A Media Analysis Snapshot
The ambitious Bill C-45 has opened a discussion in Canada’s community-based, multilingual media. Alongside the question of provincial authority is an uneasy face-off between the need to de-criminalize marijuana and the economic framework to regulate its activity. At the heart of it is a potential $5 billion industry, the future of which is ever more uncertain as the ambiguity of the bill expands.
The top influencers in the public and private sectors for and against this new industry are the ones that stand to make the most out of this legislation and its implementation, and may be interested in learning how their local ethnic communities are taking positions on pot, and devise plans to impact those opinions.
The multilingual ethnic media in Canada stories picked up by MIREMS have been busy exploring the many gaps in the proposed legislation, taking a close look at its discrepancies and potential pitfalls from their perspective. This overview shows how the legalization proposal launch is playing in the media of each cultural group. Data collected from this report includes 54 stories from 29 foreign language media outlets scanned by MIREMS over the last two weeks. A total of 39 items came from Chinese-language media, 4 from Russian-Canadian media, and the remainder equally divided among Tamil, Urdu, Greek and Tamil sources.
Coverage of the bill can be broken down in three main issues: implementation, social cost and de-criminalization. While the ethnic media coverage was in general critical of the decision to shift responsibility for the implementation to the provinces, the intention to de-criminalize pot was generally seen positively. However, the uncertainty fostered by the federal government on the task of regulating commercial use while discouraging criminal activity was viewed negatively from all sides.
Skepticism has been clear from the start on the Russian language coverage, while articles in Chinese-Canadian print were extensive, thorough and measured. The reaction from the Chinese-Canadian media has been both critical and supportive, exploring the contradictions of the bill in detail, but also highlighting the social benefits.
Chinese-Canadian media outlets (Dawa and Dushi) approach the legalization from both a market and a legislative angle. Dawa, for instance, focused on the links between marketing and law: ‘’If the government puts restrictions on product packaging, it would only help black market operators take over the market’’. Commentator Xiong Ya Li Wang You on 51.ca said the [proposed] legal age for marijuana use is even younger than the legal age to drink alcohol! ‘Potato's Liberal Party’ is planning to get Canadians high, by then who's going to remember the deficit, electricity, carbon tax, etc’’. Similarly, the question of proper labeling was explored by four stories in the Chinese print.
Sing Tao Vancouver noted the potential gap between the expected tax revenues from the legislation and the social costs incurred by the legislation, citing the U.S. State of Colorado, where the income generated by marijuana has been much lower than anticipated. La Presse Chinoise in Montreal noted that ‘’it will be illegal to drive within two hours of having an illegal level of drugs in the bloodstream, with penalties ranging from a $1,000 fine to life imprisonment depending on the level of drugs and whether someone was injured or killed as a result of the impairment.’’
Pablo A. Ortiz, from Noticias Montreal, echoes to a large extends the dominant feeling in Canada when he defines the bill as an ambiguous document leaving many unanswered questions. Lankaone, a Tamil-language media based in Toronto, wrote that Ontario was now facing a serious challenge as a result of the federal government’s decision to distribute the legislative responsibility to the provinces. A major issue to settle will be whether Ontario, where the legal drinking age is 19, will use the federal marijuana age limit of 18’’. BCbay similarily captured the Province of Quebec’s disappointment over the virtual shift of responsibility to the provinces, quoting Quebec’s Public Safety Minister who said Ottawa was ‘’tossing aside all the problems besides money to the provinces’’.
Social costs and impacts
Increased health problems resulting from the bill are a concern for Russian and Chinese media alike. Russian-Canadian outlet Torontovka wrote Canadian youth had not changed their habits regarding the drug’s use, while Psychiatric Association President Dr. Renuka Prasad said in a statement that early and regular cannabis use can affect memory, attention, intelligence, and the ability to process thoughts. Liao Zheng Ren from Sing Tao Vancouver noted that the federal government had stressed the importance of protecting teenagers in the bill. Dushi.ca wrote of a social worker who was told by young people smoking pot to simply leave them alone.
Toronto’s Vestnik and Torontovka, both Russian language print outlets, emphasized the healthcare aspect of the bill, noting the health issues related to continuous smoking. Vestnik in particular stressed the fact that the prison sentence for the sales of drugs to minors will be shortened to a maximum of one year. Stories from Urdu, Pashto and Tamil language sources picked up by MIREMS remained descriptive and showed little discussion over these issues. Salam Toronto (a Farsi-language newspaper) wrote that cannabis was a dangerous drug, quoting leadership hopeful Kellie Leitch, who promised to undo the bill if elected.
If there is one consensus emerging from the ethnic media, it is that in many regards the new bill lacks protective measures for youth. This is especially the case for Russian and Chinese media. Both communities picked up on the potential drawback of the bill on the drug’s attractiveness to teenagers. The Chinese community in Toronto was reported by 51.ca to question Bill Blair on the way the legislation would protect children and teenagers. Similarly, members of the Chinese community interviewed by 51.ca expressed the fear that this legislation might send the wrong message to young adults.
Chinese-Canadian media paid special attention to the question of a criminal record. One CFC article referred specifically to the fact that Justin Trudeau wanted teenagers to avoid criminal prosecution. A dominant question, however, was how current law would fill the gap for minors and drug dealers.
Amnesty was also a recurring theme in the Chinese language discussion. Will drug dealers and recurring users be offered a term reduction or an appeal as a result of the law? A good example is Prince of Pot Marc Emery, former owner of the Cannabis Culture dispensaries and Cannabis Culture magazine, who faces charges for possession and trafficking. He and his wife were arrested at the Pearson Airport and now await separate hearings. They are amongst those less supportive of the bill. As Marc Emery told CBC, the new bill includes neither a moratorium on raiding dispensaries nor pardons in drug conviction cases.
The Pakistan Times, Chinese Dushi, and the Cantonese program on CIRV FM 88.9 all echoed Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale’s unequivocal stance against an amnesty. Goodale said there’s no specific ‘’consideration of difficulties in obtaining pardons for marijuana convictions’’ (Pakistan Times).
These are the first off the cuff editorial opinion stories. MIREMS will continue to monitor this issue, because cultural attitudes towards cannabis will play a role in the practical implementation of the proposed legislation and the challenges it presents to all concerned parties.
In general, the initial ethnic media spin on cannabis legalization has been between cautious and virulent opposition, coupled with luke-warm comments, if any, on how legalization might benefit the fight against drug trafficking related crime, or even on the medical benefits of the product. Concerns regarding safe use from both a health and a public safety perspective related to mental impairment and safe driving are also on the list.
Stay tuned for more on this subject. There is a long year of public debate ahead.
MIREMS Media Analysis Team
By Blythe Irwin
As the growing controversy and tension over multiculturalism and race relations comes to a boiling point across Canada, spilling over to scald the nation in incidents such as the Quebec City Mosque shooting, Canadian Heritage Minister Melanie Joly and her department have seemingly been missing in non-action.
That is, until Thursday, when the Minister apparently got the memo, and rejected the Conservative bid to remove the "Islamophobia" reference from the text condemning religious discrimination, M-103, a December 2016 motion tabled by Mississauga, Ont., Liberal MP Iqra Khalid. As a result, Khalid has received thousands of angry emails, including one that said "Kill her and be done with it" and another that vowed "We will burn down your mosques."
However, to judge by the reporting in ethnic media, which the Minister may not be aware of, this reaction at a media availability in Ottawa (CBC, 2017.02.17) may well be a case of too little, if not too late. (Read more)
By Lucas de Oliveira Haag
The shooting at a Quebec City mosque, which killed six people and seriously injured many others, was characterized as a terrorist act by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and it has produced a range of reactions throughout the Canadian Ethnic Media. Condemnation is the one word that unanimously stands out, according to Harjinder Thind at Gaunda Punjab CIRV FM 88.9 (01/02/2017), who stresses that the way in which all Canadians, including those from Quebec, have stood beside Muslim Canadians and supported them is really amazing. Except for a very few, no one has ignored the attack and everyone said that it is against Canadian values and should be strongly condemned, added the Radio Broadcaster.
Marco Luciani Castiglia - Francesca La Marca said Canada's multiculturalism and tolerant society were hit in Quebec just as new walls are being built south of the border (CFMB AM 1280, Italian Morning, 03/02/2017). The actual shooter was Alexandre Bissonnette, a Trump fan with right-wing, pro-Israel ideas and strong opinions on immigration (Chinese Readers, 30/01/2017). The attack has stoked growing fears among Canadian Muslims amid calls for increased security and awareness about the power of hate speech. During a talk show on Red FM 93.1 Punjabi Morning Show, a few callers asked why it is always people from Asian and Muslim countries who fall victim to racism and why they are not considered equal to the mainstream population by some.
Despite Canada’s pride in its national tolerance and welcome for thousands of refugees in recent years, Quebec City’s population apparently does not share the same values. Islamic writer Haroon Siddiqui from The Muslim Times (01/02/2017) believes that Quebec City has developed the dubious reputation of being Canada’s capital of shock jocks, online radio hosts who love to provoke with outrageous talk about women, homosexuals and Muslims. The province drafted legislation last year to ban face-coverings in the public sector in a move criticized as marginalizing Muslim women and potentially inflaming anti-immigrant tensions. According to Montreal Chinese website La Presse Chinoise, Calgary researcher Shirley Steinberg said that people living in homogenous and isolated communities are more susceptible to extreme right-wing ideologies. People also have talked about the difference between Quebec and the rest of Canada. Quebec has outwardly nurtured Islamophobia for at least a decade.
Most of the multilingual segment of the Canadian social media and its audience agree with Trudeau’s belief nailing the issue to terrorism and Islamophobia. According to Indian American Muslim Council spokesperson Musaddique Thange, the two incidents are part of a "pattern of vicious and hateful violence against Muslims" (India Abroad, 10/02/2017). Additionally, a few ethnic media representatives go beyond racism and extremism to express their thoughts on the shooting. Talking to PTC Punjabi, a member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Mosque Mississauga described the attack as a crime against humanity and said that no religion teaches us hatred (TV - PTC North America, 01/02/2017). Jorge Correia from a Voz de Portugal goes deeper, stressing that intolerance and fear remain to be discussed and there is talk of radicalization, but it is a bit misplaced because violence is just violence. It is a folly that strikes anyone, Correia concludes. According to the pastor of Brampton’s Heart Lake Baptist Church, Dr. Terry Atkinson, it is time to come out, show unity, and support, and respect one another (South Asian Focus, 06/02/2017).
In contrast with the whole awareness around the event in Quebec City, it’s still possible to hear the voice of intolerance echoing within the social media, as seen in a comment from a 51.ca (05/02/2017) reader stressing that Chinese people just don’t want Canada to keep accepting Muslim refugees with a disregard for national security. Muslims cannot live in peace with any other civilization (Chinese Readers, 30/01/2017). One anonymous commenter says that Canada needs to experience more terrorist attacks in order for 'Potato' (Prime Minister Justin Trudeau) to step down (BCbay.com, Chinese, 30/01/2017).
By Andres Machalski
As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau heads down to Washington to meet with President Donald Trump, we at MIREMS decided to scan ethnic media opinions on Trump, Trudeau and what the new US presidency might mean for Canada. As with the mainstream media, the news reporting was overwhelming, so we had to be selective.
What we selected were primarily opinion pieces, and those that reflected social media input. The rise of Twitterocracy as a form of government seems to have led traditional media sources to look to netizen tweets as a form of editorial opinion, at least in some ethnic media circles, replacing the more traditional editorial opinion pieces written by professional journalists. These reactions played extensively in the Chinese social media both in Vancouver and Toronto, on sites such as 51.ca and BCbay.com, and should be troubling news to the Canadian government.
In contrast to what we read in mainstream media, which seemed to be advice as to what the Canadian Prime Minister should or should not do, and the risks and advantages of confrontation with the American President, the multilingual segment of the Canadian social media and its audience seemed inclined to suggest that Canada stick to its knitting, and deal with problems at home rather than on the international scene, leading us to wonder whether Canada has really escaped the wave of protectionist, isolationist and ultra-nationalist feeling that is sweeping developed nations, or is simply a late bloomer. This poses a challenge to Canadian leadership on the 150th anniversary of Canada’s birth as a nation as it struggles to keep our doors and minds open to trade, immigration and multicultural ideals worldwide. (read more)
As the 2016 is wrapping up, we’d like to thank our clients, partners, and friends for a great year together! We are happy to provide our services to help you communicate with the ethnic audiences across Canada.
From all of us at MIREMS, we’d like to wish you Happy Holidays and many wonderful beginnings in the new year!
Happy Holidays! - Joyeuses Fêtes! - Felices Fiestas! - أعيادا سعيدة - Hạnh phúc ngày lễ - 節日快樂 - Masaya pista opisyal - Boas Festas! - Mutlu Bayramlar! - Sarbatori Fericite! - 행복 휴일 - Καλές δικακοπές! - Felix feriarum - ハッピーホリデーズ - Buone Feste! – Щасливих свят! - חג שמח - Frohe Feiertage - छुटियाँ मुबारक – Wesołych Świąt - 즐거운 휴일! - عید مبارک - Счастливых праздников!
On November 13, our diverse team of multilingual media consultants, translators and editors got together to celebrate the year, discuss new business opportunities, and meet the new Marketing team that will cover marketing and sales operations in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia.
The team is ready to take our clients to the new year and continue working on providing them with the latest news and opinions from the ethnic media across Canada.
Events across the border have also been on our radar this year and caused heated discussions at the meeting. We are keeping our eyes on the US political situation and hoping to bring ethnic media monitoring to America in the near future.
By Silke Reichrath
Donald Trump’s election win has been reverberating strongly in the Canadian ethnic media across all language groups. The main emphasis in the early reporting was on how this could happen and on the potential implications for Canada especially in terms of immigration and the economy. In addition, ethnic media in Canada were concerned with the spill-over of a more overt and aggressive form of racism from South of the border to Canadian cities.
By Silke Reichrath
Like the mainstream, the ethnic media in Canada follow news of the US presidential election campaign closely. Canadians have overall good reason to be concerned about political developments ‘down South:’ The US is by far Canada’s largest trading partner, our most powerful military ally and our only neighbour we can reach by land. Ecosystems and environmental concerns are entwined; each car crosses the border multiple times while being manufactured; and our regulatory systems need close alignment.
The ethnic communities in Canada have further reason to be engaged, as diasporas for most ethnic groups span the US – Canadian border. Individuals move back and forth and most newcomers to Canada have relatives or friends in the US.