New Canadian Media

Commentary by: John Ferri in Toronto

The crisis in local journalism is well documented, most extensively in a report last January by the Public Policy Forum, and by others who have painted in detail the corrosive effects of cutbacks to local newsrooms and the shuttering of an entire daily newspaper in a mid-sized Ontario city.

It’s evident in these reports that there’s a real thirst for local perspectives – if not necessarily for supporting the business models that have traditionally delivered them. It’s also clear that there is no single solution to the loss of local journalism in Ontario.

But I do want to offer a new TVO editorial initiative as a kind of case study. It’s called Ontario Hubs and it brings a current affairs perspective to parts of the province that are increasingly under-served. Its intent is to provide news analysis and context that is relevant to both local audiences and to the wider public.

Ontario Hubs were made possible by a major gift from civic-minded philanthropists: the Barry and Laurie Green Family Charitable Trust and Goldie Feldman. This donation is allowing us to hire seven journalists and open regional offices outside Toronto.

For TVO, it’s an opportunity that speaks to our mandate to reflect and connect Ontarians and that is potentially a game-changer. It substantially increases the coverage of Ontario issues, ideas and events on tvo.org and on our flagship current affairs program, The Agenda with Steve Paikin.

Our initial plan calls for four regional hub offices. The first two officially launch on September 6 – one covering the region of Northwestern Ontario, based in Thunder Bay; and a second hub for Southwestern Ontario, based in London. The two additional hubs will be announced later this fall.

Each will be staffed by a full time TVO journalist, whose job it will be to identify issues and ideas of importance to the communities in their regions and report on how those matter locally, regionally and to the entire province.

The Hubs journalists will also help create networks of freelancers and contributors in their respective regions. In addition, we will have a full-time on-air journalist who will produce weekly feature reports for The Agenda with Steve Paikin. These won’t be in the form of a traditional 90-second news report but longer, more in-depth and, often, meant to set the table for a panel discussion on The Agenda.

With this new team of journalists and contributors we will produce multi-platform features – online and on broadcast – that will dive deep into big issues.  

Earlier this year, TVO hired Jon Thompson for our Northwestern Ontario hub. Jon is an award-winning journalist and author with deep roots in the northwest. Since joining us, he’s filed a number of stories including a substantive feature examining how accusations of racism against Indigenous residents have divided Thunder Bay. It’s apparent that this story was not based on a few days visit by an outside media organization. Nor was it the incremental, day-to-day coverage local news outlets – increasingly strapped for resources – might provide.

The story is a fine example of the editorial stance TVO is taking with this project. It occupied the journalistic sweet-spot we aspire to: step-back and analytical but informed by being firmly planted on the ground, and appealing to both local and wider audiences.

The story did very well. It was among the most-read on our site in July, with more than a third of the traffic from Thunder Bay. And it helped define the public conversation on an issue with a national profile: on the strength of it, Jon was interviewed on CBC Radio’s As It Happens.

Ontario Hubs will not replace what’s being lost. TVO’s mandate is not daily news reporting. We won’t be covering regular meetings at Timmins City Hall or the school board in Owen Sound or the library services in Northumberland. My fervent hope is that a sustainable model for that kind of essential reporting, in whatever form it takes, will be found.  

But what Ontario Hubs can offer is regional current affairs – in-depth, in context, and from multiple perspectives – that will help build a province whose citizens are better informed, responsive and engaged. It’s an addition to the journalistic eco-system at a time of decline. We hope it will serve as one model of a path to the future. 


John Ferri is the VP of Documentaries and Current Affairs at TVO. This piece was republished under arrangement with J-Source. 

Published in Commentary
Tuesday, 28 February 2017 08:14

Depicting the First 150 Days in Canada

by Tanya Mok in Toronto

OVER 300 movie-goers attended the recent world premiere of ‘My First 150 Days in Canada’, a documentary that strikes to the core of the Canadian immigrant experience.

The film screened at the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema as part of TVO’s year-long programming dedicated to Canada’s 150th anniversary. It follows single mother Melona Banico and her family during their first 150 days together in Canada, after immigrating from the Philippines. It offers an emotional glimpse into the life of a matriarch struggling to provide for her family in a new country while coping with her own disappointments and expectations.

“All immigrants can relate to the story of the family one way or another,” says the documentary director and writer, Diana Dai. “We all experience loneliness, language problems, difficulty finding jobs.”

Coming to terms

‘My First 150 Days in Canada’ is particularly touching because it focuses on the spectrum of hardships new immigrants must face, from the external struggles like unemployment and cold climates to the emotional, more complex impacts of realigning with a new society under less than favourable circumstances.

The documentary begins nearly a year ago with a tearful reunion at Pearson Airport as the Banico family is reunited for the first time, but it’s bittersweet: Melona has toiled for nearly 10 years, sometimes working three jobs simultaneously, in order to sponsor her son Jade, 24, her daughters, Judelyn, 26, and Jeah, 14, and her grandson, Clyde, 10, to come to Canada.

The separation, though, has been too long. She’s become a stranger to her children, having missed out on their most formative years. Suddenly, the family of five is thrust together into a single apartment with one goal: to save enough money for a better future.

Dai, an award-winning documentary filmmaker, says she could relate to the Banico family as an immigrant herself. As a Chinese-born immigrant who first moved to England and then Canada, Dai has spent years documenting issues facing Chinese people and their diaspora community in Toronto.

“You have to work harder than local people, that’s a fact,” she says.  “It’s important for local Canadians to know how we live, what we’ve been through ... I want them to understand their hopes and expectations.”

The first few months

But Dai says the documentary also has a message for new immigrants as well. “I want them to know the first few months is hard.”  

Capturing the Banico family’s ups and downs was a tough process. The family was cooperative at first but, overtime, became less and less willing to share their vulnerable moments. Financial expectations had caused a rift between Melona and her children, especially with Jade and Judelyn, who were too old to go to school but lacked the experience for non-minimum wage jobs.

They also had mouths to feed back home: Jade’s one-year-old daughter and Clyde’s father still lived in the Philippines, and Jeah was facing health problems. Melona was fired from her job and the bills were ever-looming.

Sometimes, the family would ignore Dai’s calls and scheduling shoots became difficult. It was only when Dai shared her own experiences as a new immigrant from China that the Banico family became less resistant to sharing their own.

“That’s the one reason why we trust each other, because I can feel that frustration. I understand their difficulties,” the director says. “Very few [documentaries] touch the conflicts among [new immigrant] family members because people don’t want to talk about it ... I’m very lucky that they allowed me to enter their world.”

For many in Canada, that world is a reality not so different from their own. From first snowfalls to being made fun of in school or for eating too much rice for lunch, ‘My First 150 Days in Canada’ is not just a story of Filipino immigrants, but the story of families across the world trying to make a better life for themselves in a new country.

Ending in optimism

Though the Banico family seemed to face a seemingly endless list of obstacles in Canada, an undercurrent of love and Melona’s determination for a better future for her family carried them through the first five months towards an optimistic ending in the film.

After the screening, the Banico family and Dai were invited onstage to a question and answer session with TVO’s Nam Kiwanuka, host of The Agenda In The Summer, where audience members had more words of support and gratitude for the family than questions.

Though the Banico family’s journey has just begun, Melona had words to impart to the many immigrants who have recently arrived in Canada, just as her family did nearly a year ago.

“My advice is try to be strong and put your family first,” she says. “Fight for the challenges that might be encountered in life. Later on, once everything’s settles down, they’re going to get better.”


 

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Arts & Culture
Tuesday, 11 March 2014 21:05

Manji declares multiculturalism dead

by Vicky Tobianah

Multiculturalism may be one of the tenets of Canadian national identity, but it may be doing more harm than good, said Irshad Manji, best-selling author of The Trouble with Islam Today, at a sold-out event last week at the Toronto Public Library. “It’s time to declare the policy of multiculturalism as having had its day,” she said. “For the last 40 years, multiculturalism has been a good policy, but we have to transition to an era of global citizenship. We can’t participate openly, fully if you’re afraid of what somebody is going to pounce on you for.” The event, moderated by TVO host Steve Paikin, was titled “Is multiculturalism bad for women?”

Ms. Manji’s suggestion to dismantle the multiculturalism policy made famous during Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau’s leadership goes against one of the core attributes of what it means to be Canadian, but she said this multiculturalism policy is hurting the most vulnerable of our population – women and children.

Mr. Trudeau’s multiculturalism vision is nothing like we have today, she argued. “Instead, we have group think. We have fear of being non-conforming, fear of being told that what you just said is racist or bigoted.”

Ms. Manji moved to Canada from Uganda when she was four. Now based in New York, she grew up in Canada, and experienced the effects of Canada’s multiculturalism policy first hand. Instead of encouraging people of different races, faiths, and skin colours to get to know one another, she argued that the policy made people afraid to ask questions about others for fear of offending them, and because of that, people see others according to the labels or preconceived notions we have, rather than as individuals.

Former Prime Minister Trudeau announced that multiculturalism and bilingualism would be official Canadian policies in 1971, respecting and recognizing the many customs, religions and languages of diverse Canadians. In 1988, the Multiculturalism Act was passed into law. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms also maintains that the rights should be interpreted in light of multiculturalism – and a respect towards one’s customs. This, Ms. Manji argued, is the real problem.

The problem with multiculturalism

“The vast majority of cultures around the world are patriarchal. Let’s couple that reality with the policy of multiculturalism. The chief aim of the policy of multiculturalism is to preserve cultural traditions from which immigrants came,” she said. “(Because of this), the ideal of gender equality bumps up against the ideal of multiculturalism.” In this sense, multiculturalism policy encourages respect for some patriarchal traditions. “Cultural sensitivity, if taken to thoughtless extremes, winds up being the opposite of cultural sensitivity, which is tolerance for abuse of power,” said Ms. Manji.

Instead of seeing one another as unique individuals with unique stories to share, the multiculturalism attitude has encouraged Canadians to pigeonhole people of other faiths and backgrounds, make judgments based on labels, and has made people fearful of asking real questions about other religions and customs for fear of offending someone. “What we don’t get are vibrant conversations,” she said. “Why is comfort the standard for what we say or don’t say?”

Transition to global citizenship

Instead of existing under a multiculturalism policy, Ms. Manji argued that it’s time to transition to global citizenship. This transition would focus on diversity – of thought, of different points of view, and appreciating others’ beliefs.

“Offense, taking it and giving it, is the price of honesty. In order to liberate thinking, we have to risk it, every once in a while,” she said.

Ms. Manji is not the first to criticize the effects of multiculturalism policy. In Culture and Equality: An Egalitarian Critique of Multiculturalism, author Brian Barry similarly argues that multiculturalism actually distances different cultures, rather than bring them closer together.

Ms. Manji also pointed out that the problem with multiculturalism is not unique to just Canada, but is a similar problem occurring in many Western countries, which is evidenced by the writings of BBC broadcaster Kenan Malik, who also critiques the failures of multiculturalism, in an essay called Multiculturalism and its Discontents. “Today multiculturalism is seen by growing numbers of people not as the solution to, but as the cause of Europe’s myriad social ills,” said Mr. Malik. “I am hostile to multiculturalism not because I fear immigration, despise Muslims or want to reduce diversity but, on the contrary because I favour immigration, oppose the growing hatred of Muslims, and welcome diversity.”

A new beginning

Over 20 per cent of Canada’s population is born abroad – the highest proportion of foreign-born citizens out of all the G8 countries - and this number is expected to increase. That’s why Canadians have an opportunity to start getting to know the many people that make up Canada, argued Ms. Manji. “Instead of waiting for other people to learn something new about you, be up front,” she said.

“Because they see my gender, or see my skin colour, that’s where they pigeonhole me, and guess what? I’m about so much more than that.”

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Top Stories

Poll Question

Do you agree with the new immigration levels for 2017?

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No - 46.2%
Don't know - 23.1%
The voting for this poll has ended on: %05 %b %2016 - %21:%Dec

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The honest truth is there is still reluctance around immigration policy... When we want to talk about immigration and we say we want to bring more immigrants in because it's good for the economy, we still get pushback.

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