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.

Source: https://newcanadianmedia.ca/what-an-inclusive-recovery-from-economic-business-firestorm-of-covid-19-could-look-like/#ethnic-m

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.

Source: https://newcanadianmedia.ca/ethnic-media-highlight-exploitation-of-temporary-migrant-workers-troubles-of-international-students-during-pandemic/#ethnic-media

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.

Source: https://newcanadianmedia.ca/19021-2-immigration-canada/

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.

Ethnic and Multicultural Media Training Offered

One of the more interesting initiatives from New Canadian Media. Letter from publisher George Abraham to current and developing journalists:

Dear fellow journalist,

Greetings from Ottawa!

It is an honour for me to roll out Canada’s first nation-wide training program aimed specifically at journalists who work with “ethnic” or “multicultural” media organizations.

This accompanying questionnaire will help us determine locations and the specific workshops we will offer. All the information you provide is confidential and will only be used for research and training purposes.

These in-person training sessions build on our successful mentoring program, launched in February, as part of seeking out “new voices”.

Here is some more information that may be helpful:

This training program will be offered free-of-cost and is funded through a federal government grant

NCM will offer up to three individual workshops (two hours each) in each location. Topics for the workshops will be chosen based on responses to the questionnaire

Workshops will most likely be hosted at the nearest journalism school, subject to space availability

A light lunch and refreshments will be provided to all participants

I’d be more than happy to respond to any questions you may have relating to your participation. And, please do forward the questionnaire to your friends as well.

Ethnic and Multicultural Media Training  – New Canadian Media.

What Jonathan Kay Has Wrong About Diversity in Journalism

On diversity (lack thereof) within the media:

In a recent appearance on Jesse Brown’s Canadaland podcast, newly installed Walrus editor Jonathan Kay discussed with Brown the homogeneity of the people writing for that magazine (and other mainstream outlets) in the country. Most of the young writers he meets, Kay said, are “people who grew up in privileged households.” The typical pattern, he added, is that writing is something young people do on their way to law school.

Increasing diversity in workplaces will require leadership, risk-taking and time. It will require creating opportunities for younger, less proven journalists to take on assignments more challenging than what they’ve done before.

Kay or anyone else in a management position who just throws up his hands when confronted with the diversity conundrum should come visit the Etobicoke college campus where I teach—or just about any other journalism school in the country.

Canada’s journalism schools, not to mention independent campus newspapers and radio stations, are filled with people from almost every imaginable background—people trying to enter a field where job opportunities seem to be dwindling and salaries are stagnating. This is not because they don’t understand the situation but because they are passionate about what journalism, at its best, can and should do.

There is no reliable data specific to Canada that I’m aware of to support or refute this—there doesn’t seem to be much after former Ryerson professor John Miller’s Diversity Watch project which hasn’t been updated in 10 years—but a perception exists that there is a disparity in who gets jobs. “Journalism schools are pumping out so many visible minorities and plenty of women, and they do not get jobs the way white kids do,” Hazlitt managing editor Scaachi Koul was quoted by J-Source as saying at a recent Massey College Press Club event in Toronto on the generational gap in Canadian journalism.

…If Kay’s assertion that there are very few good essayists in the country is true, then why not use his position, resources and experience to develop new voices? Instead, when Brown asked Kay to name some people he would like to add to the Walrus’s roster, two of the three people he mentioned were Conrad Black and Rex Murphy—both of whom are exemplars of the status quo. (Not to mention bad writers.)

Kay’s comments are a perfect example of what Don Heider was writing about: someone who is not necessarily opposed to change but has no good reason, personally, professionally or politically, to act.

To give credit where credit is due, The Walrus, with Jon Kay’s support, has been particularly helpful in providing advice to New Canadian Media.

What Jonathan Kay Has Wrong About Diversity in Journalism – New Canadian Media – NCM.

New Anti-terrorism Bill May Fragment Community Relationships

Graham Hudson, in New Canadian Media, makes the valid point that much of the rhetoric and reality of C-51 may reduce the resilience within communities to combat radicalization and undermine some of the outreach efforts of the various police and security forces, key to increasing resilience:

The proposed advocacy or promotion of terrorism offence, for instance, will have a “chilling effect” on the communication of political and religious ideas within the Muslim community. While at first glance it may be seen as a net gain from the government’s perspective, fear of being associated with criminal activity may discourage community members from talking to each other about the issue of radicalization, interacting with high-risk persons in an effort to counter radicalization, or reporting information to police.  This will negatively impact the internal social dynamics of communities, including the viability of community-based programs, self-regulation and other means of “collective efficacy” that have been shown to help counter radicalization and facilitate integration into broader social networks.

New Anti-terrorism Bill May Fragment Community Relationships – New Canadian Media – NCM.

Ottawa Conference Addresses Key Citizenship Questions – New Canadian Media – NCM

Summary of the recent Canadian Race Relations Foundation symposium on citizenship:

The focus of the symposium was clearly on the meaning of Canadian citizenship and the role of Canadian identity in the context of immigrants and newcomers to Canada. This was discussed in several sessions, such as whether new Canadians were “importing conflict” from other regions into Canada, if multi-faith based organizations were impacting positively on greater co-existence between different communities, the role of the media in reflecting diversity, and most controversially, the role of religion, most notably Islam, and the rise of extremism in Canada.

Divisions were clearly etched in this latter discussion, where there was both a call for greater awareness raising and education among both adults and the youth on issues of extremism and racial discrimination, as well as accepting the reality of a changing global security scenario. Law enforcement agencies such as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police RCMP and provincial police forces have particularly been the focus of attention in trying to sensitize their officers in working with diverse and multi-faith communities in countering cases of radicalization.

From a psychological and human perspective, speakers suggested that violence should be seen as a function of human vulnerability and personal behaviour, rather than associated with a particular group or belief system. Almost all presenters belonging to various diverse communities had personal stories to share about their experiences in Canada with racial discrimination. However, it was clear that there is still far to go in bridging this divide.

The takeaway from the symposium was that change, especially positive change, takes time. For the 250,000 immigrants welcomed to Canada annually, the message from the government was one of integration.  But the message was not limited to only newcomers. Those born in Canada also need to be aware and understand the responsibilities associated with citizenship. For this, the work of both small community groups and large government organizations were considered to be equally important in creating a tolerant and secure Canada.

The panel I moderated, on the role Canadian values have in improving community resilience against extremism, certainly had a wide and diverse range of views from those who proposed cutting back immigration from certain countries to those focusing on social inclusion.

Ottawa Conference Addresses Key Citizenship Questions – New Canadian Media – NCM.