should have outlined specific goals to foster and sustain the kind of journalism that reflects a new Canada where the rise of a sardar (turbaned Sikh) is not a leap of faith, but a fact of life.

I write this as somebody who is well aware of the perils of “government support.” Not all governments are benign actors. In Dubai, the owners of the newspaper where I once worked found themselves on the wrong side of the ruling family. We had a dedicated “reporter” whose job was to relay diktats from the government to the editor. At another outlet in Doha, the newspaper was owned by the country’s then foreign minister. It was my job as managing editor to walk the gauntlet between censorship and shackled freedom. The country even had a director of censorship, who subsequently became the editor-in-chief of an Arabic language newspaper.

Not all journalists welcome government support. The Canadian nonprofit media organization that I run has lost editors who couldn’t live with any form of government funding. We’ve viewed these grants – including those from the Canada Periodical Fund – as seed money for an enterprise that serves the collective public good. I’d like to think that we exist because we fulfill a need. Joly missed an opportunity to signal a shift of tax dollars towards content that enables new players to take advantage of gaps in the marketplace of ideas.

I also know first-hand that editors and newsroom managers are loath to take the bold steps that will change the demographics of their newsrooms. There’s a lot of lip service being done out there and little concrete action. The cultural industries policy statement could have made a big difference by offering incentives to correct this imbalance and foster the growth of alternative media platforms that cater to niche markets.

Instead, the headline coming out of the policy statement was focused on Netflix and its promise to make investments in Canadian productions, as if this would in some way feed this country’s desperate need for a new narrative and a new conversation. Entertainment seemed to take precedence over journalism in the policy announcement, although both embody the stories we tell ourselves and the stories we tell the rest of the world.

However, fact is more important than fiction. Facts are sacrosanct and the need of the hour. The phenomenon of “fake news” can only be addressed by true and tested journalism. The opinions of Canadians need to be shaped by solid, on-the-ground reporting done by journalists who are embedded in their communities and share the lived experience of the places they call home. This includes newcomer journalists who offer unique perspectives about their communities and are informed by the day-to-day trials that immigrants face in buying or renting homes, finding employment, enrolling their children in schools and becoming full members of the society around them. There is a public interest in ensuring that their voices are heard, not just through niche media and ethnic platforms but also in legacy newsrooms.

The federal government has rightly supported Canadian culture and content since the days of the Massey Commission in 1951. A Canada of 35 million people, or an imagined one of 100 million, will live or die on the ties that bind its people together. Old-fashioned journalism ought to be the bedrock of a more globalized, more multicultural Canada.

Source: A cultural policy that overlooks multiculturalism

Diaspora Dialogues Gives Emerging Writers a Voice

Good initiative given the power of story telling and writing. CanLit includes a number of strong immigrant and visible minority writers (e.g., Bissoondath, Vassanji, Ondaatje, Hage, Hill):

New writers are using mentorship opportunities to create and share more diverse and inclusive stories about Toronto’s history and culture.

“What we want to do is to create a living history of Toronto through literature [and] make it as diverse as the city itself,” says Helen Walsh, the president of Diaspora Dialogues  – a charitable society made up of writers, artists and performers.

“I’m not surprised that there are at least 50 to 60 countries represented through Diaspora Dialogues – lots of voices from Asia, Africa and Northern Europe,” Walsh adds. “Often, people write about their own cultural background and we want to bring Toronto to life through literature.”

Mentoring new writers

Toronto’s iconic Old City Hall, a national historic site, was the stage for Diaspora Dialogues during Doors Open Toronto, an event that offers access to buildings with historical significance across the city.

“Often, people write about their own cultural background and we want to bring Toronto to life through literature.”

Jamaican-born and Ottawa-raised emerging writer Dianah Smith is one of 12 writers who presented their work at Old City Hall. As a teacher and arts educator, Smith joined Diaspora Dialogues in 2014 for its mentoring program, in which she paired-up with Jamaican-Canadian writer and media professional Martin Mordecai.

“For about six months, he helped me to get into [a] schedule of my draft and first novel, finalizing some of the scenes of my manuscript to get it ready for publication,” Smith says about her experience as a mentee.

“It’s a story about a seven-year-old girl, Jemela Campbell, and her experience in immigrating from Jamaica to Canada and her first year in Canada,” Smith explains.

The excerpt she reads is from the novel, with a working title The Promise of Foreign, which explores some of the challenges newcomer parents face in Canada such as finding work and keeping jobs.

Seeking recognition as writers

“As a racialized person of colour, as an immigrant, you don’t really feel represented in the publishing world,” Smith explains. “You have names like Margaret Atwood, mainly white and middle-class people.”

She says that while Diaspora Dialogues does not restrict white writers from participating, it also tries “to have alternative voices to give immigrants and indigenous people the opportunity to share their stories.”

Author Mia Herrera adds that working in the Canadian publishing and writing industry is precarious.

“A writer who publishes regularly makes a salary of about $12,000 a year. You can’t make a living on that,” she says.

Born to Filipino parents, Herrera now lives in Bradford, Ont. She works in communications and marketing and says she continues to write because it is her passion.

Smith says she is still in the process of finding an interested publisher for her novel. While her mentorship program ended last fall, she continues to participate in other programs led by Diaspora Dialogues such as Lunch and Learn events, workshops about pitching to agents, as well as mentee book readings such as the one at Old City Hall.

Source: Diaspora Dialogues Gives Emerging Writers a Voice – New Canadian Media

A Current Snapshot of Canadian Multiculturalism – Review of my book

From the first review of Multiculturalism in Canada: Evidence and Anecdote, by Don Curry, Executive Director, North Bay & District Multicultural Centre, in New Canadian Media:

Griffith has the credentials for writing a comprehensive book of this nature. The author of Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias: Resetting Citizenship and Multiculturalism, he is the former director general for citizenship and multiculturalism at Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

As someone leading an organization that is active in integration issues, I encourage anyone involved in citizenship, multiculturalism, immigration and integration issues to read this book to keep current with the latest available information, and perhaps alter some perceptions.

The only complaint I have about the depth of research is that it left out my corner of Canada – northern Ontario – and lumped it in with southern Ontario.

But I know why: it’s because, as Griffith notes, the National Household Survey of 2011 left a lot of gaps when it attempted to drill down to smaller census areas. He strengthens the argument for the return of the long-form census.

The evidence Griffith uses in the book is irrefutable, combining the best currently available data from Statistics Canada, employment equity, Citizenship and Immigration Canada operational statistics, and more to draw his conclusions.

As Griffith says, “My hope is that the evidence highlighted in this book will contribute to creating a more informed discourse as Canada – by most measures a remarkably successful, diverse and multicultural society – prepares for its 150th anniversary.”

Multiculturalism in Canada is an e-book modestly priced to reach a wide audience – and it deserves one.

A Current Snapshot of Canadian Multiculturalism – New Canadian Media.