By: Caora Mckenna in Halifax
If you’ve ever travelled or worked abroad, speaking and listening in a language that isn’t your own, you know the feeling of lying down at night exhausted. Your brain worked all day fumbling from one language to another. Every ounce of energy is drained. When your brain is that exhausted, you call home. You listen to your mother tongue. You listen without thinking – it’s a relief.
For Canada’s consistent stream of immigrants and their children, third language or “ethnic” media can be a refuge. It is news and stories in their language of comfort. Ethnic media -the official CRTC term – is defined as media that is not English, French or Indigenous. It is a collective of “others.”
The number of foreign-born Canadians has been increasing steadily since 1951. Today, metro Vancouver has almost as many foreign-born residents as the entire population of Nova Scotia. According to Statistics Canada, nearly half of the country’s population will be immigrants or children of immigrants by 3036. Of the 270,847 immigrants Canada received in 2015, 23 per cent had no working knowledge of English or French. For them, ethnic media is more than a haven, it’s a lifeline. The weight of this responsibility bears down on the journalists who work in ethnic media.
“It has always been the underdog industry,” says Madeline Ziniak, chair of the Canadian Ethnic Media Association and former national vice-president of Omni TV, Canada’s leader in multicultural programming. “Fraught with casualties, it’s never been easy.”
The state of ethnic media in Canada is as varied as its parts. Print is struggling to survive, radio is successful, online is innovating and TV has long been a quiet powerhouse.
Who is listening?
Across the country “good morning” is said in more than 200 languages every day. Buenos días is heard in Toronto, ਸ਼ੁਭ ਸਵੇਰ in Halifax and 좋은아침 in Vancouver. Omni TV in Ontario offers programming in 49 of those languages. The Canadian Ethnic Media Association’s directory of ethnic media outlets has 1,200 entries from B.C., Alberta and Ontario alone. Of the 1,609 Radio and TV Broadcast licences defined by content language, 275 are not English or French. There is similar momentum south of the border. In the United States there are over 3,000 ethnic media outlets, and since 2006 ethnic media is the only sector of print media that is growing.
Canada’s history of immigration is a history of storytellers. In 1835, Upper Canada’s first German weekly newspaper was printed in what is now Kitchener, Ontario. The Canada Museum und Allgemeine Zeitung’s subscribers were hungry for news from Europe – in a familiar voice. “It’s a bridge to Canadian citizenry,” says Ziniak.
Ethnic media is a vital tool to connect citizens not only to their past, but to Canada’s present, and to one another. Most of the time, that bridge is built with content by minorities, for minorities and about minorities. This has helped and hindered ethnic media by giving it legs to stand on, but few places to go. But this is changing. Today, car radios play international news and music, weekly newspapers cover local politics and run helpful how-to stories. You can watch Hockey Night in Canada in Punjabi from your living room on Saturday night. Ethnic media’s voices are here, they are speaking, and they are many.
The bridge that bends
George Abraham is a Canadian journalist who built a new platform. He started his career at the Times of India in Mumbai, formerly Bombay. Twenty-six years later, from his office in Ottawa, Abraham runs newcanadianmedia.ca. Canadian media, he says, “is not inclusive enough.” The problem: “The mainstream speaks to the mainstream, and the ethnic speaks to the ethnic.”
Dr. Catherine Murray, associate dean of Undergraduate Academic Programs and Enrolment Management and professor of gender, sexuality and women’s studies at Simon Fraser University was the principal investigator in SFU’s 2007 Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Media in B.C study. She says the way different cultures are communicating within Canada is something all journalists – both mainstream and ethnic – will have to “struggle with” in their content.
Mainstream media is taking up the challenge. CBC launched a five-year strategy, A space for us all, in 2014. Its inclusion and diversity plan commits the CBC to “be relevant and representative of the population it serves.” It is starting with the people making the content. Canadaland found that, in 2015, 90 per cent of CBC’s staff was white.
Dr. Sherry Yu, an assistant professor in the Department of Journalism at Temple University in Philadelphia,worked alongside Murray on SFU’s 2007 study. Yu says a “new stream” of ethnic media is emerging to cover issues that are misrepresented or not represented at all in mainstream media. It is driven by a younger generation of journalists whose content is online and in English. It is pushing the limits of ethnic media’s traditional audience.
Rooting for the underdog
As waves of immigration shift Canada’s idea of identity, daily and weekly newspapers pop up and go under in steady rhythm. In 1840, Canada Museum und Allgemeine Zeitung was sold to Heinrich Eby. It changed hands three more times before 1865 when a competing German newspaper, the Berliner Journal, forced it to stop printing. Today, the steady stream of immigrants is causing saturation in already niche markets. The 2007 study Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Media in B.C. found that 28 ethnic media outlets were serving Vancouver’s 50,000 Korean residents. (North Bay, Ontario also has 50,000 residents, but only three mainstream outlets.) There are only so many Korean restaurants, travel agencies and businesses in Vancouver. Yu says this makes competition for advertising revenue “huge.”
For Halifax’s first and only Arabic radio station, 99.1 Radio Middle East, saturation isn’t the problem. Arabic is the second most-spoken language in the city, but Oudai Altabbaa, the station’s accounts manager, says it’s “extremely hard” to introduce ethnic media into Halifax’s traditional economy. Still, he sees ethnic media as a way to “refresh” the economy, bringing in new ideas and new money. “A new way to communicate things to get people a little bit closer to each other.”
Altabbaa is optimistic. Working in radio, he has good reason to be. From 2011-15, third-language radio stations across Canada actually made money. Their English and French counterparts did not.
Other Canadian media outlets turn to funding from organizations like the Canadian Media Fund in order to innovate and stay open. The Canadian Media Fund is mandated by Canadian Heritage and funded by Canada’s TV companies and the federal government. It contributed $371.7 million in funding to Canadian television and digital media projects in 2015-16. Only $2.5 million went to “diverse languages.”
Money is a chief concern across all media, and ethnic media is well rehearsed in the pocket pinch. Many organizations “operate on a shoestring” says April Lindgren, associate professor at the Ryerson School of Journalism. Having time and resources to do good quality, timely and verified news “can be a challenge if you are the editor, the publisher, the reporter and the ad salesman,” says Lindgren. If the money runs out, so does the ink.
The National Ethnic Press and Media Council of Canada represents more than 500 members of the ethnic press and media. In 2012 it asked its members about business challenges. Forty-three per cent said they weren’t earning money for their work.
Waves of immigration sway ethnic media’s successes and failures. In 1958 Canada had more new Italian immigrants than British ones. At that time Canada’s third language press was building a national presence: there were 250 newspapers, representing more than 50 cultures. The “fiercely Canadian, proudly Italian” daily newspaper Corriere Canadese was started in 1954 by Dan Iannuzzi. In 1995 it revamped, adding Tandem, an English-language weekend edition –aimed at their readers’ kids and grandkids. In 2013, after funding cuts, Corriere Canadese joined the ranks of retired Canadian ethnic newspapers. It looked like the end of an era. Except, six months later, it was revived – and is in print today.
Sitting in corner stores and restaurants, it reaches 30,000 Canadians daily. As Sherry Yu says, ethnic media is “volatile.” It is also unpredictable, persistent, and necessary.
At once, a commodity and a social movement, increasingly important ethnic media in Canada is more important than ever. Ethnic media outlets, like immigrant communities, know that to survive is to adapt. They have learned this the hard way. If they don’t survive, says Yu, “nothing comes after.”
This article was republished under arrangement with the Signal.
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.
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.
Canada's commitment to send troops to Latvia to strengthen NATO in its stance vis-à-vis Russia has reverberated in the ethnic media with at least 55 stories over the last two weeks. Most reports were in the Chinese (12) and Punjabi (9) media, which is to be expected because these language groups have numerous high-frequency media (daily papers and full-time radio stations in the language). Interest in this issue was over-proportionally high in the Tamil media (12 stories) and naturally, the Russian media (6 stories). Multiple mentions were also found in the Italian and Spanish media (3 stories each), but interest in the European media was relatively low. One news item was reported in an Urdu paper. Most reporting was neutral in tone, with a few showing a slight positive or negative slant.
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.
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.)
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.
by Silke Reichrath in Ottawa
The refugee crisis in Germany has flooded the media with coverage on the diverse aspects of the situation, from negotiations among European nations about refugee flows, registration and distribution to the logistics of housing the rapidly increasing number of newcomers.
In contrast with the overwhelming surge of solidarity with the migrants, there is evidence of violence among refugees in crowded shelters and anti-immigrant attacks by the local population.
Although the scale is very different - Germany is looking at accommodating a refugee per 55-100 inhabitants, depending on the estimate, whereas Canada is looking at 1 per 1,400 - many of these incidents serve as inspirational as well as cautionary tales to Canadians confronting the challenge of bringing in 25,000 refugees - a number that is being questioned at the same time for not being enough, given the magnitude of the crisis, as well as being too many, given Canada's available infrastructure.
Public support has to be channeled
The Tagesschau, a German national and international television news service, mapped over 600 volunteer projects to help refugees, in addition to large numbers of German volunteers helping refugees settle in, visiting, collecting clothes and toys, translating and helping out informally in other ways.
The Berlin-based national daily Die Welt (03/11/2015) reports that food banks have been accepting the new clientele, but are strained without additional resources. Child services are monitoring the situation of 40,000 unaccompanied minors, but are likewise overwhelmed by the added case load.
In addition, they point out that the arrival of newcomers is stimulating consumer demand (Der Tagesspiegel, 03/11/2015).
However, an estimated 81 per cent of the 2015 refugees have no formal qualifications, and an additional 400,000 welfare recipients are expected in the coming year (Junge Freiheit, 26/10/2015), which points to the importance of literacy and adult education programs.
The reception process has to be well managed
Merkel has been pushing for a more orderly process through reception centres and refugee processing at the place of first arrival in the European Union and for quotas to distribute accepted refugees, or applicants from countries with high asylum recognition rates, among member states (Die Welt, 03/11/2015).
Internally, the governing coalition is discussing measures to limit the numbers of refugees through transit camps for refugees with a low likelihood of recognition and faster deportation for rejected claimants (Tagesschau, 03/11/2015).
The sheer volume of migrants may dwarf the Canadian commitment to bring in 25,000
A record 218,000 refugees crossed the Mediterranean in October, fleeing the escalating war in Syria and other conflicts, just as winter is approaching.
European institutions are overwhelmed and struggling to respond. Hungary has put up a border fence, redirecting refugee flows from Serbia and Croatia to Slovenia. Slovenia and Austria are threatening to do the same as transit camps are filled well above capacity.
Germany is expected to take in 800,000 refugees - other sources now expect up to 1.5 million.
An estimated 50,000 are housed in tent cities while the government is looking for more accommodation. Others are housed in former military barracks, hotels, fire stations, schools, factory halls, portables and other housing, often in rows of bunk beds with no privacy (Tagesschau, 03/11/2015).
Centres for newcomers are overwhelmed and most recent arrivals sleep outdoors for several nights before being assigned to an accommodation, as hostels do not accept their vouchers any more (Die Welt, 03/11/2015).
Refugee hostels are overcrowded and outbreaks of violence, mass fights and sexual assaults are becoming more frequent as refugees spend their days waiting and standing in lines (Der Spiegel, 6/10/2015).
Access to medical care is uncoordinated and dependent on volunteers until refugees are registered and issued health cards (Der Tagesspiegel, 03/11/2015).
The backlash must be pushed back, and dealt with proactively
Chancellor Merkel's policy of an open door for all refugees is under mounting pressure, with the anti-immigrant Pegida gaining in popularity and support for Merkel evaporating.
Politicians are receiving death threats and hate speech is growing on social media (Der Spiegel, 23/10/2015). The number of attacks on refugees and refugee shelters in the first nine months of 2015 has been double that of all of 2014 (Tagesschau, 22/10/2015).
Just in one day, Nov. 4, the headlines in Die Welt cover a fatal stabbing at a refugee accommodation, a case of aggression by a train conductor against a refugee, an incident where a fire fighter refused to fight fires set to refugee accommodations, a projection of social problems caused by migration by 2025, and the loss of political support of the Christian Democrats over its response to the refugee crisis.
The prominent national weekly Der Spiegel reports on a wave of anti-immigrant attacks on refugees, politicians, volunteers, police officers and journalists; calls for surveillance of the anti-immigrant organization Pegida; Chancellor Merkel's increasing political isolation over the issue, and a series of commentaries about the mass arrival of refugees, the politicians' response, and growing xenophobia.
Some of these concerns are being echoed in the Canadian ethnic media
The Canadian ethnic media has been overwhelmingly positive to the proposal to bring in 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of the year (e.g. Red FM Punjabi, 04/11/2015). The Hispanic El Centro News (29/10/2015) points out that this is a significantly smaller number than that taken in by smaller countries like Germany.
However, some commentators and some settlement agencies are voicing doubts that Canada can bring in this number while maintaining security standards and allowing for an organized settlement process (e.g. Radio Rim Jhim, 04/11/2015).
Darpan Magazine (04/11/2015) points to the logistical challenges of getting them here and housing them upon arrival — and the lack of time to get it done.
Sinoquebec Chinese Newspaper (30/10/2015) points to the challenges of insufficient time for background checks, insufficient settlement resources, a negative impact on the processing of other refugee applications and the labour market impact and concludes that it may be "better not to do it rather than do it wrong."
Polish papers like the Merkuriusz Polski and Zycie (29/10/2015) hold up the German example as a warning hope that the Liberal government will learn from the German experience and not create an open refugee policy for all asylum seekers from the conflict zone ... because just the processing of refugee cases will cost $200 million.
Nevertheless, most sources seem optimistic and highlight offers of assistance from the provinces: "Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said that Alberta will join Ontario, Quebec, and Saskatchewan in opening its door to refugees" (Canadian Chinese Express, 04/11/2015). NGO and church initiatives are also highlighted, including Lifeline Syria in Toronto, Project Hope by the Toronto Catholic Archdiocese and Refugee 613 in Ottawa.
Several Chinese sources support the proposal to use military transport and military barracks for temporary housing (e.g. Fairchild Ontario, 30/10/2015). Certain Arabic sources also support this and point to a Canadian Council for Refugees suggestion to prioritize refugees with family in Canada (Voice of Egypt in Canada, 01/11/2015).
The ethnic media was quick to react to Minister John McCallum’s appointment to the immigration portfolio.
Red FM 93 Punjabi in Vancouver (04/11/2015) commented that immigration issues caused many ethnic Conservatives to vote Liberal because of their promises. Top of the list of promises is the settlement of 25,000 refugees.
Other South Asian, Chinese and Spanish media outlets across Canada - like Noticias Montreal or CINA Sun Shine Radio and Tamil Canada Mirror in Mississauga - also focus on the refugee issue and intend to hold the new government to its promise.
Published in partnership with MIREMS (Multilingual International Research and Ethnic Media Services).
-- Canada's economic development minister Navdeep Bains at a Public Policy Forum economic summit