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.
While news coverage on both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton follows the mainstream news cycle, commentaries and editorials reveal a profound unease in the Canadian ethnic media about Donald Trump and his approach to immigration. Several sources highlight former US Secretary of State Collin Powell’s aversion to Trump, despite the fact that Powell is a Republican (Ming Pao, 15/09/2016). This antipathy is likely based in part on the racist ‘birther’ movement casting aspersions on President Obama’s American birth (G 98.6 FM, 15/09/2016).
Hispanic and Filipino media draw a parallel between Trump’s targeting of ethnic communities – particularly the Hispanic community – for election purposes and Conservative leadership candidate Kellie Leitch’s proposal of testing newcomers for Canadian values (El Popular, 15/09/2016; Toronto Hispano, 16/09/2016). They have the impression Trump wants to take the country back to a time when Caucasians dominated (Pilipino Express, 16/09/2016).
Val Abelgas in the Filipino Balita finds Trump’s attack on Filipinos, suggesting they should be barred from immigrating because they could be recruited into Islamist terrorist groups, “unforgiveable” and points out that Trump cannot unite his own party, much less the country (Balita, 02/09/2016). Trump’s generalizations of Muslims are very simplistic as most Muslims reject the actions of jihadists and do not believe the Sharia is above national law. Trump has also reportedly suggested to confiscate Iraqi and possibly Syrian oil as compensation for the costs of the war; this would unite the Middle Eastern nations against the US regardless of their affiliations, since the region will start to see the US as a colonial power that steals their natural resources (RCI Arabic, 20/09/2016).
The Democrats are seen as more inclusive, while Trump’s anti-Muslim remarks have alienated even non-Muslim South Asians (India Abroad, 23/09/2016). Clinton is considered the more experienced politician, while Trump avoids questions, does not address the issues, and makes unsubstantiated claims about plans to finish off the Islamic State and increasing military budgets (Divya Bhaskar, 16/09/2016). In addition, Trump’s investments abroad and his related relationships with foreign politicians may lead to conflicts of interest (The Weekly Voice, 16/09/2016). He also stands accused of flouting the Cuban embargo (CMR Tamil, 29/09/2016). His economic predictions of 3.5% growth are perceived as unrealistic (Sing Tao, 16/09/2016).
Nevertheless, some Punjabi media see Trump as being in a strong position and as gaining gradual support in the media (CIAO 530 AM, 16/09/2016). They consider that people like the fact that he talks like a common man and does not represent mainstream politicians. Their support is likely due to disappointment with sliding living standards (Punjab Star, 15/09/2016). Some Jewish commentators are also positive about Trump not really being a politician and hopeful that he will be supportive of the state of Israel (CHIN FM 100.7 Jewish, 15/09/2016).
Recent comments on Hillary Clinton mostly focus on her health, which gives the impression that Trump has more stamina (OMNI BC Punjabi, 28/09/2016). It raises questions of how important good health is for a president (Canadian Chinese Express, 17/09/2016) and whether her attempt to hide a case of pneumonia is proof of her general dishonesty (CHIN FM 100.7 Jewish, 15/09/2016).
Clinton is perceived as having won the recent debate, which was billed as the most widely watched debate in US history (Lo Specchio, 30/09/2016; OMNI Mandarin, 27/09/2016). While some commentators see Hillary Clinton forcing Donald Trump to become defensive over his temperament, refusal to release his taxes and past comments about race and women as a potentially pivotal moment (CIAO Punjabi, 27/09/2016), others would argue that debates never change much unless one candidate commits a serious mistake (OMNI BC Punjabi, 28/09/2016).
The politics of xenophobia and fear of terrorism thus seem to dominate ethnic media perceptions of the US presidential race. Some of this concern is colouring off to Canadian politicians playing the anti-immigrant card in terms of painting immigrants as ‘the other’ and as a potential danger due to incompatible values. In the face of an explicitly multicultural and diverse Liberal government, the Conservatives risk losing their carefully cultivated support among socially conservative immigrant groups by embracing the fears of their traditional base – especially before the spectre of racist and anti-immigrant political rhetoric from across the border.