Written by Lina Katrin
Immigration-related issues take up a significant portion of Canadian media landscape. One of the most recent stories that interested several ethnic media sources is about Russian women seeking asylum in Canada on the basis of the environmental issues in their home country. Torontovka.com, a Toronto-based Russian web source, shared a story of dozens of women from Kiselyovsk, a city of 90,000 in Siberia, who “begged Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to let them come to Canada” in a video posted on YouTube. In the video, women take turns reading emotional statements, explaining how coal dust from nearby mines and factories made their lives unbearable. The statement says people there want Trudeau's help because Canada's refugee system recognizes "discrimination on social grounds," which they say applies to them.
Hindi radio source based in Toronto, CMR FM 101.3, has also included the same story on their program Voice Radio Hindi. When discussing the issue, the program host Tamreen Kadri said that the women in the video, who identify themselves as mothers and grandmothers, say they are hard-working and can make a big contribution to Canada's economy, if given the chance.
Canada's refugee rules, however, are largely silent on questions of environmental impacts. In general, only people fleeing conflict or political persecution are admitted as refugees. The Russian source Torontovka.com therefore concluded that the chances of any of the Kiselyovsk residents ending up in Canada appear remote. Immigration policy experts also said there is nothing in Canadian law that allows admittance of refugees because of pollution, especially if there are other places would-be refugees can live in their home countries. Still, Kadri praised Canada’s immigration system for refugees and said that the Canadian government may think about environmental refugees being admitted to Canada as the issue is being raised.
Canada recently took new efforts to support immigrant women, as a Chinese web source based in Toronto, 51.ca, reported. Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen announced that the federal government will provide funds for 22 immigrant institutions to help immigrant and refugee women, who are visible minorities, land and keep jobs in Canada. He noted that newcomer women face many barriers in trying to find work in Canada, including racial discrimination, low-paid employment and lack of affordable childcare and social supports. The organizations that will get a cut of the $7.5 million pilot funding will launch projects over two years that aim to develop and test innovative approaches to help visible minority newcomer women find employment. The source reported that one commenter suggested to “just be straightforward if illegal border-crossing refugees are short on money.”
Vancouver-based Korean source, The Korea Daily, also published an article regarding the new funding project. The source pointed out that while settling in Canada is difficult, IRCC noticed that ethnic minorities, especially women, have an even harder time. According to the 2016 census, the unemployment rate of newly landed immigrant women (with ethnic minority backgrounds) is 9.7%. Even their median annual income is significantly lower. The source stated that the new plan shows IRCC's willingness to support the full and equal participation of all women in the economy.
Another ethnic media source that talked about the funds to boost employment for immigrant women is a Calgary-based Punjabi radio program on Red FM 106.7. Hussen talked on the phone with Rishi Nagar, a Good Morning Calgary host, and said that visible minority newcomer women face more challenges than any other group to enter the workforce.
So, even though some women strive to immigrate to Canada, and the government makes some efforts to accommodate everyone, there are various gender equality issues that women of different race and nationality currently face in Canada. Here are some relevant topics that have been recently published across ethnic media platforms:
Caribbean radio source, G 98.7 FM, talked about the gender equality issues regarding dress codes in schools on their program Mark & Jem in the Morning. It reported that the Toronto District School Board is acknowledging that school dress codes have been written and enforced in a way that disproportionately and negatively impacts several groups, including female identified students. One of the hosts said that the males are rarely checked for what they are wearing at school, but the women are. The codes also negatively impact racialized students, gender diverse, trans-gender and non-binary students, students with disabilities, socio-economically marginalized students and indigenous students.
Ming Pao Toronto, a Chinese web source, addressed the abortion issue, highlighting that while abortion remains legal in Canada, some abortion rights advocates say women continue to face hurdles in accessing the procedure. Some provinces have placed limits on funding for the procedure, but in The Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada’s interpretation of the Canada Health Act, abortion services across the country must be fully funded.
Meanwhile, a Spanish radio source, CHIN 91.9 FM, talked about how women are not cited in the news as often as men are in Canada. The source said that Radio Canada International published an important article, which notes that women are not in the news in Canada, while on the other hand, men are. Three-quarters of all people (71%) cited in the news are men, while only 29% are women. Radio host Silvia Méndez said that this is a call to action for media outlets to cite more female sources.
These are just some of the most relevant recent topics that have been lately covered in ethnic media sources, but they vividly illustrate that gender equality is indeed an issue in Canada that needs to be constantly addressed and improved.
In this respect, a Tamil radio source, CMR FM 101.3 Tamil Morning, reported that Canada’s federal government is committing $300 million in funding to launch a new global Equality Fund for women’s rights, as it reshapes the way it supports gender equality issues in Canada and abroad. Maryam Monsef, Minister of International Development and Minister of Women and Gender Equality, made the announcement about this new initiative, saying that it is aimed at creating a sustainable model to fund women's rights organizations in developing countries and at home.
A Chinese source, Sing Tao Vancouver, added that Monsef said the Equality Fund brings together 11 organizations from the philanthropic, non-profit and financial sectors, including the Canada-based Match International Women's Fund, the African Women's Development Fund and Oxfam Canada.
When it comes to global issues such as gender equality and immigration, multicultural opinions and unique commentary from different ethnic communities are especially valuable. Ethnic media can help elucidate the cultural dynamics and intersectionality by sharing a unique perspective on global issues. MIREMS monitors ethnic media sources and provides valuable insight into crucial problems and the dominant opinions of different cultural communities. Stay tuned for more blog posts!