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.
Despite his lack of experience, or maybe because of it, Trump appealed to those feeling disenfranchised and frustrated with the traditional elites by appearing to speak from the heart and skirting political correctness (OMNI BC, Punjabi, 8/11/2016). He used incitement and hate speech to win (Sing Tao, Chinese, 10/11/2016). A Pakistani paper argues that terrorist incidents and suicide bomb attacks in the US, which caused hate and fear among Americans, led to Trump’s victory (Pakistan Times Canada, 10/11/2016). Meanwhile, a Hispanic radio host considered that "he managed to appeal to the lowest instincts of those disappointed with Washington's policies... with a campaign based on personal insults, arrogance and ignorance” (CIRV radio, Spanish, 9/11/2016). Both candidates had been caught in many lies and the Chinese Sing Tao recommended that politicians should reflect on why people were not happy with the system (9/11/2016).
Some ethnic voices responded favourably to the election outcome. Callers on CMR Radio’s Urdu program expected the ‘businessman’ to increase job opportunities and noted a change in his tone after his election that they took to mean he would not implement the plans he talked about during his campaign (9/11/2016). Most callers on a Red FM Punjabi program in Vancouver welcomed the election results, saying Americans voted for a better economy and for better jobs. A Sikh-American caller from Los Angeles said his family and community members voted for Trump because they believe he will strengthen the American economy and stop immigration. A BC caller said that he supported Trump's immigration policies and said there should be restrictions on immigration in Canada as well because cheap labour and fraudulent immigration are causing poverty in BC (Red FM Punjabi, 9/11/2016).
United Chinese American President Haipei Xue also reported that many new immigrants from mainland China voted for Trump, in part due to a legislative push to permit California's public university to consider race and ethnicity in admissions; this was considered an impediment to Chinese children getting into good schools (Fairchild radio, Mandarin, 9/11/2016). Anti-immigrant sentiment is not restricted to Caucasians, as immigrant communities are often faced with the most intense competition from more recent arrivals.
Some commentators saw the election as a choice between two evils, or between a "true villain" and a "hypocrite"; they chose the "true villain" because they can predict what he will do (Fairchild radio, Mandarin, 9/11/2016). The black community reportedly didn’t participate much in voting this time, which worked in Trump’s favour (CHIN Urdu, 9/11/2016).
However, the majority of ethnic sources in Canada see Trump’s win as reflecting the mindset of North Americans: “They have rubber-stamped bigotry. Americans are still not ready to give equality to women. Not only discrimination against minorities and racism, but sexism is the biggest problem in the US” (Radio Rim Jhim, Punjabi, 9/11/2016). Trump said he would bar Muslims from the US and “ordinary Caucasians thought he was good for them” (OMNI BC, Punjabi, 8/11/2016). He was able to win mainly due to his anti-immigration, anti-globalization policies platform (CIRV Mandarin, 9/11/2016). Trump “targeted the Spanish and Muslim communities, which brought him closer to the majority of white people” (CIAO Punjabi, 9/11/2016). Now immigrants are wondering if they should leave the country as they are terrified. It was a rebellion against the elites, but it was also about race: this was a “white-lash against a changing country and against a black president” (G 98.7 FM radio, Afro-Caribbean, 9/11/2016).
Given Ontario’s dependence on trade with the US, Ontario Premier Wynne expressed shock at the results and concern that Trump’s anti-trade rhetoric might become reality (Oye Times, South Asian, 9/11/2016). Toronto Mayor Tory said he will try and find positive ways to continue to work with the United States (CHIN Cantonese, 9/11/2016). Prime Minister Trudeau’s congratulations and emphasis on shared values were widely reported.
Some ethnic media sources expect that Trump will approve the Keystone XL pipeline, which will be positive for Canadian energy interests, while others think he might reduce reliance on Canadian oil by exploring for oil on federal lands in the US (Today Commercial News, Chinese, 10/11/2016). Concerns about a renegotiation of NAFTA and an end to negotiations for the Trans Pacific Partnership were voiced repeatedly, and experts were cited as saying Canada should not depend as heavily on the US and should diversify its economy and trade links. For example, former Bank of Canada economist Yuan Guoxiong believes that Trump's election victory will have a negative effect on Canada's economy. If Trump really abolishes NAFTA, it will be destructive for Canada's economy in the short-term. In the long-term, U.S. protectionism could present Canada with an opportunity to transition its economy away from reliance on the U.S. Richmond Hill & Markham Chinese Business Association Vice President Ben Leung said it is time now for Canada to shift away from its reliance on the "big brother" and explore business and trade opportunities in India, China, Southeast Asia and other Asia-Pacific regions (Sing Tao, Chinese, 10/11/2016).
In addition to concerns over trade, a lot of speculation was heard about Americans moving to Canada en masse. Most papers and websites reported that the Immigration Department’s website crashed at the time the election results became known as Americans were looking into their options for moving North. Some sites predicted “a flow of American political refugees akin to what happened during the Vietnam War” (Darpan Magazine, South Asian, 9/11/2016). Not only American citizens are expected at the border, but also a lot of undocumented immigrants living in the US, especially if Trump fulfills promises – or threats – to deport them in large numbers.
Another area of spill-over to Canada seems to be a trend towards more overt racism. Conservative leadership contender Kellie Leitch is allegedly “counting her victory after Trump's win” (Canadian Punjabi Post, 11/11/2016). Just as the City of Toronto and the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI) launched an awareness campaign about the persistence of racism (Share, Afro-Caribbean, 10/11/2016), posters urging white people to join the 'alt-right' movement sprang up in many parts of Toronto and were widely reported in the ethnic media. The posters promoted white nationalism and railed against political correctness, immigration, diversity and "being told you are 'racist' for celebrating your heritage" (Canadian Punjabi Post, 15/11/2016). The same day, an Ottawa rabbi woke up to a swastika and an anti-Semitic slur spray-painted on her front door (PTC Punjabi TV, 16/11/2016). She attributes this to the elections results in the US, which gave people permission to foment division, hatred, racism, misogyny and opposition to immigrants and non-Christian religions (Voces Latinas radio, Spanish, 15/11/2016). A Jewish community centre, a church with a Black pastor and a mosque were also targeted with racist graffiti in Ottawa, while racist flyers called on Richmond, BC, residents to rally against their Chinese neighbours.
Donald Trump's election ushers in a time of uncertainty and division in North America, with no one more affected than the minority communities on a multicultural and diverse continent. Engagement with the ethnic media can send a message that any organization, business or government agency is serious about serving all local clients and customers equally and respectfully interested in all segments of society. And since Federal responsibility for race relations and multiculturalism in Canada has moved back to its original home at Canadian Heritage, perhaps we can expect a positive message from Ottawa as we move towards celebrating Canada's 150th anniversary as a nation built on the principles of racial harmony and inclusion.