Commentary by Jagdeesh Mann in Vancouver, BC
Earlier this year, Rena Heer, a former reporter for CTV and CP24 in Toronto, hosted a gathering at her home for other fellow Canadian Sikhs who had experience in the communications and media professions. This was not the usual Sunday afternoon chai and gossip session ubiquitous to South Asian households across the Lower Mainland. The guests had convened to discuss a chronic problem that had plagued this community since the 1980s: negative coverage in mainstream media.
This time, Canada’s prime minister, having previously bragged he had more Sikhs in his cabinet than India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, had travelled to India with four of his ministers of Sikh faith. It touched a nerve with India’s "alt-right" Hindu-chauvinistic administration. Indian politicians let loose with a series of flimsy allegations, including some that implicated Trudeau’s own cabinet ministers as "Khalistanis", and in particular, decorated Canadian war veteran and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan.
Indian media lapped it up. Canadian media regurgitated it.
Canada’s predominantly white newsrooms ran with panic-stricken pieces about how there is a "revival of Khalistan terror", or how Canadian Sikhs are engaged in "blood hatreds"—or in an attempt to bundle Sikhs with ISIS terrorists—how Sikhs are "promised a place in paradise" when martyred.
Heer was one of a handful of journalists in Canada from the Sikh community who had worked in mainstream newsrooms and she found the reporting lacked not only nuance but overlooked obvious problems with the allegations—such as the glaring lack of any Khalistan-related terror incidents over the previous 20-odd years.
“Once you’ve been in the media industry you know how things are done, that sources should be checked properly, that the motivations of those sources should be examined,” Heer stated. “But with this Trudeau trip to India coverage I knew that wasn’t happening.”
Meanwhile a younger millennial generation of Sikhs (#AskCanadianSikhs) continued to plead on Twitter with various mainstream reporters and outlets to include their voices in the coverage. They found little success, and at times, open hostility. For Heer, the six-week blitz of negative coverage was a lesson that Canadian Sikhs needed to engage in media "pro-activism" based on how underrepresented they are in mainstream outlets.
“Newsrooms are tough environments, and people will ask why should anyone care when you bring up story topics, especially when they don’t relate to those experiences,” she added. “In order for these ideas to get across you need to have all experiences represented in newsrooms.”
But in Canada, it’s not just Sikhs, but all of the country’s minorities that are underrepresented in the country’s newsrooms, which some media watchers estimate are as much as 90 percent white.
To their credit, Canadian media outlets have also acknowledged this problem and sought, over recent years, to hire more reporters from diverse communities. But because change has been slow to come, minority communities in Canada still remain susceptible to misreporting, tokenization, being ignored, or worse, being spoken over, as in the case of the apparent "comeback" of Khalistani terrorists.
An obvious part of solving this problem is diversifying mainstream newsrooms through the hiring of reporters from diverse communities.
In a country where almost two out of every five people is either born outside of Canada or is a second-generation Canadian (born to at least one immigrant parent), it is critical that newsrooms have reporters who can speak languages such as Cantonese, Mandarin, Punjabi, or Tagalog, or staff reporters who, at minimum, have some cultural knowledge of Canada’s largest minorities.
But at this point in time, "diversity coverage" still means reporting on issues pertaining to or including people of colour, while "mainstream coverage" implies broader news reporting usually featuring people who are more likely to be white.
Multicultural Canada is often glowingly described as a cohesive mosaic but I would argue our society is more a non-integrated patchwork of self-contained communities that, while peacefully co-existing, generally have limited interactions with each other.
Increasing diversity in newsrooms is not about ceding ground to identity politics, political correctness, or even being more "inclusive". It is about better reporting. Full stop. Without newsroom diversity, too many stories are missed, delayed in coverage, or misreported, and that has a negative impact on all of us. So regardless of your skin colour, it is actually in your interest for mainstream newsrooms to hire more journalists from diverse backgrounds who reflect the immigrant and second-generation realities of Canadian life.
Retaining them, however, may be another issue.
It’s a notable occurrence when someone from a diverse community is hired by a mainstream outlet. Given there are so few diverse reporters in these newsrooms, it serves as a sort of barometer for "progress".
Over the past decade, mainstream newsrooms have made some advances in this regard, particularly in broadcast news where Canada’s diversity is reflected on television screens. But it’s also notable—and for all the wrong reasons—when a journalist of colour leaves the industry, and exceptionally so, when the reporter in question does so in the cause of diversity while torching any hopes of getting a reference letter on the way out of the building.
That journalist was Sunny Dhillon who recently quit his job in the Globe and Mail’s Vancouver bureau. In his recent blog post, "Journalism While Brown and When to Walk Away", Dhillon explained that he resigned because of how his newsroom was failing in covering diversity.
The breaking point was when, on the eve of the deadline, he was ordered by his bureau chief to rework an assignment on Vancouver’s recent municipal election into being a triumph for women rather than being yet another failure for racialized candidates. Eight out of the 10 Vancouver council seats were won by women and only one was won by a councillor of mixed heritage.
“I decided to leave The Globe and Mail because that final conversation inside the bureau chief’s office crystallized what I had felt: What I brought to the newsroom did not matter,” Dhillon wrote in his post on Medium that has since been retweeted thousands of times. “And it was at that moment that being a person of colour at a paper and in an industry that does not have enough of us — particularly at the top — felt more futile than ever before.”
His dramatic resignation has renewed discussions on how the diversity angle can be ignored or glossed over in mainstream newsrooms, particularly when the story is not a stereotypical "diversity topic" like an annual Chinese New Year celebration or a Vaisakhi parade.
In the Vancouver council story, for example, both the gender and race angles merit coverage, but not equally so. Based on historical data, the lack of diversity angle would seem more newsworthy given women have been equally (or almost equally) represented on city council for over the past four administrations going back to 2005.
In comparison, a South Asian candidate has not served on council in almost 50 years and there has never been a councillor from the Filipino community.
Regardless, however, of whether a story is revealed through the lens of race, gender, or some other prism, newsrooms are not democracies, as Dhillon was reminded in his clash with his editor. And even though mainstream newsrooms are increasingly using analytics to practice data-driven journalism that maximizes click-throughs, there is still a human element in how stories are assigned, angled, and ultimately headlined.
These remain in the very subjective hands of newsroom editors.
But like any human being, deadline-pressed editors—whose job requirements include performing newsroom management and story assignment balancing acts—are prone to seeing the world through the lens of their own experiences, which in the senior management realm of Canadian media is even whiter than the ranks staffing newsrooms.
According to Dhillon, it was the constant struggle to table a diverse perspective in this lily-white cultural environment that eventually wore him out: “When a story or column does not adequately if at all, understand or consider the perspectives of the nonwhite people it involves, what do you say?... When you ultimately stop pitching stories on race to preserve your own sanity, what good are you doing the very nonwhite people whose perspectives you deem yourself to be in the newsroom to share?
“How many battles do you have in you?”
For journalists of colour working with their editors, Dhillon’s frustrations are not all that unusual, as he was reminded recently by the large number of responses he received to his post from other Canadian journalists of colour. The friction each experienced ranged from overcoming stereotypes to figuring out when to speak up on race issues and when it was best to just keep their heads down.
Like them, I also had my moment of initiation into the whiteness of this world, back in the late '90s when I was trying to cover the Reena Virk story. Virk was the 14-year old Victoria teen who was attacked by seven teenagers she was hanging with and ultimately killed by two of them.
Although in South Asian media, the race angle was a prominent part of the coverage, it has been largely omitted from mainstream reporting where instead the story has been framed as a troubling case of teen girl violence, the bullying of an "awkward" teen, and the tragic tale of someone who just didn’t fit in. When I pressed on covering this missing race angle, my editorial contact at Postmedia (then Canwest) explained that since one of the teens was of mixed heritage, the attack could not have been racially motivated.
I was new to the industry at the time and I too made a difficult decision to bite my tongue.
Today—just as it was nearly two decades ago when Reena Virk was murdered—bringing up race in a newsroom can still have a chilling effect.
In the 1980s when outlets in Canada first began regularly reporting on diverse communities, the coverage was usually singular in topic, often negative, and usually excluded voices from those communities.
The stories were almost always written by white reporters who, once assigned to an "ethnic beat", became the experts on all things relating to that community. Other white reporters went to those white reporters on questions about "their" assigned ethnic communities.
It was sort of like an exercise in urban anthropology. But by covering ethnic communities through the mainstream’s screen of whiteness, it inevitably produced sticky stereotypes.
People in diverse communities, regardless of their professional status, years of gainful employment, or record of community service, became linked to the fringe criminal elements in their communities. Thankfully, coverage of diverse communities has evolved since then, beginning with taking a U-turn away from focussing exclusively on negative news.
But coverage of diverse communities has still not fully matured from being treated as a separate-but-equal content section, like sports, entertainment, or fashion, rather than as a perspective that layers into a cross-section of stories.
This results in mainstream outlets often publishing neatly compartmentalized stories that feature individuals from diverse communities but that have a limited appeal to readers outside of those backgrounds.
Andree Lau, the editor-in-chief at HuffPost Canada, was recently interviewed on CBC regarding newsroom diversity. She was asked why there are so few people from diverse communities leading newsrooms across this country.
“I think they [people of colour] get to a certain level and they get frustrated. Because they're not seeing enough change or change is not happening fast enough, and they get discouraged,” explained Lau, who is one of the few journalists of colour in a senior position in Canada. “Those very talented people are the ones we need to move up into the next level, and they end up leaving.”
As Canada’s population grows and continues to diversify, the news media is the leading institution to reflect the country’s changing face, in which everyone sees something of themselves smiling back. That work begins first in newsrooms telling stories where diversity is more layered and nuanced and not segregated into a corner.
One of the journalists responding to Sunny Dhillon’s resignation post, was a veteran Vancouver broadcast journalist, Simi Sara.
“What it comes down to is this: I have never seen the colour of my skin as a ‘difference’. But others have seen it that way for me,” she was quoted in a follow-up blog Dhillon posted to his Medium account.
“I believe I am like everyone else because perspective is diverse and we all have something to contribute to that discussion. It shouldn’t be segregated as a ‘diversity’ issue. It’s all of us. It’s our communities.”
Commentary by Rohit Phillips in Aurora, Ontario
The fast-growing multicultural consumer segment of Canada represents a potential opportunity for pharmaceutical companies, especially if they can improve patient outcomes on a national scale.
For a small or mid-tier drug company battling to make headway in the general market, capturing a large portion of the multicultural market may be the path to improved profitability and growth.
Ethnic (or “Diversity”) Healthcare is all about the ‘culturally sensitive connection’ to effectively address ‘health and healthcare disparities’ that result from cultural differences. These differences influence the health and well-being of Canada’s growing visible ethnic minority population, which made up to 20 per cent of the total population in 2013 and is projected to grow to 32 per cent by 2031.
Fifteen years from now, it’s projected that visible minorities will make up 63 per cent of Toronto, 59 per cent of Vancouver, 31 per cent of Montreal. Together, these three areas will account for 70 per cent of Canadian GDP.
Genetic, Environmental and Cultural Factors
The factors contributing to varied drug responses are complex and inter-related. Differences in drug response among racial and ethnic groups are determined by genetic, environmental, and cultural factors. These factors may operate independently of one another, or they may work together to influence outcomes.
Biological Factors: The genetic makeup of an individual may change the action of a drug in a number of ways as it moves through the body. Clinically, there may be an increase or decrease in the intensity and duration of the expected typical effect of the drug.
Environmental Factors: Diet, climate, smoking, alcohol, drugs, pollutants —may cause wide variations in drug response within an individual and even wider variations between groups of individuals.
Cultural Factors: Cultural or psycho-social factors, such as the attitudes and beliefs of an ethnic group, may affect the effectiveness of, or adherence to, a particular drug therapy.
Being Culturally Sensitive
Multicultural marketing isn’t just attaching a face to your campaign.
It has more to do with presenting information in a culturally relevant way and context. Isn’t all communication and marketing about better connecting with the audience?
So, what aspects of any ethnicity do marketers and advertisers need to understand to connect their brand messages well?
Here are a few important ones:
1. Language: It’s not just about translation from English. The message must be written for and from the perspective of the minority language audience. Health promotion communication should also take into account the visual and oral cultural cues, like pictures and music.
2. Beliefs: Beliefs can be powerful forces that affect our health and capacity to heal. Whether personal or cultural, they influence us in one of two ways – they modify our behaviour or they stimulate physiological changes in our endocrine or immune systems. Many cultural beliefs have implications for healthcare, which may be direct or indirect.
As an example, many Asians believe that the number four is unlucky because when pronounced in Japanese or Chinese it sounds very similar to the word for “death”. Thus, items arranged in groups of four, such as pills or syringes, can symbolize bad luck for those people who believe in numerology.
3. Behaviours: Culture has a bearing on the way a person acts in response to a particular situation. Buddhist teachings emphasize ‘’face’’ or dignity. An individual’s wrongdoing causes the immediate family to lose face. Such behaviours have a direct bearing on disease screening and diagnoses as patients may not admit or realize they have health problems, especially mental health problems, as this may bring shame upon their family.
4. Communication style: Refers to ways of expressing oneself to others and can be very different for a Chinese-Canadian compared to an Indo-Canadian. Older Chinese patients tend to be polite and may smile and nod. Nodding does not necessarily indicate agreement or even understanding of medical facts. Understanding of verbal and non-verbal communication styles of these cultures is critically important during screening, diagnoses and outreach programs.
5. Notions of modesty: Modesty is highly valued in South Asian culture. An example is an elderly woman who may be soft-spoken and not advocate for herself. Important decisions are made in this culture only after consulting with family members or close family friends. Involving the family and friends in intervention/prevention programs and long-term care for specific ailments like diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancers can go a long way in increasing compliance, raising awareness and generating brand loyalty.
Despite the many differences among the cultures that make up our nation, we all have the same basic needs: to be able to convey the symptoms and concerns of an illness, to receive competent care, to be acknowledged and valued.
A few fundamentals
When conducting situation analysis and a SWOT analysis of your business plan, the following are important for success:
· Explore implications of demographic changes (regional and national)
· Segment patient population by ethnicity
· Identify differences in disease incidence (determine if your product treats a condition in which a health disparity exists between the ethnic and general populations. For example, is mortality different among ethnic groups in your disease category?)
· Examine the growth patterns of your customer base
· Find out from physicians and managed care organizations what issues they encounter in an increasingly diverse population. Then identify challenges and opportunities your company can pursue
· Find out what your competition is doing to serve the needs of the “emerging majority”
Rohit is a seasoned healthcare marketing and advertising professional with an entrepreneurial instinct and a degree in pharmacy. Rohit is currently employed with The Gibson Group, a healthcare communication agency in Canada.
by John Delva in Montreal
Blacks make up Montreal’s largest visible minority. According to the 2011 census, 147,100 live in the city. Why, then, are there so few in our media?
As far back as the 1930s, black journalists in Montreal have been creating and fighting for space for their voices.
Dorothy Williams, strategic development director at Collective Community Services, a local non-for-profit community organization, traces back to 1934 Montreal’s first newspaper aimed at black readers. The Free Lance, which folded in 1941, was meant "to counter the pervasive negative portrayals of Blacks in their city's media [sic]."
Community newspapers similar to the The Free Lance are still where the black media presence is strongest in the city. In fact, Community Contact, which has been around for more than 20 years, has been home to the first bylines of many reporters who went on to high-profile roles in the news business.
Shelley Walcott is one of them. Some 50 Canadian news organizations had turned her down before CNN came knocking in 1997. During her stint there, which ended in 2003, she was first a video journalist for the network, then a reporter for the children’s show “CNN Student News.”
Initially, she attributed the rejection letters to the province’s political climate, still searing over the 1995 referendum—being part of the province’s anglophone minority felt “like I was on the outside looking in,” she said.
Since 2013, Walcott has been a main anchor at New Hampshire’s WMUR-TV. Experience has deepened her hindsight.
“I’ve been in the business for 20 years and when I see people [coming out journalism school] and how green they are, I understand what an employer is looking for. To be successful at anything, you can’t blame anyone else, because it’s very competitive out there."
Breaking into the business
It can also be lonely. Shari Okeke, a writer and broadcaster at CBC Montreal’s “Daybreak,” recalls being the only black reporter in the Montreal newsroom when she arrived in 1999. She had reasons to be optimistic, though, she said via email.
"I landed a paid internship … at a newspaper in Ontario straight out of journalism school. After that, I was unemployed for about two months while I searched full-time for a job in television."
That’s when Okeke began at CBC’s national newsroom in Toronto in 1997. As an editorial assistant she was “splitting scripts, delivering scripts and rolling teleprompters,” she said. “Even changing toner in the printer.”
She became a chase producer four months in. The producer who hired her later revealed how she had stood out.
“He chose me because while working as an EA [editorial assistant] on his show, I paid attention to the program, contributed as much as I could and demonstrated a clear interest in being more than an EA.”
But while making it in journalism is difficult for hopefuls of all backgrounds, those from non-white communities shoulder heavier expectations, said CTV Montreal’s Maya Johnson via email.
“I do think visible minorities need to push harder, do more networking and really advocate for themselves. And once they get their foot in the door and pay their dues, they need to take initiative and ask for advancement opportunities."
Networking is an obstacle Shani O. Hilton, executive editor for news at BuzzFeed, also talked about—namely how many underestimate it.
"Many of us are so busy working twice as hard and hoping to get noticed that we don’t do the networking that seems like bullshit but is actually a key part of career advancement,” she wrote on Medium in March 2014.
Understanding the Quebecois mentality
But networking does not explain the shortage of blacks in Québec media, said Reginald Rivette. The editor-in-chief of Souche magazine thinks the insular mentality of Quebecois black communities is what restricts their media visibility.
He said media organizations’ disinterest with black communities starts with the latter’s entertainment choices. He explained that while a Denzel Washington or an Oprah may appeal to many demographics in America, this kind of crossover appeal is rare in Québec.
This is because second-generation Quebecois blacks favour U.S. celebrities, in addition to stars from their family’s home country—but reject local Québec culture and its celebrities. Rivette said this self-seclusion directly affects who media companies and advertisers covet.
"Québec show business should be bending over backward to sell us products, but if we’re not paying attention to local celebrities, why should they make the effort to reach out?”
He initially targeted a multicultural audience, handpicking Algeria-born Lynda Thalie, who’s based out of Montreal, for the cover of the first issue of Souche. Lack of interest shifted the magazine’s focus to a black-only readership.
“The idea of ‘multicultural' makes for nice speeches, but it’s a different story in everyday Montreal. People from different backgrounds don’t really just come and blend together."
Those who complain about the lack of black representation in the media, he said, should get more involved in local culture. Government grants available to top Québec producers are at every creator’s disposal.
“We can’t ask for the ‘establishment’ to look for us, find us, then give us work as we sit there waiting."
One glance at Johnson’s bio, and you would be hard-pressed using words like “sit" or “waiting.” The recipient of a Canadian Women's Press Club scholarship began at CTV Montreal as an intern in 2005. She was 21. The network hired her in 2012 permanently after close to a decade of freelancing, part-time and substituting work.
Johnson, who begins her job as CTV Montreal's Québec City bureau chief this February, mused that none of this might have happened had CTV not reached out.
"I was hired through a visible minority internship program. There’s no shame in that. The news director and executive producer made it clear to me: I wasn’t there to be a token. They had high expectations."
Shifting the reluctance to publicly address race
Okeke thinks minority reporters are essential to newsrooms, not just for the stories they can contribute, but what they can contribute to other reporters.
"It's...really important for journalists of colour to share what we're hearing and experiencing in our communities with colleagues in our newsrooms, in order to bring attention to those issues."
Neglecting minority issues comes with serious consequences, she said.
"When people do not feel the media reflects their reality, they can be hesitant to talk to the media at all," said Okeke.
Jean Numa Goudou, editor-in-chief of In Texto, said that ultimately the reluctance to address race publicly falls back on the shoulders of Québec officials. Goudou collided with the race wall first-hand when he asked for numbers related to blacks in the education system. The Québec government referred him to the province’s school boards. They, in turn, ignored his calls. He got an answer after approaching a non-profit organization.
“I was told that the government thinks the Haitian community would be stigmatized if such numbers were released. They do this to be politically correct—but this approach doesn’t help the community,” he said. “The mainstream media has to cover these topics, amongst others, so that people from different races learn more about each other."
Last August, Goudou broke a story on Héma-Québec, the province’s blood services agency, after it began accepting a larger pool of black female donors. The story received no attention in the mainstream media. This disinterest will affect the well-being of all Canadians, including future ones, he said.
“As more immigrants arrive, the public health system has to adapt. Blacks consume media too [and this helps] Héma-Québec to find more donors. This is a public health issue."
This article first appeared on J-Source.ca. Republished with permission.
by Priya Ramanujam in Scarborough
Members of visible-minority groups have a stronger sense of loyalty to federal government than provincial government, reports a new study from the Institute for Research on Public Policy (IRPP).
This is particularly true of first-generation Canadians, say researchers Antoine Bilodeau, Luc Turgeon, Stephen E. White and Ailsa Henderson in Seeing the Same Canada? Visible Minorities’ Views of the Federation.
The study focuses on both first- and second-generation visible minorities living in Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec, posing two questions:
a) Do visible minorities hold similar views to other Canadians with regard to Canada, its institutions and its national policies?
b) Are there differences between visible minorities who immigrated to Canada and those born in Canada?
The answer: across all four provinces, visible minorities – especially those born abroad – express a higher level of confidence in the House of Commons. The level of engagement seen in this fall’s federal election from new immigrant communities as voters, candidates and elected members of Parliament is evidence of this.
In B.C. and Alberta, second-generation visible minorities tend to become more involved provincially with time, while in Ontario – where the study states political views tend to be more federally oriented – visible minorities regardless of generation are engaged at both the national and regional level.
However, in Quebec, where there is no provincial policy on multiculturalism, both first and successive generations of visible-minority groups face difficulty integrating into regional politics.
The authors suggest this points to the possibility of growing tensions between majority and minority groups in Quebec, as they “do not appear to be marching in sync when it comes to their understanding of the federation and identification with Quebec and Canada.”
Somali parents of children with autism experience barriers to support
Somali parents raising a child living with autism in Toronto face significant barriers accessing support systems, particularly as a result of language barriers.
This was one of the main findings of a qualitative, cross-national analysis recently released by Pathways to Prosperity looking at the experiences of Somali parents raising children with and without autism in Toronto and Minneapolis.
“I know over 100 parents myself who have a child with autism,” said one father in the study. “Most of them do not get support from anywhere. Many are single mothers who don’t drive or speak English.”
For Faduma Mohamed, a 22-year-old Toronto-based spoken-word artist of Somali heritage, this experience is all too familiar. Her 18-year-old brother Bilal lives with autism.
“There was no treatment offered, no therapies, no extracurricular activities because of a classist system,” Mohamed shares. “The people who know English, the people who have the money, the people who know how to get the resources will get the resources.”
Researchers Melissa Fellin, Victoria Esses and Gillian King also indicate in the study a stigma associated with autism within the Somali community that often prevents parents from speaking about their challenges.
“It’s scary for some parents because we’re all caught up in the definition of normal; when our child falls out of the realm of normal in our culture, we immediately ‘other’ that person,” explains Mohamed.
Despite this stigma, the Pathways study found that there are Somali parents coming together in both cities to advocate for their children and policy changes at their local school boards and in health care.
It’s the type of change Mohamed is hoping for.
Through a 132-day autism awareness campaign (paired with the hashtag #OughtTheBox) she is carrying a large plastic bin – one of the props from her upcoming stage play Oughtism – everywhere she goes.
Why? The first time she brought the box on a bus, people were surprisingly kind – offering her a seat or to help carry it – despite how much room it took up.
The experience was vastly different from people “staring, cutting their eye or grumbling under their breath” when her brother has meltdowns in public.
“I thought it was funny,” she says. “People could help me more with a box than they could with a human being.”
Complex issues for migrant workers seeking permanent residency
Migrant workers pursuing permanent resident (PR) status in Canada should be considered “transitional” as opposed to “temporary,” according to recommendations put forth in a recent study released by the Institute for Research on Public Policy (IRPP).
“We need policies that facilitate [migrant workers’] transition, rather than complicate it, as is now the case,” state authors Delphine Nakache and Leanne Dixon-Perera in Temporary or Transitional? Migrant Workers’ Experiences with Permanent Residence in Canada.
The study gathered qualitative evidence from 99 participants ranging from migrant workers who became permanent residents to nongovernmental organizations, and focused on factors leading to migrant workers seeking permanent residency, challenges faced during this transition and implications of the two-step migration (temporary to permanent) for settlement.
Based on the experiences put forth by respondents, the study makes several policy recommendations, including eliminating the 4-in, 4-out rule – which allows employers to constantly replace workers – implementing the right for migrants working in low-skilled positions to have their family accompany them to Canada, and offering free language training and more settlement services to transitional migrant workers.
Aimee Bebosa, chair of the Ottawa-based Philippine Migrants Society of Canada, says that while these recommendations are a good start, more must be considered when implementing.
“For example, how can you properly pay for a family if you’re being paid low wage?” she asks. “They have to consider also properly remunerating workers so they can support their families.”
The IRPP study also recommends reconsidering both employer-driven immigration contingent on full-time permanent job offers and employer-specific or “tied” work permits to reduce barriers to transitional workers successfully receiving PR status.
Authors Nakache and Dixon-Perera make note that the study’s findings confirm the complexity of navigating multiple ever-changing immigration programs and policies at both the federal and provincial level.
“We are not suggesting that there is an easy fix,” they write.
Research Watch is a regular column on NewCanadianMedia.ca that looks at recently released and emerging research relating to immigration, settlement, immigrant/ethno-cultural communities and multiculturalism. Researchers or organizations releasing studies we should consider are encouraged to write to email@example.com.
This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org
This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to email@example.com
by Eddie Ameh in Ottawa
While Canada’s recent federal election resulted in more visible minorities being elected to Parliament than ever before, many also lost and are in the process of moving forward with the lessons they learned.
Rev. KM Shanthikumar, Scarborough-Rouge Park, New Democratic Party
Rev. KM Shanthikumar is a priest who ran as the New Democratic Party (NDP) candidate in the riding of Scarborough-Rouge Park. Born in Sri Lanka, Shanthikumar moved to Canada 30 years ago. He says he was very confident about winning and was actually leading in the polls prior to Election Day.
“Until the last two weeks to the election, I was the front-runner,” he recalls.
Shanthikumar says he was not complacent, but still can’t come to terms with his loss.
“I worked very hard till the last day and I’m very surprised,” explains Shanthikumar, who lost to Liberal candidate Gary Anandasangaree. “I don’t know what happened.”
He says although it was a major blow, he has moved on and returned to work. A manager at a telecommunications company in Toronto, Shanthikumar says he will continue to serve the people of Scarborough-Rouge Park like he has always done.
“I’ll continue where I left off and do whatever I can to help my community,” he says. “I know there is an MP (member of Parliament) in the riding, and I will approach him and offer any help he wants.”
Shanthikumar plans to re-strategize and return to politics in four years.
“I will come back with better plans and better ideas to win the next election,” he says.
One thing Shanthikumar learned about the people in Scarborough-Rouge Park – a riding where more than 70 per cent of the population identifies as a visible minority – is that they see themselves first as Canadians before anything else.
“The people of this riding do not see anybody as a minority or immigrant,” he explains. “This is the feeling I got when I went canvassing for votes from different people from different cultures.”
Steven Kou, Vancouver Kingsway, Liberal party
Steven Kou arrived in Canada from China 15 years ago.
Having majored in economics at University of British Columbia, Kou planned to use his economics knowledge to benefit the many low and middle-income families in B.C.'s Vancouver Kingsway riding.
Kou, who contested on behalf of the Liberal party, says that people in the ethnically diverse riding accepted his campaign message.
“As a visible minority, I wanted to be the bridge between the different ethnic groups in the riding and integrate the cultures into the Canadian culture,” Kou says.
Although the NDP, which has traditionally held the Vancouver Kingsway seat, won on Oct. 19, Kou says he is happy with the results.
“The most important thing for me is to continue to work in the community and be a voice for them even though I’m not the MP,” he explains.
Kou adds that he believes this election will be a source of inspiration for young visible minorities to get into politics. He hopes to get the nod from the Liberals to try to unseat the NDP MP again in four years.
“As a visible minority I have come to appreciate the opportunity to run for politics,” Kou states. “It’s a privilege.”
Jimmy Yu, Saint-Laurent-Cartierville, Conservative party
Contesting Liberal veteran Stéphane Dion in the Saint-Laurent-Cartierville riding in Montreal was a tall order for Jimmy Yu. He ran for the Conservatives in a riding that has voted Liberal since 1988.
Yu, who migrated to Canada from China in 1981, says the area has a sizeable number of visible minorities, including a large Chinese Canadian population.
“We have very rich experiences [that] the locals here don’t have, it is therefore important to add our diversity to [government],” he says. “We are now part of Canada. It is therefore important for the minorities to get involved.”
Yu took a year off work and has been volunteering full-time for the Conservative party since the beginning of the year.
“For next year, I need to go back to work to make money to feed my kids,” he says.
Yu has not made up his mind about contesting in the next election yet.
For Shanthikumar, Kou and Yu, it will take at least four years before they may see their names on the ballot again. Though they may have lost their bids to become MPs, all three say they are winners in their own way.
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by Marcus Medford in Toronto
International students and children of immigrants say pursuing post-secondary studies in journalism can motivate both encouragement and opposition from their parents.
Sharif Hasan’s parents didn’t argue with him about his program choice – although they did express concerns. Hasan immigrated to Canada from Bangladesh in 2013 to pursue a master’s degree in journalism at Carleton University in Ottawa.
According to Hasan, the life of a journalist in Bangladesh is “not ideal.”
“Most young journalists struggle for years to get employed at a good media house,” Hasan explains. “Many of them don’t get a permanent job at all.”
Money in journalism has become an issue internationally due to the increased number of freelancers, the shift to digital platforms and the shrinking of newsroom staff in order to save money.
Media outlets across North America have laid-off hundreds of workers in recent years. For example, Bell Media laid off 380 workers and Sports Illustrated magazine cut its entire photojournalism department in 2015.
Journalism not always a ‘safe’ option
Parents like programs that offer clear-cut paths to “solid careers” says Maryam Shah, a reporter for the Toronto Sun, who came to Canada from Pakistan to study journalism at the University of Toronto.
Shah wanted to be a reporter since she was 11 and says she “pushed back” when her parents insisted she study law or medicine.
“In Pakistan, that’s just what you do,” Shah shares. “Anyone who says they want to write or travel the world, they look at you like there’s something wrong with you.”
Shah adds that parents are becoming more understanding when it comes to their children’s career choices, but they still prefer ‘safe’ options like engineering or teaching.
Fewer opportunities for minority journalists
Journalism hasn’t proven to be a stable career for Hasan; he struggled to overcome the language barrier, as well as to find work in journalism, so he dropped out of the program.
Hasan’s situation is not all that unique for visible minority or ethnic journalists.
While there is a growing number of visible minorities enrolling in, and graduating from, Canadian journalism schools, they are not necessarily the ones getting the jobs.
Research has found that some of the perceived reasons for the under representation of visible minorities in journalism include hiring biases, fear of harassment and networking barriers.
While Hasan says he never personally experienced those challenges, he admits they were things both he and his friends were concerned about.
“In fact, they have discouraged me to go for journalism because of these issues,” he remarks.
Ingrid Grange immigrated to Canada from Jamaica and encouraged her daughter, Ashleen, in her interest to become a journalist. Grange says she hopes that the barriers students face as ethnic minorities “will have the opposite effect” on them.
“I would hope that it would make people of different ethnicities want to be in the media more so they can show that we’re out there and we should be taken seriously,” she says.
Some visible minority journalists worry about their ethnicity being a defining factor of who they are and fear being perceived as a ‘diversity hire’ by their peers according to a MediaSmarts study.
According to Grange, Ahsleen, who is now in her fourth year of journalism studies at the University of Toronto, says she sometimes has difficulty being taken seriously as a journalist, both because she is a woman and because she is black.
“I think you have to turn that tokenism around and use it in your favour,” says Grange. “It’s hard to get in the door, so if that’s your way through the door don’t hold back. You can’t change things from the outside,” she adds.
Pursuing journalism despite risks, barriers
While there may be risks and barriers involved that keep first- and second-generation Canadians – often visible minorities – from careers in this field, discouraging them from pursuing journalism only perpetuates the problem.
According to Shah, journalists benefit from sharing a newsroom with people from diverse backgrounds. She says she has been able to explain and give context to certain topics which allowed her to “tone down the ignorance” amongst her peers.
Having different ethnicities and perspectives means that inevitably not everyone will agree all the time. Shah notes that sometimes she and her peers “fight” over story ideas, and that she considers this a positive.
“If we all had the same thought processes or the same experiences we wouldn’t put out a very interesting paper,” she says.
Editor's Note: NCM has condensed and revised this article to include Ingrid Grange as an additional source. The original article was published on November 12, 2015.
by Catherine Murray, NCM Ombudsperson, in Vancouver
This has been an historic election – one which journalists, academics and party strategists will be decoding for years to come.
As New Canadian Media’s (NCM) ombudsperson, I was privileged to have a ringside seat on monitoring election coverage.
I did not receive any complaint from a single NCM reader; NCM’s election desk moved confidently into uncharted waters.
A changing division of labour
Given its length, and the palpable sense a lot hung on it, this election generated significantly more coverage for voters.
It also appears to have led to a changing division of labour between legacy and social media, ethnic and mainstream media and editorial and news coverage, which will continue to be investigated by researchers in the ensuing days.
While polls, poll aggregators and strategic voting apps remained centre stage, the typical horse race preoccupation widened.
There was more in-depth coverage of platform issues to do with proposed policy impacts on the middle class, reality check journalism which tested truth behind leader assertions, and at times, anguished assessments of the cultural politics of racial conflict and immigration.
Canada’s history of colonial racial oppression has not necessarily been laid bare in legacy media, but at least it has been acknowledged.
New interpretation on evaluating immigration policy emerged. Failures in intercultural understanding continued.
Polls on the views of Canadian “majorities” favouring the ban on the niqab were published with little journalistic assessment of poll question design (which may have skewed the results), poll methodology or intercultural differences.
The quality and volume of investigative journalism into swing ridings and the dynamics of the ethnic vote in campaigning improved.
While there were some instrumental, exploitive tricks, attack and wedge politics did not work overall.
A raft of new journalists of colour moved in to cover and comment on the election – matching the rise of diversity among party insiders – and occasionally even being included on CBC’s “The National” At Issue panel.
Analyzing the election run
Political journalism is always a tricky business, as Knowlton Nash, the late CBC journalist, news anchor and predecessor to Peter Mansbridge, reminded us of in his 1984 book History on the Run.
One story not yet released is the impact of the unprecedented increase in spending on advertising in ethnic media across parties, signalling a redistribution between mainstream and ethnic media, which may help stabilize the income of more ethnic media players in the larger media landscape.
The abandonment of the broadcast consortium for the debate led to fragmentation of English media sponsors (Munk, MacLeans, Globe and Mail and so on), each with limited audience reach, but it did not include an ethnic media partner.
This election also saw many respected mainstream journalists drawn into disputes over interpretation of ‘fact’ and ‘opinion’ and internal editorial policy.
Andrew Coyne resigned as an editor of the National Post, and Michael Enright was found by the CBC Ombudsman found to have “crossed the line” in an editorial on xenophobia, ad hominem attack and racial slurs in political speech for “The Sunday Edition” because he called for a specific course of action in his discussion.
These cases will become central to debate in future journalism ethics courses amidst shifting practices in an era of takedown Internet trolls and the sensational Twitterverse.
Road to better democratic journalism
This election posed more frequent challenge for rules in achieving fairness and balance in coverage.
Conservative candidates more often refused to appear locally in debates or conduct media interviews. All parties except the Green appeared to pull back their use of free access time in electronic media, in favour of paid partisan ads.
The balance between “earned media” from attack ads and news was hard to achieve and momentum grew for the establishment of a fairness in political advertising code similar to that for commercial advertisers at the Advertising Standards Council.
In my initial watch list, I flagged how the reduced mandate for Elections Canada under the Harper Fair Elections Act required special attention to citizen awareness of where to vote in new ridings, and party conduct during getting out the vote on e-day.
While some concerns about dirty tricks emerged, they were not as widely reported as they were in 2011. And parties learned their lesson from 2011 on using media quotations without permission in attack ads.
The next four years will see much dialogue about democratic reform.
Initiatives like Democracy Watch’s honesty in politics campaign may add a ‘civility’ element. The politics of hope are back.
Ethnic media editors and journalists should continue to be involved. Ethnic media must become more transparent and included in the self-regulation of standards of election reporting, introduce more awards for excellence in election coverage and share more about best practices.
Storytelling across marginalized Canadians groups has the potential to effect change.
The Canadians who voted against Harper throughout this past decade know something about the experience of being invisible and marginalized by the party in power. But for the first time in recent political history, things have changed.
Trading places between majority and minority identity status disciplines compassion and intercultural understanding wonderfully.
It can also produce better democratic journalism.
Catherine Murray, New Canadian Media’s Ombudsperson, is a professor in the School of Communication at Simon Fraser University. She has researched and written on B.C. ethnic media, self-regulation and the politics of cultural diversity in Canada. Write to her at email@example.com.
Multiculturalism should be off-limits in Canadian politics.
No party should leverage prejudice against minorities – visible or otherwise – in a plot to win elections, and to a lesser extent to enact laws. After an election like the nation’s 42nd, this, at least, should be the new moral rule in federal partisan jousting.
As far as the annals of xenophobia are concerned, the electoral debate over the niqab – a thin veil of cloth worn by some women in an act of devotion to their Islamic faith – wouldn’t make a footnote.
In a world where people are killed for being gay, lesbian or trans; where people march by the tens of thousands to protest refugees (in Europe); and where armed citizen-militia groups patrol the border to stop undocumented immigrants (in the United States); Canada remains an island of relative calm.
But by our own standards, #elx42 is new, odd and uncomfortable territory. Canada’s minority groups are the most uncomfortable.
They feel the impact of the Conservative Party’s dalliance with state-run dress codes much more pointedly than the media and political establishment, where most of us, to use Stephen Harper’s term, still remain pretty “old stock.”
There have been verbal attacks on women in hijabs in Toronto and Ottawa, physical ones against women in niqabs in Montreal, and demands of renunciation of heritage by some Canadians because of the colour of their skin, during this election.
There has been a rash of ‘take back our country’-style citizen campaigns, with enthusiasts amateurishly depicting themselves as keepers of a national flame burning too low because of the political correctness of elites.
What a brash revision of the facts. Canada’s immigration policies haven’t been asleep at the wheel.
The courts, and the most judicious and capable legislators, have put in place a system for separating cultural norms that are truly harmful and those that remain the business of individuals in a liberal democracy. You can keep the onslaught of regressive nationalism parked inside; the government wasn’t born yesterday.
No revolution needed.
After this brush with repressed ethnic aggression, there will need to be a space to review what the election has done to Canada’s evolving political norms. There are mature ways of dealing with ethnic tensions and they won’t be undertaken if Harper wins.
An appeal to the courts’ decision to reject the Conservatives’ ban on niqabs during citizenship ceremonies, legislation to outlaw niqabs in the public service, and a tip line for citizens to report ‘barbaric cultural practices’ – these will all prolong the social license for bigotry seen during the election.
They’ll be helped by laws that permit Ottawa to strip the citizenship of dual citizens and rules designed to prevent polygamists from entering the country.
Sense of unity at risk
Unless the Conservatives wake up to the damage they’ve caused, immigrants’ sense of belonging and citizens’ sense of respect of minorities will continue to erode. The fragile sense of unity behind multiculturalism will continue to fray.
The impacts will be felt outside Canada. Its special reputation as a country that seeks its best in ending arbitrary intrusions on individual liberty will be dented. As a global citadel for the cause of pluralism, Canada has few better strategic strengths to overcome its shortcomings. Once lost, that aura cannot be regained.
If the Conservatives don’t win, there can truly be a period of healing.
Multiculturalism, a forty year-old policy, hasn’t had a major review in decades. A new government could call for one. It could find a new direction and purpose, while its principles stay in place.
The targeting of Muslims, and indeed Jews (this group is on the receiving end of most religion-based hate crimes according to StatsCan) is a consequence of the war on terror and conflicts in the Middle East and Central Asia today, not the 1970s.
Celebrate what's been accomplished
But we can also celebrate what multiculturalism has accomplished.
The benefactors of Canada’s four-decade run with the policy are here to help. The immigrants and children of immigrants who navigated their likes and dislikes autonomously, the citizens who have grown their understanding of the world beyond Canada and grown their ability to empathize. These citizens have stories to tell, and they are more numerous than the bigots.
The process of overcoming the fear present during the niqab debate should include an infusion of money for cultural, academic and media projects and agencies that aim to celebrate cultural differences – both new ones and old.
That includes supporting aboriginal languages and telling the history of the residential school system, as well as telling the story of Canada’s French and British roots.
The niqab debate shouldn’t disappear. It should return to where it belongs. In universities and publications, the effects of the niqab on an individual – or the clash between any tradition and human rights – can receive an examination by knowledgeable people without the risk of spurring an angry mob.
In a free society, the most convincing arguments on whether or not to wear the veil will always reach those considering it for themselves, without the outsized and unfair powers of the state to tilt the outcome towards the biases of the majority.
Published in partnership with iPolitics.ca.
by Andrew Griffith in Ottawa
Is the increased number of "visible minorities" being reflected in party candidates? Which ridings are these candidates running in? And do these candidates reflect the largest groups in their ridings?
Now that we know the names of all candidates, we can answer these and related questions.
But first, as a basis for comparison, how has women’s representation increased in 2015 candidates? The analysis by Equal Voice shows that overall representation from the 2011 election has slightly increased from 31 to 33 per cent (still far below equality), with the relative ranking of parties below.
To assess visible minority representation I have used candidate names, photos and biographies to identify visible minority candidates. Although not as exact as identifying women candidates (e.g., subjectivity in analyzing photos), it nevertheless provides a reasonably accurate indication of how well Canadian political party candidates represent the population of visible minorities who are also Canadian citizens (15 percent).
Building on an earlier study by Jerome Black showing the diversity in earlier elections, I went through the candidate lists using the criteria above, concentrating on the more diverse ridings. Out of a total of 1,014 candidates for the three major parties, 142 or 13.9 percent were visible minorities. The party-wise comparison chart shows a growth in visible minority candidates for the three major parties plus the Bloc.
For the 2015 election, the Liberal party has the most visible minority candidates, slightly greater at 16 per cent than the number of visible minority voters (those who are citizens). The Conservative party and the NDP have slight under-representation (13 per cent), while the Green party only has about half as many visible minority candidates (eight percent) as voters. The Bloc Québécois only appears to have a two visible minority candidates (under three per cent of Quebec’s 78 seats).
The chart below provides the comparative numbers for each party in the 33 ridings that are more than 50 per cent visible minority, broken down by gender.
Additional characteristics of these 33 ridings, in terms of the candidates, include:
• Out of the 99 candidates from the three major parties, 68 are visible minorities (over two-thirds). These account for just under half of the 142 visible minority candidates in all ridings.
• 19 candidates are women (19.2 percent)
• In 15 of these ridings, all major party candidates are visible minorities;
• Only one riding, Scarborough Guildwood, has no visible minority candidates;
• The Conservative Party has the most visible minority candidates (25), followed by the Liberal Party (24) and the NDP (19); and,
• In general, but by no means universally, many candidates come from the larger communities in these ridings, particularly South Asian ridings as the attached table shows.
by Lucy Slavianska in Toronto
“Racism and racial health inequities are a hidden and serious concern with detrimental consequences for all people in Canada.”
This is the position of the initiators of the 8th annual Dalla Lana student-led conference “Racial Justice Matters: Advocating for Racial Health Equity”. The conference will take place on October 23 and October 24, 2015, at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto.
“In the last two years we’ve been hearing a lot about racial issues in the U.S. and Canada,” says co chair of the student-led conference Anjum Sultana, “and there has been quite a lot of research showing that there is racism and it affects people’s health.”
Some of the recently released high profile reports that support this statement include: “Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada Recommendations”, “First Peoples, Second Class Treatment” and “Colour Coded Healthcare” by Wellesley Institute and “Racialization and Health Inequities in Toronto” by Toronto Public Health.
“There are many different pathways that lead to negative health outcomes due to racism,” Sultana says. “One of them is poor access or lack of access to health-care services in Canada due to living in remote locations or the inability to pay – although we have a publically funded health-care system, not everything is covered.”
Medications, eye exams, dental care and physiotherapy, for example, are not covered by the provincial insurance plans and people with low income often can’t afford them. Sultana explains that many people of colour have lower incomes because there is racial bias in the Canadian job market, which results in lower employment and lower wages.
Impacts on immigrants of colour, refugees
The same tendency exists among new immigrants from many countries. Even though they might come to Canada with high education and qualifications, their credentials might not be recognized.
Also, they often face barriers like lack of Canadian experience, lack of trust and others. As a result new immigrants can be underemployed, do low paid and health hazard jobs to cover their basic expenses and cannot afford medication and other paid health care services.
“As for the ‘healthy immigrant effect,’” Sultana explains, “the tendency that new immigrants are generally healthier than Canadian-born people, but their health declines as their years in Canada increase, research shows that the health of the immigrants of colour declines faster and gets worse than the health of the Europeans and Americans.”
Even more critical is the situation of the refugees in Canada. “In the [recent] years there were a lot of cuts in refugee health care,” Sultana says. “And now refugees, many of whom are of colour and racialized, are receiving less and lower quality of health care.”
“Not only [is] the poor access to health care affecting the people of colour and racialized patients,” Sultana says. “It is also the quality of treatment they get in the health-care institutions. There is lot of bias there, especially against the indigenous people.”
Sultana cites Brian Sinclair as an example. Sinclair, an indigenous person, went to an emergency department in Winnipeg with a treatable infection. After waiting in his wheelchair for 34 hours, he died without receiving medical help.
“Because of his [indigenous] background, he was thought to be drunk and not really sick and this resulted in his death,” Sultana explains. “This is just one case, but there are many other cases where institutions don’t provide the same quality of health care to everybody.”
Urgent need for action
“Considering this growing evidence of the presence and role of racism in our health-care system,” Sultana says, “we at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health think that there is an urgent need of actions – because these issues are impacting the lives of so many people. We have to be proactive in our efforts to put an end to racism, especially now, when Canada is becoming more and more diverse.”
The conference at The University of Toronto aims to raise awareness about the findings of the newest research and to facilitate knowledge exchange between organizations, researchers and individuals working on the issues of racism and health.
Also, the Dalla Lana School of Public Health strives to create opportunities for developing innovation collaborations locally and to empower participants to apply the learned knowledge into future projects on reducing the negative impact of racism in all forms.
Two initiatives Sultana strongly supports are including anti-racism training in the curriculum of medical schools in Canada and organizing anti-racism training at health-care institutions.
“Mount Sinai Hospital and a couple of other hospitals are looking at such training,” she says. “We all have stereotypes that we may not even be aware of, and one way to uncover them is to go to training and start talking about them. Discussions would help health-care professionals become aware of their stereotypes and help them stop acting according to them.”
-- Canada's economic development minister Navdeep Bains at a Public Policy Forum economic summit