It was a true reflection of the Canadian mosaic — multi-hued and textured, but coming together as one single whole. The stories and programs the winners of the 2014 Canadian Ethnic Media Association (CEMA) awards wrote, broadcast or developed are true testament of a country that is at once diverse and inclusive.
“This year’s submissions reinforce the critical importance of Canadian ethnocultural media in presenting community perspective on contemporary issues,” said Madeline Ziniak, Chair of CEMA and National Vice President of OMNI Television, at the awards gala on Friday. “We are privileged to honour colleagues who are devoted to serving and reflecting the diverse audiences of this country.”
What was noteworthy of the winning entries is that most were attempts to break out of language and cultural solitudes. It was also a reassertion by ethnic journalists that what they produce speaks for the new economic and social matrix of the country and needs to be heard. That half of the winning works was for mainstream media is a testimony that they have come of age. “On most days, for many the Toronto Star is ethnic media,” quipped Joe Fiorito, columnist for the newspaper and one of the judges who selected this year’s award winners.
Matthew Kwong won the Print category award for his engaging story published in the Toronto Star on Black Ontario students finding their heritage at a U.S. College. Myka Burke, a journalist with CHIN Radio, Ottawa, won hers for “Climbing Canadian Mountains – Swiss Style”, a compelling feature in German highlighting the Swiss connection with western Canada. She was a winner in the Radio category last year too.
Jasvir Singh Shameel, Reporter, OMNI Television, was a winner in the television category for a six-part series about auto insurance in Ontario for the Punjabi edition of OMNI News. Another winner in the category was Harnaryan Singh, host and play-by-play commentator for CBC’s groundbreaking Hockey Night in Canada in Punjabi. The program is an inspiring example of how a Canadian icon can be woven into its multicultural fabric to generate a seamless sense of inclusion. Araf Mohammadi also won in the category for his documentary Survivor from Magadan, a true life story about Dr. Ata Safavi, a Torontonian of Iranian heritage who spent 10 years in Stalin’s labour camps.
‘Journalists will lead the way’
Anchoring these awards was the one for innovation won by Duncan McCue, CBC news journalist with the The National for his trailblazing work associated with the delivery and development of the journalism program at the University of British Columbia, and the Reporting In Indigenous Communities website. Receiving his award, McCue said Aboriginals are underrepresented in the media and their issues are under-reported. He said while there is a need for more Aboriginal journalists, those currently in the field are creating incredible television and “change is happening.” He was optimistic that Canada is on the road to reconciliation with its indigenous population and said “journalists will lead the way.”
The Sierhey Khmara Ziniak Award went to Phil Lind, Vice-Chair, Rogers Communications, for his dedication to multiculturalism and its expression through the medium of television. The award, named for CEMA’s founder, is presented to an outstanding individual who, through his or her work, has spoken for Canadian multiculturalism.
With CEMA’s support, the Rainbow Caterpillar award for exceptional writing for children in a mother language was given to Yulia Kapridov for her short story The Giant’s Granny in Russian. “The judges found Yulia’s story to be a great folktale in the best Russian tradition that promotes a strong sense of community and respect,” said Happie Testa, co-owner of Rainbow Caterpillar Bookshop, the sponsor of the award now in its third year. “We’ve created this award to foster strong cross cultural understanding and to encourage parents to pass their mother language on to their children raised in Canada,” said Hanoosh Abbasi, the other owner of the Toronto shop for children’s books.
Rogers Media talents Lucy Zilio and Kenneth Li co-hosted the event, which OMNI Television will broadcast on Sunday, July 27 at the following stations and times: OMNI.1, 9pm ET; OMNI.2, 7pm ET; OMNI Alberta, 9pm MT; and OMNI BC, 9pm PT.
Ranjit is a Toronto-based writer with interest in Canadian civic affairs, immigration, the environment and motoring. Maytree and Al Jazzera English alumnus.