While the US news cycle deals with the elusive ghost of collusion with Russia, and the backdoor negotiations to do away with the Magnitsky Act—which punishes human rights abusers—the first sign of Canada's intention to adopt its own version of the US-sanctioned Act did not bode well for the short-term future of relations with Russia.
The Canadian House of Commons approved with a majority the adoption of the Law on the victims of corrupt foreign governments. This led Russia—which sees the legislation as yet another extension of Western sanctions following the annexation of Crimea—to react swiftly, in a manner that went beyond the accepted diplomatic language standards. While the act was not yet officially implemented, the Russian government's strong stance appeared to be aimed at achieving two objectives: To show that the move will in no way change Russia's future political decisions, and—less likely—to influence the legislation's potential reversal by a higher authority.
Major Russian outlet Vedomosti (03/10/2017) was among the country's publications to voice Russia's resolve for retaliatory measures should the act be adopted by Canada's parliament. Kirill Kalinin, the press-secretary of the Russian Embassy in Ottawa, was quoted as saying that the Canadian parliament's plan to adopt the legislation is an undisguised intervention in Russia's internal affairs, which will not remain unanswered. The diplomat also said that that such a decision 'contradicts common sense and Canadian national interests, isolating Canada from one of the world's key states.' Russia state news agency TASS (03/10/2017) added more punch as per Mr Kalinin's words in that “this is a hostile step, like any anti-Russian sanctions, and will be met with countermeasures.”
The news was accepted with much greater jubilation from Russia's western neighbours, Ukraine in particular, which welcomes every opportunity to increase international pressure against Russian aggression across its eastern border regions. Ukrainian publication Depo UA (18/10/2017) shared Ukraine ambassador to Canada, Andriy Shevchenko's post on Twitter:
While Latvian outlet Delfi (05/10/2017) offered a more balanced take at the update, noting that the Magnitsky Act was passed unanimously by 277 Canadian parliament MPs, it also highlighted Russia's shock at the news, even though the law does not specifically target Russian officials but rather all people involved in human rights violations overseas.
When news broke that Magnitsky Act received Royal Assent and came into force in Canada, Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland was quoted saying “Canada has a worldwide reputation as a country that cherishes democratic values and protects human rights,” in Vedomosti. (19/10/2017). Russian officials immediately responded with a set of stern announcements. Sergey Zheleznyak, a member of the Russian Parliament's Foreign Relations Committee, said: "Following in the footsteps of its senior partner, the United States, Canada, unfortunately, demonstrates a lack of independent foreign policy."
"The adoption of the US-style Magnitsky Act looks like an unjustified political manoeuvre by the Canadian authorities, which negatively affects the relations between our countries," he added. Sergey Ryabkov, Russia's deputy Foreign Minister, later announced that Canada's adoption of its own Magnitsky Act is unacceptable. "We reach the only conclusion from the decision in Canada, politicians continue to set the tone about the insignificance of bilateral relations with Russia, they pursue their own political goals, try to play cheap geopolitical games," Ryabkov said in Rossiskaya Gazeta. (23/10/2017). None other than the Russian Embassy in Canada produced some of the harshest reaction words on Twitter, claiming that “the law was signed in a hurry, and is an irrational decision supported by a fraudster and tax evader, as well as haters of Russia.” (Vesti, 19/10/2017).
This type of strong-worded statement was shared by the better part of Russian-based publications, which were negative to neutral in their reporting on the Magnitsky Act adoption. There is no surprise, meanwhile, that the Canadian Parliament's decision was mostly welcomed by the Ukrainian media, who see Canada as one of the country's closest allies against Russia's illegal manoeuvres in Crimea and Donbass, and the marked leader in the international coalition supporting Ukraine. As Ukrainian-language source Liga (19/10/2017) put it, “Canada officially approved its own Magnitsky Act, which provides for sanctions against human rights abusers in Russia and the world,” highlighting Minister Chrystia Freeland's words: “This new law, which has received the support of all parliamentary parties, clearly demonstrates that Canada is taking all measures to respond to serious human rights violations and significant instances of corruption overseas."
Canada's official adoption of the Magnitsky Act is simply another piece in a global geopolitical puzzle, which becomes increasingly unpredictable with the rapidly shifting political sands across the world. The nuance that lives within languages. especially when controversy or passion are involved, is where the heart of the story lies. Monitoring and understanding the logic behind global news streams is one efficient way of putting some of those pieces together. Doing so with first hand understanding of the complexities of those nuances makes the translation of information that much more effective and important to Canadian thinkers and readers.
Written by: Filip Merdinian and the European Media Team
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s “good will tour” in Mexico was a resting stop amidst tough trade talks in the US this month. Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto are leaning on each other as they fight to hold on to NAFTA. They’re up against an unpredictable opponent. Whether or not two-against-one will be enough to keep NAFTA on the table is still uncertain.
While Niteo’s voice was brought to the English speaking masses of Canada, the country’s ethnic media outlets were voicing their concern in their own papers and radio shows. Demands from the US were rising, and Canada and Mexico were making a big show of having each other’s backs.
Canada’s Spanish, Punjabi and Italian outlets had the most to say about NAFTA and Trudeau’s Mexican visit. Punjabi Morning 93.1 in Vancouver talked about Canada’s role as a mediator between the United States’ and Mexico. The next day on the show, Harjinder Thind talks about the “troubled water” that NAFTA is sailing on as Trump keeps changing his mind. He mentions the rift in negotiations caused by the “sunset clause”—Trump’s demand that should NAFTA renegotiations be approved, the pact would only hold for five years. Toronto’s Punjabi Post reports on warnings from trade experts and prominent business lobby groups about Trump’s “outrageous” demands.
Francesco Veronesi wrote for Corriere Canadese about the talks and Trump’s possible willingness to “take a shot in the dark” by leaving NAFTA. He mentioned Canada and Mexico’s desire to join forces to take on Trump’s “intransigence.” A week later Veronesi was calling the NAFTA talks a “roadmap of American blackmail,” talking about the sunset clause and demands for more American only parts in the auto industry.
Mexican outlets were paying attention to Trudeau’s visit as well. El Diario discussed the criticism and shaming of Mexican parliamentarians for breaking protocol and acting like “fans” in front of the Prime Minster. Trudeau was considered an insider when it came to dealing with Donald Trump, an article in Capital de México noted.
BuzzFeed.com published a collection of memes that “perfectly describe the visit of Justin Trudeau in Mexico” by José Luis Hernández, Mexico’s BuzzFeed editor. The Memes featured the Prime Minister’s appearance, he and Nieto’s budding bromance, an army of minions, and Trudeau and Nieto as the stars of Twilight and Beauty and the Beast. The post got 14,000 reactions, 702 comments and 2,000 shares on Facebook.
As Canada and Mexico continue to sort out their trade relationships, both countries’ leaders appear keen to let this teamwork continue in other parts of international diplomacy. The initiatives for gender equality, language exchange programs for Mexican students to study in Canada and July’s record levels of Mexican visitors to Canada are hopeful signs. If the tri-lateral agreements fail, he’s certain there will be bi-lateral agreements to fill the gaps.
With negotiations pushed back to 2018, whether or not two-against-one will be enough to steer Trump back in the direction of cooperation is yet to be seen, but Trudeau and Nieto seem committed to their bromance and cooperation—regardless of the obstacles they face from their neighbour in the middle.
Written by Caora McKenna
Written by Caora McKenna, Data vizualization by Alex Irwin
Reports about DACA and the TPS are the most talked about immigration topic in Canada's ethnic media from August 30 to September 14.
News reports on irregular migration have swelled in Canada’s ethnic media over the summer, following a trend that began with the inauguration of Donald Trump and fears about his plans for immigrants, undocumented ‘aliens’, and those stuck somewhere in between.
As of January 2017, the US was providing Temporary Protected Status to over 300,000 foreign nationals from a total of 13 countries: El Salvador, Guinea, Haiti, Honduras, Liberia, Nepal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen. The status is given based on dangerous conditions in the home country, and is extended for six or 18 months at a time by the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Secretary of State.
When Haiti’s TPS protection was extended only six months in advance, moving the expiration date to January 22, 2018, fear broke out among Haitians who felt they could not safely return to their home country. Uncertainty over the TPS and rumours circulating in the US that Canada would accept Haitians with open arms, meant Canada saw the highest number of asylum seekers in years—5,712—cross the Canada-United Stated border in August. Canada’s ethnic media was part of the conversation.
Latin Americans look north
Even as news began to spread in Canada that those high numbers were going down, concerns continued to rise around TPS ending for Latin American countries like El Salvador and Honduras. There are 260,000 Salvadorans and 80,000 Hondurans who would be at risk of deportation, and as a result are looking to Canada. Reports from ethnic media in the US touted Canada as a safe haven, and Canadian politicians scrambled once again to shut down rumours. Around the same time, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Trump administration would end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) in six months.
Since June 15, 2012, DACA has given hundreds of thousands of immigrant teenagers and young adults the chance to live in the US without the constant fear of deportation. It allowed them to get jobs, build careers, get a driver’s licence and settle into life in the US. Also known as DREAMers, after the DREAM Act, which has been working its way through congress since 2001, hoping to allow unauthorized immigrants who grew up in the US to stay legally, and eventually get citizenship. More than 780,000 people have taken advantage of DACA, and are now at risk of losing what they have gained.
Where chaos and confusion drove discussion in the US, people looked north for possible refuge—returning to where they came from for most was out of the question. Canada’s ethnic media was paying attention: During the weeks of August 30 to September 14, concerns that DACA and TPS policies could prompt a massive new wave of immigrants was the most talked about issue in Canada’s ethnic media’s immigration stories.
Trump's policy changes felt in Canada
Concerns coming from ethnic media about DACA and TPS were voiced across all languages and groups. Senator Ratna Omidvar’s call to welcome 30,000 DACA young people was regularly mentioned.
A column in Sing Tao Vancouver responded to Omvidar’s comments saying that at first glance, they are “positive and humane,” but Canada’s immigration and refugee policies should not be formulated only on humanitarian considerations—Canada must take into consideration the associated costs. The writer says that the Trump administration is expected to continue making unfavourable policies for refugees and immigrants, and Canadian politicians shouldn’t always have to clean up their mess.
An article in the Canadian Chinese Express out of Toronto warned that the influx of migrants due to DACA and the TPS cancellation could mean more stress on an already overwhelmed immigration system, and further grow anti-immigration sentiment in the country. Chinese news site 51.ca also warned that this could be bad news for Canadians. Comments on the article included criticism for Trudeau, saying welfare cheques being handed out at the border is a “waste of taxpayer money,” and that “these people are not refugees, they are illegal migrants.”
A column in Chinese Real Estate Weekly mentioned Ontario International Trade Minister, Michael Chan’s comments that Canada has a historical tradition of supporting those in need, but that doesn’t mean it takes in everyone and anyone. The author praised the government for upholding the integrity of the immigration system,
In a column for the online publication Magazine Latino, immigration consultant Vilma Filici urged the government to act quickly to educate and warn Salvadorans and Hondurans in the US of their options, noting that validating illegal border crossings isn’t useful; entering Canada trying to claim refugee status is unlikely to work, as most of them have been in the US 10 to 15 years. Ficili also warned in a column for Toronto Hispano that even a small percentage of the Salvadorans or Hondurans would overwhelm the refugee processing system.
Ming Pao Express and Canada Chinese Express covered the false report in La Prensa from Florida on August 30 which said Canada would meet Honduran TPS holders with open arms—and inferred that these open arms came with no strings attached. Shortly after, Spanish-speaking MP Pablo Rodriguez headed to Los Angeles to meet with community organizations and members of government to denounce the rumours. Spanish newspaper La Opinion from Los Angeles quoted Rodriguez saying “Canada is a country with doors open for immigration, but within a legal and organized process.”
Warnings in writing
Many editorials and articles urged readers to understand that crossing the border does not guarantee a claim for asylum. Stories about outreach and clarification were third most frequent issue during the two weeks period examined. In an editorial in Vancouver’s Contacto Directo the author mentioned the criticism Trudeau has received for opening the doors “too wide,” noting that jobs have not been secured should the influx of migrants come, and that Trudeau’s statement that “to those fleeing persecution, terror and war, Canadians will welcome you regardless of your faith” for many, is a deception. They warn of the legal process that not everyone will pass.
Since September 14, reports have shown that the number of irregular border crossers appears to be dropping. Montreal’s Nawa-i-Pakistan noted that the reassigning of roughly 80 immigration department staff to help with the influx made a difference.
Though numbers are down for now, for many Latin and Central Americans in the US as the end of DACA and the TPS looms, Canada is their best option; conflict and danger persist at home—even if the US decides otherwise. The potential wave of migrants will impact Canadian cities and communities, and the ethnic media in those communities. As uncertainty prevails on the issue of immigration, criticism falls onto Canada, and who is to take responsibility, or action in supporting these neighbours. As the situation develops, Canada’s ethnic media is following closely—especially when speaking about Latin American migrants.
Written by Pierre Rossi
A surge in Haitian asylum seekers crossing the Canadian border is raising questions across North America.
Over the past few weeks, thousands of Haitians have made their way to Canada from the United States, crossing at several border crossings, to ask for asylum. The reason appears to be the looming end -January 2018- of the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program introduced by the United States in 2010. Another major factor seems to be the spreading of false information about Canada’s willingness to take Haitians in. For the past few weeks, the issue has been front and centre in several Haitian media outlets in Canada, the United States, and Haiti, but the first signs of the crisis go back several months.
The story is well known. As a result of the devastating earthquake of January 2010, then US President Barack Obama granted Temporary Protected Status to Haitians in the United States. Prime Minister Stephen Harper did the same in Canada. While the United States renewed the program, the Trudeau government terminated Canada’s TPS program last year. As Robert Lodimus bitterly wrote on Aug 19 in TouT Haïti, an online site dedicated to Haiti and its Diaspora, about 1,500-2,000 Haitians in Canada have received a formal expulsion notice. Now, as they prepare to leave, thousands of their compatriots are coming knocking on Canada’s door.
By and large, the bulk of the coverage in Haitian media hit a peak in August, along with the number of asylum seekers. However, some media outlets had already warned that something like it might happen following the election of Donald Trump as US president. They pointed out that his statements against immigration were creating widespread unease among Haitians -and others- in the United States.
For the most part, the reporting focused on facts and figures, the response of Canadian authorities, especially in Quebec, and the practicalities of coping with an unexpected number of people arriving at remote entry points along the border.
The consensus in the various media outlets is that the triggering factor in the rise in asylum seekers was the decision by the Trump administration to renew the TPS program for only six months, allowing beneficiaries to make the “necessary arrangements for their ultimate departure from the United States,” as Secretary of Homeland Security John F. Kelly put it in a statement on May 22. The existing program was set to expire on July 22, and the renewal extended it only to January 22, 2018. Previous renewals were always 18 months. This could affect almost 60,000 people, many of them children, some of them US-born. This could place Canadian authorities in the awkward situation of potentially expelling US citizens to Haiti, noted Haïti en Marche, a weekly newspaper published in Haiti, citing a Canadian immigration lawyer.
Before the official announcement several media had focused on attempts to get the program renewed. The Haitian Times, a New York-based newspaper, reported the launch of a petition in favour of TPS renewal in February. In May, the paper carried an OP-ED by New York Mayor Bill de Blasio in favour of its renewal. Haïti en Marche reported a conference in June on the TPS, where people from Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, and El Salvador hoped get the US to grant TPS beneficiaries permanent resident status. In April, Haiti Press Network, an online news agency, reported lobbying activity by Haitian groups in Miami in favour of TPS beneficiaries.
Almost as part of this pro-active campaign, Haïti en Marche also highlighted the contribution Haitian TPS beneficiaries make to the US economy as well as to Haiti itself via remittances, noting that the loss of latter would be a blow to the country’s already fragile economy. Contrary to claims by US officials like then Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly, Haïti Liberté, a Port-au-Prince newspaper, and Tout Haïti insisted that Haiti was neither safe nor capable of absorbing tens of thousands of people.
The Haitian Times, Haïti Liberté and TouT Haiti stressed that the country was still reeling, not only from the 2010 quake but also from the 2016 Hurricane Matthew, which wiped out almost a third of the country’s economy. Not to mention the outbreak of cholera reported by Haiti Press Network, widely believed to have been brought on by the UN peacekeeping force deployed in the wake of the 2010 disaster.
Going further, for Isabelle L. Papillon of Haïti Liberté, the six-month extension is just a way to prepare US and international public opinion for mass deportation. Citing Marleine Bastien, of Miami’s Haitian Women’s Center, Jean Numa Goudou in In-Texto, a Quebec-based monthly, suggests that the Trump administration deliberately created panic to push Haitians to “self-deport” themselves.
“The reality is that they have not received the right information”.
But none of this can be said to have come as a shock. François Jean-Denis, host of Tout savoir sur l’immigration (All you need to know about immigration) on CPAM 1410 radio, began warning in January of a rising number of asylum seekers, including Mexicans, Ghanaians, and Syrians crossing into Canada at remote border crossings in Quebec and Manitoba. In March, he reported that at the start of that month Canadian and US officials met to discuss the rising wave of asylum seekers reaching the border.
Again, the Haitian Times in August noted that Canadian authorities, including Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen, were warned as early as March about the “‘urgent need’ to revisit policy” given the rising numbers of asylum seekers in January and the possibility that US President Donald Trump might scrap the TPS.
For Robert Lodimus of TouT Haïti, given intelligence cooperation between the US and Canada, the Canadian government must have known that if Washington ever cancelled the TPS, Canada would become a point of destination for many Haitian TPS beneficiaries. Since the termination of the TPS was set for January 2018, it was only natural that people would be heading north before the winter. In a similar vein, on August 30 Laurent Lafrance in Haïti liberté slammed Prime Minister Trudeau for his about-face over asylum seekers, blaming it on his desire to maintain close economic, military, and security cooperation with the United States.
With respect to who is coming, Haïti Liberté, In-texto, and Haiti’s main newspaper Le Nouvelliste reported that many of the arrivals were not necessarily beneficiaries of the US TPS program, but rather Haitians who had gone to Brazil in the wake of the 2010 quake, and found themselves forced to leave that country because of its economic woes. During his visit to Montreal in mid-August, Haitian Foreign Minister Antonio Rodrigue said the same.
Some of the stories of these transcontinental migrations are truly harrowing as entire families found themselves in the clutches of human traffickers trying to make their way across several national boundaries, usually overland, from Brazil through Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Mexico, and then the US.
Haïti Libre, an online paper, also reported that US Customs were telling their Canadian colleagues that some Haitians were coming to Canada from Haiti joining their US-based compatriots on the trek north. These Haitians were said to be flying from Port-au-Prince to Miami and then to Plattsburgh before taking a taxi to a border crossing point.
The other major factor that explains why so many Haitians have been trying to come to Canada is false information. On August 22, Haitian Times, noted Haitians were heading north “fueled by rumors Canada would be more sympathetic,” mostly because of misleading social media posts. Haitian-born New York City councillor, Mathieu Eugène, told the paper that “The reality is that they have not received the right information.”
But there is more. In June, radio host François Jean-Denis reported a scam apparently circulating in New York among Haitians that the Canadian government was actually encouraging Haitians to apply to come to Canada. In August, he went out of his way trying to dispel rumours about Canada’s policy towards Haitians, insisting that there was no open door, no automatic acceptance, no guarantee of Canadian citizenship.
To counter the disinformation, Haïti Libre reported attempts in Florida by local community leaders to warn their compatriots that crossing into Canada was not worth the risk of expulsion. Likewise, Canadian authorities dispatched Montreal area Haitian-Canadian MP Emmanuel Dubourg to dispel rumours about Canada’s openness (CPAM’s Reveil Matin, Haïti Libre, In-Texto), and launched an information campaign in Haitian creole to counter the widespread disinformation (In-Texto). However, for Laurent Lafrance, this response smacks of hypocrisy given Prime Minister Trudeau’s previous pro-refugees “propaganda.”
Last but not least, behind the headlines and the immediate concerns, some articles focused on factors within Haiti to explain the wave of asylum seekers. Moise Jean of Haiti Press Network, says Haiti is a failed state run by self-serving elites, backed by certain “benefactors.” Which is why so many want to leave.
In an opinion piece, Le Nouvelliste noted that the latest wave of migration is different from those of the past. Once Haitians left with the hope of returning home, now that hope is gone. People just want to leave, will do anything, go to any length, just to find a way to be somewhere else.
Writing on TouT Haïti, Pierre Clitandre noted last year that 30 years of democracy-building in Haiti have failed. Under the country’s old dictatorship, the rural poor were the bulk of those fleeing the country, usually by boats, as they still do; now they have been joined by the pauperized middle classes, who are using up what is left of their savings just to get a visa, just to get away.
Written by Caora McKenna
Across Canada ethnic media are chiming in on the $10.5 million settlement Omar Khadr received last month.
Khadr’s settlement has become a sticking point for some, while others push for it to be a non-issue. Three words came up the most: payout, terrorist, and Trudeau.
Almost half of the stories called Trudeau’s decision a bad one with eight of eighteen stories calling Khadr a terrorist. Four said it was the right decision, and supported Khadr’s rights and the settlement. The third talking point was the Conservative party’s “politicizing” of the issue. For many sources not willing to take an official stance, Khadr was someone who is “seen by many as a terrorist.” How many in fact, is up for debate. The information regarding Canadians’ opinions, as always, depended on who was doing the asking.
Calling Khadr a terrorist gives away a definitive perspective. The outlet’s opinion of Trudeau’s role in the decision also shaped the way they spoke of the issue. Use of the word ‘payout’ more frequently than ‘settlement’ supports the Conservative narrative, and using the word ‘profit’ to speak about the result of the settlement is definitive in its opinion.
What’s being said:
The Chinese media supported Trudeau’s decision. They say that ending the lawsuit was a good decision as it would have cost tax payers more in the long run. A commentary in Toronto’s Today Commercial News says that those in opposition to the settlement are “trying to politicize” the case, and a column from Montreal’s Sept Days says the Conservatives are determined to make it a big issue in preparation for the next election.
Others thought the settlement wasn’t enough. A column in the Spanish Correo Canadiense called the compensation “minimal” and Vancouver’s South Asian Post called out the Canadian media for their “predictable outcry,” criticising the narrative of “convicted terrorist winning a taxpayer funded lottery at the behest of a naïve prime minister.”
Outlets who chose to refer to Khadr as a “terrorist” also called the settlement a pay-out, blaming Trudeau for having poor judgement. The editorial in Vancouver’s Indo-Canadian Times calls out Liberals’ defence of the decision saying “a child is a child, is a child” with a reminder that “a terrorist is a terrorist, is a terrorist.” Caribbean 98.7 FM Mark & Jem in the Morning called Trudeau’s pay-out “above and beyond any court order.”
Italian Corriere Canadese took the opportunity to call for compensation for their own Italian Canadian prisoners from World War II who have seen no official government apology.
The ethnic media also mentioned the press coverage about the settlement in the United States affecting upcoming NAFTA talks, as well as giving attention to the man who saved Khadr’s life, Donnie Bumanglag, who said he did not regret his decision to do so.
By Caora McKenna
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.
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)