Monday, 10 December 2018 15:30

What Stops Refugees from doing Journalism?

By Maria Assaf in Oxford, England  

In 2016 Canada’s first Syrian newspaper, The Migrant, was founded by Kameel Nasrawi. Nasrawi worked as a journalist and screenplay writer in Damascus before he and his family came to Canada as refugees two years ago. The Migrant shares positive stories about Syrians across Canada to inspire others in the community to create their own success stories.  

Many diasporas across Canada have started their own media outlets to connect their communities, share vital information and to create a sense of home. Some media outlets like the Philippine Reporter, whose publishers faced political imprisonment in the Philippines before settling in Canada, use journalism as a means to challenge the status quo and discuss the effect political events have on the members of their community. 

Back in 2015, Europe was in the midst of a self-proclaimed “refugee crisis.” As the European Union discussed a controversial deal with Turkey that would keep refugees outside its borders, I followed seven Syrian refugee reporters in Istanbul. Leicester University published a paper I wrote  in May 2016 about the challenges these reporters faced regarding freedom of expression.  

Importance of refugee journalism 

Richard Carver and Guglielmo Verdirame conducted research in Rwanda and former Zaire in 2001 and found that refugee outlets help their communities exercise their right of freedom of expression and access to information. It also provides communities access to comprehensive and accurate data about conditions in their countries of origin, which is essential when deciding whether or not to repatriate.  

In an interview with the Toronto Star, Nasrawi explained that because of the language barrier, many newcomers are unaware of programs run by the Canadian government, programs designed to help them integrate into Canadian society.  

Tiziano Bonini wrote that refugee reporting can be an important tool for those who may never be able to return home. For refugees, having publications that understand key issues in their community is vital. For example, The Migrant features articles on issues such as divorce, sex education and entrepreneurship, which the paper found to be pressing among the Syrian-Canadian community.  

With 68.5 million people forcibly displaced around the world and 10,832 refugees accepted into Canada between January and September 2018, ensuring that refugee populations are able to exercise their right to freedom of expression is a pressing issue.   

Challenges it faces 

However, engaging in journalism as a means of challenging “the establishment” is an almost impossible task for refugees worldwide. Although Article 19 of the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights foregrounds everyone’s right to speak out, international legislation often stops refugees from engaging with political issues. 

The Organization of African Unity’s 1969 Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa, for instance, specifically forbids refugees from engaging in “subversive activities” or “attacking” a member state of the OAU “through the press, or by radio." Verdirame and Barbara Harrell-Bond found examples of African states that threatened to repatriate refugee journalists for their work. 

Refugees often face an uncertain legal status. In 2016, Turkey hosted 2.7 million Syrian refugees as “guests." A signatory to the Refugee Convention, -the law that governs refugee affairs internationally, Turkey decreed to only grant refugee status to Europeans. These restrictions made it hard for refugee journalism to thrive.

Funding for refugee journalism often comes from donors such as INGOs or Western governments, and it comes with conditions attached. The Syrian reporters I met in Turkey mentioned that funding tended to go to Western-friendly outlets and was usually provided for six months up to a year, making it difficult for reporters to set up sustainable businesses. Outlets often self-censored and avoided discussing Turkish political affairs. “Those are restrictions we are putting on ourselves. Because Turkey is the only place we are left with to work,” one reporter said. In some cases, Syrian newspapers also had an uncertain legal status. In 2014, Turkish authorities began to request that media outlets have government-issued licenses to operate, which many outlets were not able to obtain. The Turkish government also monitors and often interrogates these outlets about their coverage. 

Even in countries with fewer restrictions regarding free expression, doing journalism for refugees has been a historical challenge. Jewish refugee reporters fleeing Nazi Germany found that journalism schools in the United States refused to accept them, often citing anti-Semitic rationale. In Canada, Hermie Garcia, publisher of Canada’s Philippine Reporter, mentioned that he and his wife, who were journalists in the Philippines, were unable to find work in mainstream media because they lacked “Canadian experience.”   

Lack of a refugee voice in the global mainstream media  

Major texts on journalistic scholarship, such as the Handbook for Journalistic Studies by Wahl-Jorgensen and Hanitzsch, don’t consider refugee reporting as its own genre. However, scholars like Ullamaija Kivikuru, Melisa Wall, Madeline Otis Campbell and Dana Janbek have warned that the lack of refugee voices in international media reinforces soft-colonial discourse by portraying refugee lives as less valuable than those of the “developed world.” Their study revealed that international journalists often took photos of Syrian refugees without their permission and printed distorted stories about them. 

Palestinian reporters play an essential role in the production of international news about Palestine. But despite having relevant journalistic skills, their contribution is usually limited to translators, producers and fixers. Often, to keep their jobs at international news organizations, they avoid disclosing their views on their situation. Journalistic objectivity is often cited as the reason behind preventing those affected by conflict from telling their own stories. However, literature about multiculturalism and multimedia reporting shows that by collaborating across different communities, journalism can help address inequality.   

Seeking solutions

Many refugee and migrant journalists end up starting their own community publications after being unable to work for the mainstream media in their host countries. Some abandon the profession altogether. This issue is not unique to journalism, as underemployment is a banner issue for many Canadian immigrants.   

Several of the Syrian reporters I interviewed, sought alternative funding from international media outlets who didn’t attach conditions to their aid. Others tried using advertising, charging for content or getting donations from businessmen, but these often came with requests for editorial control.  

One reporter said “I think before we were fighting for independent media from the regime. Now we are fighting for independent media from everyone.” 

Members of the Syrian press in Turkey have formed alliances such as the Syrian Network of Print Journalists (SNP) to share expertise and facilities. Similarly in Canada, The Migrant recruits volunteer writers from different Arab communities, because many people in these communities are journalists in similar situations.  

Existing in a challenging time environment or panorama. refugee journalism still manages to help their communities have more agency in the international conversation about their lives. However, much needs to be done in Canada and abroad to ensure that refugees can exercise their right to freedom of expression. Refugee reporting funders need to respect the freedom of the press and provide realistic timeframes to their aid for these outlets to thrive and become self-sustaining. 

Finally, despite mainstream colonial definitions of objectivity, the people best suited to tell refugees’ stories are refugees themselves. 

Maria Assaf is a Canadian journalist and MA in Development and Emergency Practice. 

Published in Commentary
Saturday, 23 June 2018 23:12

A Mongrel among Media

Commentary by: George Abraham in Ottawa, ON

ENTREPRENEURIAL journalism sounds deceptively simple to execute. Combine journalism with business acumen … and voilà you have a winner.  

Sadly, that is not the way it actually works in real life. It is a long, lonely slog, made even more difficult with the declining economics of Canadian media companies all around. One soon learns that the ability of reporters to break new ground and the ability of editors to present stories in a way that resonates with their audience derives from the financial strength of the parent media organization.

The M-word looms large: monetization. How do you keep the lights on and feed the hungry beast that is your burgeoning editorial budget?

We weren’t daft when a bunch of us embarked on this journey called New Canadian Media. The trend towards newsroom closures and downsizing was already written on the wall. The business model of legacy organizations itself was broken or breaking down before our very eyes. Sure, there were any number of naysayers who saw no point in trying to carve out a niche that portrayed the collective perspective of newcomers to Canada.  We were warned that we would be neither “ethnic” nor “mainstream” – a mongrel among media – and that advertisers will make no room for hybrid models like ours because they have niche marketing budgets.

But, it was virgin space in May, 2014, when we launched our portal … and remains so even today.

Our first goal was to demonstrate that we could indeed produce high-quality journalism using largely immigrant talent. We’ve done that in spades. It’s our calling card.

Second, we needed to find “seed capital” that would help us convincingly demonstrate the strength of NCM’s original idea. We’ve done that as well. However, as we scaled up, we found the going difficult.

The intervening years since the launch of our site demonstrated not only the endurance of the original idea to represent “the immigrant perspective”, but also to tap into a rich vein of journalism talent that remains largely unexplored in Canada. But, in addition to pioneering a new form of journalism, we went against the grain in several important respects, all in an effort to buck the trend and improve the odds.

The original idea

NCM was founded on a rather simple premise: waves of immigrants continue to reshape this country in both visible and invisible ways. For visible signs, look no further than the sushi restaurant in your neighbourhood, turbans in the RCMP, Canada’s tilt towards the Asia-Pacific driven largely by immigration from that region of the world, ethnic nannies who raise babies for rich Canadians and the entrepreneurial energy that has made this country more prosperous.

While existing media capture the mega-trends, they do a rather poor job of portraying undercurrents and speaking to a new Canada-in-the-making. Our idea was to give voice to the opinion and points-of-view of newcomers, while enabling all Canadians to better appreciate this new perspective.

Jagdeesh Mann, executive editor of the Asian Pacific Post published in English and distributed in downtown Vancouver, has a readership that is as much white as Asian. “Canadians want to know what was happening in the Asian community and Asians want to participate,” Mr. Mann says, adding “food was usually the gateway.”

We, however, went about this in unconventional ways, ensuring that we continually broadened our horizons even while staying true to our core mission of delivering the immigrant perspective. We took great care to avoid creating what media experts call a new, isolationist “silo”, but rather to work with both existing ethnic and mainstream news organizations so our limited dollars did not end up duplicating journalism that was already out there.

There was no template to follow and hence we charted our own course.

Amid a climate of great public mistrust of ‘elites’ in general, and the media in particular, we set ourselves up as a non-profit, with paid members across Canada. When we discovered that our contributors could benefit from training and mentoring, we found the funds to launch a national professional development program. Last year, we broadened this grassroots undertaking to create an NCM Collective, inviting our contributors to band together in a countrywide effort to organize and lend even more heft to their inimitable immigrant voices.

At the same time, the organization has sustained itself on the backs of volunteer directors and pro bono time from members of our editorial board.

By the numbers

We’ve taken great pains to cross language and racial divides to address issues that confront every one of the 200 ethnic communities in Canada. Our range of stories and datelines from cities and towns across the country speak for themselves. It has contributed, dare I say, to giving many an immigrant a greater sense of belonging.

In perhaps our biggest break from tradition, we have consistently fostered a bottom-up journalism that privileges the findings of on-the-ground reporters over the preconceived notions of distant editors. We very rarely dictated a story idea, relying on our formidable network to serve as listening posts in their respective communities. Retaining a reporter’s voice is very important to us. We’ve tried our best not to shoehorn a reporter’s findings into a pre-cooked, nifty headline, or come up with an elegant turn of phrase that may not do full justice to the original sentiment.

Trust me, this has made the editing process a lot more laborious, but it has been surely worth it: it has led to unfiltered, authentic voices from communities across this fabulous country. Copy editors have gone apoplectic at times, but this approach has allowed immigrant journalists to portray the everyday experiences, joys and sorrows of new Canadians, signifying perhaps NCM’s biggest accomplishment to date.

All of this pioneering work has been sustained largely through project-based public funding (roughly $275,000 so far), enabling NCM to demonstrate the calibre and depth of its journalism and showcase the work of a growing roster of new reporters in every province.  

Numbers rarely tell the whole story, but here are a few to illustrate our growth and current profile:

  • Original stories published on the NCM platform so far = 855

  • Peak web traffic: 10,840 unique monthly visitors in Nov. 2015 (22,448 page views)

  • E-newsletter distribution list: 1,433 subscribers

  • Twitter followers: 3,811

  • Facebook Likes: 1,630

  • Reporters/commentators published: 220

  • Canadian journalists who have enlisted for NCM’s professional development program: 102

  • Images available in NCM Stock Photo library: 205

  • Canada's first-ever ethnic media and diversity style guide published in Jan. 2016

  • Audience profile: evenly split between foreign-born and native-born Canadians (Ekos survey, 2016) 

Our board of directors believes we are market-ready, and primed to emerge as a media platform in our own right. Towards this end, the board is re-tooling the NCM organization, rethinking our financial and business model, while we revamp our web platform to update several of its key attributes – to ensure that we continue to present the immigrant perspective in all its colour and vibrancy.

We are surely not alone in imagining a different media scene – one that truly reflects Canada in the 21st century. As our good friend and publisher of the Walrus magazine puts it, “If NCM did not already exist, this country would be compelled to invent it.”

George Abraham is NCM’s founder and publisher.

Published in Commentary

By: Caora Mckenna in Halifax

Inside the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market on Halifax’s waterfront you’ll find a stack of the Dakai Times newspapers. Printed in Chinese and English, the quarterly newspaper is a tiny nod to the growing immigrant population in the area. On Saturday mornings, the market fills with sounds, scents and accents from all corners of the world. The lone stand of newspapers tells a different story. Local ethnic media - integral to community integration for newcomers - is almost entirely absent from the airwaves and newsstands in the province.  

The provincial government is working hard to bring immigrants to Nova Scotia. Nearly 5,500 newcomers arrived in 2016 -- the highest number in the last decade -- and more are expected for 2017. Significant resources are being put into the Atlantic Immigration Pilot and Halifax Partnership to bring immigrants to the province and keep them here. One thing missing for new and old immigrants is information in their mother tongues. Where local media is absent, newcomers are leaning on international sources for news from home in a familiar language.  

Filling the gaps:  

Halifax is home to the majority of Nova Scotia’s immigrants and the few local ethnic media outlets catering to immigrants are there, too.  

Meng Zhao started the Daikai Maritimes Newspaper in 2012. It covers local events, highlights local business owners, and regularly documents its issues in the Nova Scotia Archives. Through a partnership with The Chronicle Herald, 30,000 copies are distributed four times a year as well as 5,000 copies at specific neighbourhoods in Halifax Regional Municipality. Zhao set out to fill a gap in a niche community, and five years later is still the only print source in the province printed in a minority language.  

The second most spoken language in Halifax is Arabic, but it wasn’t until the spring of 2016 that Montreal based 1450 AM launched 99.1FM Radio Middle East in the city. The station broadcasts Arabic programs and a selection of Arabic and international music. Account executive for the station Oudai Altabbaa says the minority language audience is on the rise in Halifax, and “somebody needs to tap into it and talk to it.”  

Altabbaa knows there is great potential for the economy to grow by capitalizing on this market. But “it’s extremely hard to educate businesses here about the benefit of this because they are not used to it, and as we know Nova Scotia is very traditional,” he says. “So when you tell them it’s an Arabic radio station, they don’t take you seriously.”  

Working to highlight the importance of immigrant voices and stories is My Halifax Experience. The quarterly magazine fills news stands in ethnic grocers and community centres, and content is regularly published online. Filled with helpful tips and inspirational stories, in English, it speaks to all immigrants, beyond their mother tongues. The online website has expanded to My East Coast Experience with the same goal in mind.  

International magazines and newspapers available from libraries or specialty newsstands are filling in the rest of the gaps. Halifax Public Libraries has an extensive collection of subscriptions in Spanish, German, Arabic, Russian, Hindi, Japanese, Chinese and more. Atlantic News, a specialty store for newspapers and magazines, fills one to four regular subscriptions for Russian newspaper Argumenti & Facti and German sources Der Spiegel and Die Zeit weekly and biweekly.  

Moving Forward:  

In 2011, immigrants accounted for 5.3 per cent of the Nova Scotian population. That proportion is expected to rise to between 7.7 and 10.7 per cent in 2036, according to Statistics Canada. Immigrants in Halifax made up 8.2 per cent of the city’s population in 2011. By 2036, that will rise to 15.2 per cent.  

“When immigrants are feeling like they are a little bit more connected with opportunities that come up because of radio stations or media speaking their language,” says Altabbaa, “they might decide to stay in Nova Scotia.”  

As Nova Scotia welcomes more immigrants and tries to keep them in the province, ethnic media has an opportunity to catch up, then develop and grow.

 This article was republished under arrangement with Mirems.

Published in Arts & Culture

by Our National Correspondent

Prof. April Lindgren (picture at right) of Ryerson University has made a name for herself studying ethnic media in Canada for many years. Late last year, she completed a study focused on  Brampton, titled “Municipal Communication Strategies and Ethnic Media: A Settlement Service in Disguise”, which examined the kind of steps taken by the city to reach out to its immigrant population.

This research was a follow up to a 2007 study that found Brampton unresponsive to the needs of its immigrant community. New Canadian Media first reported on the latest study here – Ethnic Media Demand More from City of Brampton. 

Q.  What was the goal of this study?

Research that was done about a decade ago found that Brampton was quite unresponsive to the needs of its increasingly diverse population. But in 2015 City Council approved an ethnic media pilot project that was probably the most pro-active in the country. This study investigates the reasons for the dramatic shift in approach.

Q.  What were your main findings?

Over the years the City of Brampton did make some limited attempts to use ethnic media to reach out to its newest residents, the vast majority of whom are Punjabi-speaking immigrants. In 2007, for instance, it began including ethnic media outlets on its list of media the receive the municipality’s English-language press releases. Our research concluded that this approach didn’t have much of an impact. When we looked at the content of the Brampton-based Punjabi Post daily newspaper over three weeks in 2011, only three of the 157 articles dealing with Brampton had anything to do with City Hall-related issues.

In 2013, the city made another attempt to get municipal news and information out to residents via ethnic media by hiring a specialty media coordinator who speaks and reads Punjabi. Then in 2015 things changed dramatically. That’s when City Councillors approved significant funding to translate Brampton’s media releases into French as well as the three most commonly spoken languages after English –  Punjabi, Urdu and Portuguese.

There were a number of reasons for this shift. First, there was growing evidence of tension between long-term residents and the city’s rapidly expanding Punjabi-speaking population. This pointed to the need for better intercultural understanding. In terms of reaching out to immigrants, improving the availability of city news and information through ethnic media is one way to help people – particularly people who aren’t fluent in English – to better understand what is going on in the city as a whole. It’s also a way to help people understand the values and priorities of their adopted place.

The election of a new mayor and many new Councillors during the 2014 municipal election was the second important reason for the shift in attitude. Unlike their predecessors, these municipal politicians thought the City did have an important role to play in reaching out to newcomers and making them feel part of the city.

The jury is still out on whether ethnic media will carry more City Hall related news now that the press releases are being translated. The pilot project is ongoing and the results will be of great interest to other municipalities. In the interim, though, I argue that the very act of reaching out to news outlets that cover ethnic communities is symbolically important for Brampton’s multicultural population. It acknowledges the importance of those media outlets as community institutions and it recognizes the city’s obligation to communicate decisions and policies to all citizens.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]In the interim, though, I argue that the very act of reaching out to news outlets that cover ethnic communities is symbolically important for Brampton’s multicultural population.[/quote]

Q.  Your study on Brampton specifically points to several limitations and drawbacks in the way ethnic media go about the profession of journalism. How do we as a multicultural society address this?

Brampton City officials ran into situations over the years where some ethnic media publishers linked the amount of City Hall coverage they were willing to publish to the amount of advertising the City purchased. This is obviously an ethical issue that compromises the integrity of news coverage. In some cases the problem is that publishers may not have a lot of background in journalism and therefore they don’t realize how such practices potentially undermine confidence in their publications. This is a situation where education and professional training can probably make at least some difference. This education and training should make the point that the long-term survival of any news media outlet depends on public faith in the integrity of the news coverage.

QYour content analysis suggests that ethnic media have a different "news agenda" than the mainstream media. Can you elaborate on this?

Ethnic media often do have a different news agenda and rightly so. Their competitive advantage is in telling stories about people, places and events in their community that are not covered by mainstream news media. I would argue, though, that ethnic news outlets could and should cast a wider net, that is, they should be covering more general news in a way that is relevant and useful to their audiences. Is the city planning to increase property taxes? That affects new immigrant homeowners too. Why not talk to them about the planned increase and provide a forum for their voices to be heard? In this way, newcomers get to participate in the city-wide debate. Coverage of this sort will also increase the odds that local politicians pay attention. In this way immigrant/newcomer communities can influence municipal decisions that affect them.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Ethnic media often do have a different news agenda and rightly so.[/quote]

Q.  Based on this comprehensive study of ethnic media in an immigrant-rich market such as Brampton, how do you think ethnic media can better serve readers/viewers while still making a profit by keeping editorial costs down?

There is no silver bullet or single solution. One strategy would be to invite citizen experts from the ethnic community to write or talk about issues that affect people in that immigrant group. During tax season, for instance, why not ask a tax expert from the ethnic community you cover to do a newspaper Q and A or appear on a radio call-in show to talk about income tax filing? Ask a teacher from the community to write about why it’s important for parents to attend parent-teacher meetings and what happens at these meetings. Recruit a young, recent immigrant to recount what it’s like to navigate a Canadian high school or university. Highlighting community voices and providing useful, interesting information of this sort is a way to turn the media outlet into essential viewing, listening or reading – in other words it can build audience. And the bigger the audience the more attractive the media outlet is to advertisers.

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Published in Top Stories

by Our National Correspondent

July 30 marked the 11th anniversary of the Patriotic Vanguard newspaper published from Vancouver. In our continuing effort to profile and work with ethnic media across Canada, New Canadian Media conducted an interview by e-mail with the paper's founder and chief executive officer, Gibril Gbanabome Koroma, a Sierra Leonean journalist in exile. Koroma is pictured at right, in front of the Vancouver Public Library. 

Q: It's been 11 years since you set up the Patriotic Vanguard newspaper. Why did you set it up and why did you choose the name "Patriotic Vanguard"?
Well, I came to Canada in the year 2000 because of the war in my country, Sierra Leone, and because I was a journalist back home (editor and correspondent for foreign media), I just could not stop writing. So, I contacted fellow journalists from my native country, Sierra Leone, scattered all over the world and set up the Patriotic Vanguard. As you know, it's not easy for a new immigrant to get work in Canadian media, but that did not bother me. I just created my own newspaper. Simple.
The name Patriotic Vanguard came about because we all felt we should do something for our country, even though we found ourselves elsewhere. We can live and work and contribute to say Canadian, British, Australian society and so on and still contribute to the country we left behind, a country that had done so much for us. It's okay to be patriotic towards more than one country. I love Canada and I also love Sierra Leone. I think that feeling is at the core of Canadian multiculturalism.
[quote align="center" color="#999999"]It's okay to be patriotic towards more than one country.[/quote]
Q: Sierra Leone is a small nation and rarely makes it into Canadian (and presumably, American) news. Who is your audience and why do you think they've become fans of your newspaper?
We have a vast audience or readership of Sierra Leoneans and non-Sierra Leoneans scattered all over the world. This is a global online newspaper, a diaspora newspaper, which is eagerly read at home and elsewhere, every minute, very hour, every day. Just the other day, somebody contacted us from Harvard University asking for information.
Q: Do you hope to influence the government in Freetown? How?
We did not set out in 2000 to influence anybody. We only wanted to relay the news and comment on happenings back home especially when we observed a distorted presentation of news about our country in the mainstream Western media. We saw so much ignorance and sometimes outright nonsense being written about Africa and Africans, and we saw it as our duty to correct and counter such nonsense whenever we could and we are still doing it. We also publish a lot about Canada and Africans living in Canada and other western countries. Of course, our people and the government back home have very high respect for us.
[quote align="center" color="#999999"]We saw so much ignorance and sometimes outright nonsense being written about Africa and Africans, and we saw it as our duty to correct and counter such nonsense ...[/quote]
Q: Please give us a description of how you run the paper and its online editions. Do you plan to expand?
The Patriotic Vanguard is basically an online newspaper for now, but we plan to have a print edition if we get funding, which will, of course, make it more general, incorporating news form other communities in Canada. A print edition in Sierra Leone is also being planned. We are all volunteers; nobody is paid anything. 
Q: Lastly, what do Canadians need to know about the Patriotic Vanguard and Sierra Leone?
Well, a lot of Canadians already know about the Patriotic Vanguard, including you! For those who do not know about us yet, it is what is normally called an 'ethnic publication' targeting Africans everywhere, including in Canada, with special emphasis on Sierra Leone, the birthplace of the publisher (myself) and most of the staff, who are all volunteers. But as I said, we plan to expand into publishing news about other communities in Canada in a print edition if we get funding. We really want to make it a meeting place for all communities in Canada.
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Published in Top Stories

by Marcus Medford in Toronto 

Journalism students say they find value in learning how to report on immigration and race issues. Many would like to see more specialized courses focused on diversity and inclusive reporting. 

“There’s never been a time in my life when this has been more important,” says second-year journalism student from the University of Toronto, Tijuana Turner, referring to the current refugee situation and Justin Trudeau pledging to bring 25,000 Syrians to Canada. 

“For example, describing it as a ‘flood’ of refugees isn’t okay when most people associate a flood with disaster,” she explains. 

Turner moved to Canada from Jamaica two years ago to study at the University of Toronto’s Scarborough campus (UTSC). She says the course Covering Immigration and Transnational Issues” offered at UTSC, which teaches students to analyze news coverage, has helped raise her awareness. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"[D]escribing it as a ‘flood’ of refugees isn’t okay when most people associate a flood with disaster."[/quote]

The course includes material on how media outlets frame stories related to race and immigration and how these frames can shape people’s perspective. Before taking it, certain things went over Turner’s head, she explains, but she’s become more critical. 

“You shouldn’t start by saying ‘Refugee Tom...’ That's not inclusion, that’s ‘us vs. them.’ You should try saying, ‘Tom, who is a refugee,’” Turner explains. 

Teaching critical journalism 

datejie green is the Asper Fellow of Media at Western University and a lecturer at UTSC. 

green teaches “Critical Journalism”, which she describes as a “mobilizing, embodied, intersectional approach to journalism” meant to give students a fresh set of eyes to critically engage journalism. The course examines how media cultures address gender, ability, class, sexuality and race.   

“We want to learn about intersectional ways of thinking and mobilize that critical analysis to make sense of everything and write respectfully,” green shares. “These are not static, abstract ideas that we learn and leave in classrooms; these are things journalists need to have at their disposal.” 

Class discussions involve examining the impact and importance of perspective in media. green’s objective is to cross cultural divides in a humanizing way. She says she is open with students about her experiences – as a woman, as someone who’s black, lives with mental illness and is a lesbian – and how it relates to perspective. 

“That shouldn’t detract from my validity as a journalist or a teacher; it’s just a frame. But it allows me to explain how my body is experienced, why and what’s the impact,” green explains. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Students become aware of different perspectives, which helps journalists “not to write from pre-conceived ideas or ignorance.”[/quote]

Fatima Al-Sayed is a second-year journalism student in green's class. She says the course is “extremely important” because students become aware of different perspectives, which helps journalists “not to write from pre-conceived ideas or ignorance.” 

“As a woman who wears a hijab, I know the image the media portrays of me because it’s my day-to-day life,” Al-Sayed explains. “I feel like my role in journalism is to change that perspective, but I can’t if I get pulled into that kind of thinking.” 

Integrating diversity lessons throughout j-school 

Specialized courses aren’t the only way to teach these concepts in journalism school. At Langara College in British Columbia, lessons about perspective and diversity are integrated into every course, explains Frances Bula, chair of the journalism program. 

Bula says that in addition to having classrooms and newsrooms that are ethnically diverse, it’s crucial for students to understand the importance of diversifying their sources. 

“From day one, we talk about the importance of diversity and the dangers of getting too comfortable talking with people from a similar age, gender, race, or income background,” Bula explains.    

Journalists should also look to groups who may not have access to the media or may not speak perfect English, Bula adds. 

Petti “Peg” Fong, the assistant department chair at Langara, says courses solely about reporting on race and ethnicity aren’t necessary for journalism students.  

She adds, though, that it’s important for students to understand that audiences and sources come from all different backgrounds to help prevent stereotypes being perpetuated by the media. This is taught throughout other courses, she explains. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][N]ews gathering should be more inclusive ... or else it runs the risk of stereotyping and misrepresenting.[/quote]

Students’ role in addressing media bias 

A study from Australia noted that negative and stereotypical coverage of Muslims can foster alienation, which plays into the hands of extremists, says Brad Clark, the journalism and broadcasting chair at Mount Royal University in Calgary. Clark did his doctoral dissertation on representations of ethno-cultural minorities in Canadian media. 

Clark says that news gathering should be more inclusive, especially stories that focus on specific communities, or else it runs the risk of stereotyping and misrepresenting. 

He also says that journalism students can play an important role in addressing implicit biases of mainstream media. 

“They must be allowed to influence news gathering when it strays into the realm of the stereotypic,” he says. “Students need to understand that sometimes it is OK to explore the experience of race, that talking about race isn’t the same as being racist.” 

These issues have become increasingly relevant for j-school students to explore, says Lysia Filotas, a second-year journalism student at Carleton University in Ottawa. Carleton, like Langara doesn’t have a course dedicated to reporting on race and ethnicity, but incorporates it in lessons, something Filotas finds valuable.

“As a reporter, it’s important to learn how these topics colour one’s world views and how not to project that onto someone else during the interview and writing process,” she explains.

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Published in Education

Commentary by Natalya Chernova in Toronto

On Friday, Mar. 4, I attended the 18th National Metropolis Conference, hungry for new information and curious to find out whether my area of expertise – ethnic media – was covered.

The forum subtitled “Getting Results: Migration, Opportunities and Good Governance” welcomed researchers, policy makers, community and government representatives from all over Canada to exchange experience and ideas on the issues of immigration, settlement and integration.

Among diverse topics presented were recent statistics and migration trends, personal experiences and professional observations of the immigration policies, labour issues and programs, academic studies on family integration and even happiness levels among recent immigrants.

All these sessions painted a clear and colourful picture of Canada’s immigration future – steady, progressive growth of the number of new immigrants with diverse ethnic backgrounds and diverse personal and professional needs. Among those needs are information and a sense of community – key components of what the ethnic media provides.

A significant tool for outreach

Integration and inclusion, also part of the ethnic media’s role, were some of the most discussed issues that day, with Yolande James, former Minister of Immigration and Cultural Communities of the Government of Quebec, summarizing it with a statement that “governments must create an engaging environment where immigrants can reach their full potential”.

The common agreement among the presenters though was that governments have not yet done enough to establish the level of support that would allow immigrants feel fully accepted and integrate easily into Canadian society.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“The more discrimination people face, the closer they feel to their ethnic groups.”[/quote]

In addition, Canadian Refugee and Immigration Lawyer El-Farouk Khaki noted that the second and third generations of racialized immigrants generally tend to be closer to their ethnic groups than the first generation. “The more discrimination people face, the closer they feel to their ethnic groups.”

However, despite a common understanding of increasing immigration trends and the impact of ethnic communities on newcomers’ integration experience, surprisingly no presentations or workshops mentioned the role of the ethnic, multilingual media in new immigrants’ lives.

As part of a team of ethnic media consultants, I see stories on immigration, integration, education and legal issues, labour, health and safety, immigrant challenges and struggles every day, and yet ethnic media seems not to be on the radar of policy makers and service providers as one of the most valuable resources on immigration they can find.

Following the ethnic media would seem to be a significant part of the outreach equation of what Ryerson University professor April Lindgren calls “A Settlement Service in Disguise” in her pioneer case study on the City of Brampton’s municipal communication strategies and ethnic media (2015, Global Media Journal -- Canadian Edition Volume 8, Issue 2, pp. 49-71.)

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][E]thnic media will continue to grow and be a viable component of immigrant life in Canada.[/quote]

The divide from mainstream media

When asked about it, government officials acknowledge the importance of ethnic media, but admit that it’s not being used to its full potential. There is still separation between mainstream media and ethnic media press conferences, message and language specifics.

But does there have to be? Shouldn’t ethnic media be an integral part of the communication mix, a two way channel for an open dialogue between governments, service providers and immigrant communities? 

After all, with growing immigration and yet-to-be-improved integration processes, ethnic media will continue to grow and be a viable component of immigrant life in Canada. So why not make it a powerful tool in creating an engaging society where everyone can reach their full potential?

Metropolis 2016, while having presented lots of valuable information and opinions, left these questions unanswered for me right now.

Natalya Chernova is a MIREMS Ethnic Media Expert.

This article was first published on MIREMS. It has been re-published with permission.

Published in Commentary
Friday, 11 March 2016 11:37

Liberals Seek to Reunite More Families

by Rosanna Haroutounian in Quebec City  

In this week’s round-up of what’s been making headlines in Canada’s media: the federal government has a new plan to welcome immigrants that aims to reunite more families; women from ethnic communities in Canada call for a more inclusive International Women’s Day; and Saskatchewan language schools are dealing with a significant cut in provincial funding. 

Family reunification, refugees a focus: McCallum 

Canada will welcome between 280,000 and 305,000 immigrants in 2016, a significant increase from the number admitted in recent years. 

According to Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), the 2016 target represents a 7.4 per cent increase in planned admissions compared to 2015. 

As reported in the Indo-Canadian Voice, IRCC said in its Mar. 8 announcement that this plan will emphasize family reunification in order to address the current backlog in processing applications and reunite families more quickly. 

“As we continue to show our global leadership, Canada will reunite families, offer a place of refuge to those fleeing persecution, and support Canada’s long-term economic prosperity,” immigration minister John McCallum is quoted as saying in the Voice. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]The Conservatives criticized the Liberal plan to cut the number of immigrants accepted under the economic class.[/quote]

2016 will also see an increase in the number of admissions under the Refugees and Protected Persons class to support the Liberal’s plan to resettle Syrian refugees, as well as increase the numbers of refugees accepted from other countries including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Colombia, and Eritrea. 

Migrants without status in Canada have asked the government to grant them the same rights that are given to Syrian refugees and to process their claims for status that they say the previous Conservative government ignored. 

The Conservatives criticized the Liberal plan to cut the number of immigrants accepted under the economic class. 

“It is the responsibility of the federal government to balance the needs of the Canadian economy with our humanitarian responsibilities,” said Michelle Rempel, Opposition Critic for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, the Voice reported. 

IRCC said the economic class will still make up the majority of immigration admissions in 2016, representing more than half of the total. 

On Mar. 7, Quebec’s provincial government announced its new immigration policy, which also puts an emphasis on matching immigrants to the needs of its labour market. The plan, called “Together, We Are Quebec,” also aims to retain international students and temporary workers. 

Other provinces, like Nova Scotia, are still negotiating with the federal government to gain authority over their immigration targets and say they won’t see changes in their quotas until 2017. 

A more inclusive image of women in Canada 

On Mar. 3, Canadian Immigrant magazine presented its third annual “Immigrant Women of Inspiration,” which focused on the theme of immigrant women in academia for 2016. 

Ananya Mukherjee-Reed, Shalina Ousman, Parin Dossa, Leonie Sandercock and Purnima Tyagi are not only PhDs in various areas of study but “are pushing boundaries in education, in their passionate pursuit of knowledge, ideas and change.” 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]In Canada, black women and other women of colour find themselves missing not only from movements for gender diversity, but also from seats of power.”[/quote]

Some women say there is a need for more interfaith, intercultural events and dialogue to mark International Women’s Day (IWD) in Canada. 

In a column for CBC Edmonton, Nakita Valerio wrote that rhetoric surrounding IWD does not promote intersectional or inclusive feminism. 

She wrote that debates in Canada around issues concerning ethnic women, such as a Muslim woman’s decision to wear a niqab or a hijab, highlight how the day “accentuates the fact that equality for women in this country is still heavily tied to the individual's background, religious, racial, or otherwise.” 

In the Globe and Mail, Septembre Anderson wrote that the definition of “women” used in IWD discourse does not include women of colour. 

In Canada, black women and other women of colour find themselves missing not only from movements for gender diversity, but also from seats of power.” 

Both columnists pointed out that while 2016 marks 100 years since women in several provinces won the right to vote, Asian and African women in Canada gained this right much later, a struggle which is not described in the commemorative materials. Anderson called on women in power to work with women of colour and use their positions to eradicate discrimination. 

Uncertain future for Saskatchewan language schools 

The Saskatchewan Organization for Heritage Languages (SOHL) says it is disappointed to learn the province's Ministry of Education will stop providing it subsidies to run 80 heritage language schools. SOHL has been receiving provincial subsidies for 25 years and currently teaches over 30 languages. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]The organization says the decision is a step in the wrong direction at a time when Canada is accepting many new immigrants and refugees who need welcoming environments.[/quote]

“The schools focus on teaching language and culture to immigrants and refugees, and improving access to indigenous languages,” reports CBC. SOHL's executive director Tamara Ruzic told the Regina Leader-Post that about 10 language schools have opened each year, many teaching Arabic. 

She added that the $225,000 SOHL receives is “peanuts to the government.” 

Minister of Education Don Morgan said that the decision was made for economic reasons, and added that the funding, which amounts to $4.58 per student each month, can be paid by parents. 

“As a result of the announcement by the Ministry of Education, many of these non-profit heritage language schools will be faced with the difficult decision of whether they can continue to operate,” said Girma Sahlu, president of SOHL, in a press release.

The organization says the decision is a step in the wrong direction at a time when Canada is accepting many new immigrants and refugees who need welcoming environments and support in learning languages.

“The heritage language schools contribute to the retention of immigrants in Saskatchewan by helping people to maintain their culture, identity and traditions, while simultaneously learning about Canadian ways of life.”

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Published in Top Stories

by Leah Bjornson in Vancouver 

In this week’s round-up of what’s been making headlines in Canada’s ethnic media: The Liberal government is set to repeal Bill C-24; municipal councils wage war on Uber and Canadians react to Haryana violence in India. 

Liberals plan to repeal Bill C-24 

The Liberal government has announced that it will be making significant changes to the Citizenship Act, repealing the Conservatives’ controversial Bill C-24. 

The bill gave the government the power to revoke Canadian citizenship from dual citizens convicted of terrorism, treason or espionage. According to the minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship, John McCallum, the new measures will make it nearly impossible to revoke citizenship. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][T]he government says that it plans to remove barriers to citizenship posed by Bill C-24.[/quote]

Immigration officials will still be able to revoke citizenship if it was obtained by false representation or fraud and the federal court will be able to remove someone’s citizenship if they are involved in organized crime, war crimes or crimes against humanities. 

Of particular interest to new and aspiring Canadians, the government says that it plans to remove barriers to citizenship posed by Bill C-24. 

As reported in the Canadian Immigrant magazine, McCallum announced Feb. 23, “We believe that it’s better to make it easier rather than harder for people to become citizens.” 

Expected changes include reducing the length of time that someone must be physically present in Canada to qualify for citizenship, allowing time in Canada before permanent residency to count toward physical residency requirements and amending the age range for language and citizenship knowledge exams. 

The government also intends to repeal the intent to reside provision, which caused some immigrants to fear that they could lose their citizenship if they moved outside of Canada. 

While McCallum didn’t elaborate on what other changes would be made, he told The Globe & Mail that specifics would follow “in coming days, but not very many days.” 

The government is set to table its annual immigration report before Mar. 9 and it will outline targets for all classes of immigrants, including Syrian refugees. 

Uber-taxi war rages in Brampton 

The battle against Uber in Ontario continues as Brampton City Council voted on Wednesday to temporarily suspend ride-sharing companies until the City can decide whether or not to allow them to operate in the area. 

The motion, which was brought forward by city councillor Gurpreet S. Dhillon, was unanimously accepted by council, who cited concerns over public safety, consumer protection, fairness and regulation. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“This is a victory for the residents of Brampton.”[/quote]

“This is a victory for the residents of Brampton,” said Dhillon, as reported by The Indo-Canadian Voice. “I’m very proud that my motion was supported by all my council colleagues. This decision is a good first step to guarantee the public’s safety and security, while maintaining fairness — that is our priority right now.” 

According to councillors, ride-sharing companies like Uber have presented challenges for consumers and companies in Canada. There are also issues of legality, as many of these drivers are not licensed under the cities’ mobile licensing bylaws and as such are operating contrary to their requirements. 

Other cities in Canada are having similar conversations about the ride-sharing problem. Mississauga city council voted unanimously in early March to suspend Uber's operations in the city. 

“Innovation, technology and growth are driving competition in an established industry that has a long history of providing quality and reliable service,” said Mississauga mayor Bonnie Crombie. “The debate about how to regulate Transportation Network Companies (TNC) is not going away and we need to get it right.” 

The city will be seeking feedback from all stakeholders — the taxi and limousine industry, companies like Uber, as well as consumers — in reviewing the bylaws and regulations around ride-shares. 

Students stand in solidarity with northern India   

As caste violence continues to occur in the north Indian state of Haryana, Canadians are speaking out against fighting that has seen more than a dozen people killed. 

On Mar. 2, students, faculty, and staff from the University of British Columbia (UBC) held a rally in solidarity with India’s Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), where, as one student wrote, JNU students “are now facing deadly onslaught of the state – its entire students’ union and leftist leadership booked under the draconian sedition charges.” 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]The violence has also affected non-resident Indians (NRIs) living in Canada ...[/quote]

According to The Indo-Canadian Voice, “Hundreds of universities, public intellectuals, human rights [organizations] from all over the world have raised their voice in support of the JNU students and teachers.” 

The violence has also affected non-resident Indians (NRIs) living in Canada, who fear it will impact investment in the state. 

In a statement reprinted in The Indo-Canadian Voice, the Overseas Association of Haryanvis in Canada said, “We, the NRIs of Haryana origin, would like to appeal to our brothers and sisters to support centuries-old brotherhood among 36 biradaris in the larger interest of Haryana and the nation.” 

The organization further stated that the agitation has not helped the common man of the state. On the contrary, the statement said it “will create more unemployment and increase poverty in an otherwise prosperous state.” 

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Published in Top Stories

by Sukaina Jaffer in Brampton, Ontario 

Despite an increase in outreach efforts, some members of Brampton’s ethnic media still feel disconnected from the City. 

“There is a broken link between the City of Brampton and ethnic media,” says Jagdish Grewal, the editor and publisher of the Canadian Punjabi Post, a daily newspaper that has been published in Brampton for the past 14 years.

This is despite a case study released late last year by Ryerson University’s April Lindgren titled “Municipal Communication Strategies and Ethnic Media: A Settlement Service in Disguise”, which suggests that the City of Brampton has made wide strides in reaching out to its ethnic communities.

Following a 2007 study that deemed the City of Brampton unresponsive to the needs of its immigrant community, Lindgren says the City expanded its ethnic media strategy to fund the translation of press releases, corporate communications materials, and pertinent advertising messages among other initiatives. To date, the City of Brampton’s website shows press releases translated from English into French, Portuguese, Punjabi and Urdu.   

But Grewal says that the press releases and service updates in Punjabi, which he receives from the City via e-mail, are not effective. 

“The translated news sent out is not helpful,” Grewal explains. “The City is spending a lot of money on translation, which is not worth it as I have to rewrite the releases. This does not make sense to me.” 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Leaders of ethnic media outlets are educated enough to translate English press releases into their own language."[/quote]

He adds: “Leaders of ethnic media outlets are educated enough to translate English press releases into their own language. My reporters are capable of writing news in English and Punjabi.” 

If he could publish the translated press release as is, he would use it, but he points out, “Translation does not work like that.” He has to rewrite many of the press releases from the City into suitable news content for his paper. 

A need for more authentic relationships 

Grewal also mentions that in previous years, city council and the mayor had closer relationships with ethnic media outlets and held personal meetings with them, but now he does not find them as media friendly. 

He recommends that the City build better relationships with ethnic media groups by keeping them updated on municipal issues through meetings and press conferences. This would lead to more coverage of city events, Grewal explains. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"Punjabi-speaking people are more aware about policy changes in the city because of coverage by ethnic media outlets.”[/quote]

“Our readers are interested and want to know what’s happening in the city. Punjabi-speaking people are more aware about policy changes in the city because of coverage by ethnic media outlets.” 

Rakesh Tiwari, editor of the Hindi Times newspaper, agrees with Grewal. 

“I do not see any difference made by the City of Brampton,” says Tiwari, who has been with the newspaper for the past 12 years“The local library and hospital approach me and send me messages in English,” he says, but adds that the City does not send him updates frequently. 

“They need to connect better with the ethnic media,” asserts Tiwari, who also runs Atna Radio, a show on 101.3FM where local, national and political topics are discussed in Hindi. 

He adds that if the City would keep in better touch with him, he could cover more city-related news and talk to the appropriate people. 

“There is no support from them,” he says. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“In terms of bringing the community together, the City of Brampton has done a lot.”[/quote]

Some positive change happening: residents 

While the ethnic media may not be benefiting from the City of Brampton’s efforts, area residents do see improvements being made to reach the ethnic community. 

Rabab Kassam, a pharmacist who has been living in Brampton for four years since migrating from Kenya to Canada, finds that the City’s money has been well spent on ethnic outreach. 

“In terms of bringing the community together, the City of Brampton has done a lot,” she says, “They are encouraging people from different cultures to adapt to a better life here.” 

She mentions that the library near her house offers English language classes for newcomers as well as computer classes in Punjabi since Brampton has a large population of Punjabis from India. 

She has also noticed information posted on bus stops and inside buses in different languages with messages related to housing. 

“[The City of Brampton] is making a good investment so elders can participate in society,” says Kassam. “It’s a different language for elders, so if they can learn computers in their language then at least they can learn how to do banking from their homes and not have to go out in the winter.” 

June Dickenson, manager of marketing and communications at the Brampton Public Library, says that her branch provides a lot of free multicultural services to the public. 

These include English conversation clubs, a Punjabi writers’ club and a Hindi writers’ guild. In addition, they also have computer classes for Punjabi, Hindi and Urdu speakers. Community members can register for these opportunities through the City of Brampton. 

“Our computer classes are extremely popular,” says Dickenson. “They fill up quickly. There is more demand than space.”

Editor's Note: Efforts were made to receive comment from the City of Brampton, but response was not provided by deadline.

Journalist Priya Ramanujam mentored the author of this article through New Canadian Media’s mentoring program.

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Published in Arts & Culture

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