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 Caora McKenna, Data vizualization by Alex Irwin
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.
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 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.