How the South Asian community is minding its business in the Russia-Ukraine war
The South Asian Canadian media, mainly in Hindi, Punjabi and Urdu, has been focusing on the international students stuck in Ukraine.
Initially, concerns were also expressed that Ukraine is proving to be tough for Russia, but for how long? NATO countries, including Canada, have decided to support Ukraine financially, providing equipment, but refused to send their personnel to fight on the war front and refused to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine.
However, the Punjabi media raised concerns over unlimited numbers of refugees. It was emphasized that Canada opened its doors to unlimited refugees from Ukraine while a limit was put for refugees from Syria and Afghanistan.
The expectation is that Government plans to accommodate refugees should not impact Canadians
Apna Punjab Radio, located in Brampton, held a long discussion. Host Devinder Bains said that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has shown generosity in supporting Ukraine against Russian aggravation. It is good to help and support other countries in crisis. He has allowed Ukrainian people to come to Canada and work temporarily and return when the situation in their country is better. Bains said that Canadians are already struggling with job opportunities, cost of living, and high prices for daily groceries. This open invitation to immigrants is not appropriate in the current situation.
Host Navraj Grewal said that there is a difference this time in Canada’s support to Ukraine. However, no one raised a finger when the American military intervened in Lebanon, Syria, Afghanistan, or Vietnam. Grewal said that we’re not at all favouring Russian attacks on Ukraine. Our Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland is of Ukrainian origin. Canada may be showing much generosity because of that. A caller shared concerns over allowing a large number of international students in without considering the housing crisis to accommodate them. Another caller commended Trudeau for his refugee policy for Ukraine in the present crisis. However, he emphasized the need for policies to assimilate the new Ukrainians and not just accept them into Canada.
The Canadian Urdu News website highlighted how Russian forces are targeting Ukrainians’ food supply, including their stores of grain. It said that the Canadian government cautioned that consumers should expect a spike in the cost of bread and pasta following a rise in wheat prices after Russia’s invasion.
The website presented a feature focused on Canadians welcoming refugees from Ukraine. It also highlighted visa issues for Ukrainians fleeing their country to Canada and voiced the feelings of Ukrainian Canadians who are going to Ukraine to serve with their skills and abilities and generating resources from Canada to help them.
The Canadian Hindi News website reported that Chrystia Freeland announced there would be so-called collateral damage to the Canadian economy and workers as a result of sanctions imposed on Russia.
If we look at Urdu and Hindi media opinions in India and Pakistan regarding the Russia-Ukraine war and its impact, the scenario is based on political situations in the countries. In India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is celebrating the victory of his party in recent provincial elections. The Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lost in Punjab, where people had a chance to choose another party. However, the BJP has obtained great success in four out of five states that will pave the way for him for the 2024 general elections in India. Modi is crediting this success to his policies, including remaining neutral in the Russia-Ukraine war. India has a longstanding relationship with Russia and has been enjoying its friendship and support. India is still the biggest market for Russian-made weapons, while Ukraine has been opposing India in the Security Council.
Currently, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan is facing a vote of no confidence. America, the country on which Pakistan has long relied for its monitoring support, is no more in a mood to support Pakistan. As a result, Pakistan is exploring more avenues for financial support and looking for new friends. Imran Khan visited Moscow at a time when the world was condemning President Vladimir Putin for his attack on Ukraine.
Neither India nor Pakistan participated in voting against Russian aggravation on Ukraine at the UN. India officially remains neutral. However, their policies and lack of sanctions are aligned with Russia. And India is also concerned about the increasing closeness between China and Russia.
Blasphemy has been the most sensitive issue in Pakistan. Putin has recently said that insulting the Holy Prophet Mohammad (Peace Be upon Him) does not count as an expression of freedom. While the world was surprised at Putin’s statement, Pakistan’s Prime Minister and religious bodies hailed Putin. This way, Putin created a ground to seek support from Muslim groups who have been avoiding Moscow due to its Communism. Khan also tried to gain support in his own country, Pakistan, by praising Putin on his statement against blasphemy and visiting Russia to explore areas of mutual interests. In addition, Khan met with Ramzan Kadyrov, Head of the Chechen Republic, who is in support of Russia in its war against Ukraine.
The whole world, including Canada, is talking about sanctions on Russia and the impact on their countries. In India, the rim-axle industry is suffering severely. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that India can take advantage of sanctions on Russia by exporting wheat and grain to the world.
This can be viewed as a good thing not only for India, but also for the Indian-Punjabi community in Canada because most Punjabis are associated with agriculture and farming. We have seen how Punjabi Canadians came forward in support of the farmers’ movement in India.
By MIREMS Chinese Media Analyst Team
Over the course of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, mainland Chinese and Taiwanese media are all expressing their sentiments towards the situation, and these are echoed by their Canadian counterparts.
Both mainland Chinese and Taiwanese media acknowledge the complexities of Russia and Ukraine’s relationship, and are commenting on the US role as the leader of the West and NATO.
Mainland Chinese media have aggressively targeted the US, blaming the country for the current war due to its historical involvement in prompting NATO’s eastward expansion.
In contrast, Taiwanese media appears to be less critical, acknowledging the realities of China being a hard-to-defeat opponent not only for Taiwan, but also for the US.
Most members of the Chinese community in Canada are neutral about the Russia-Ukraine war. In our opinion, it is in part because members of the Chinese community have access to Chinese media or social applications from mainland China.
Mainland China’s perception of the United States and Western countries’ involvement
According to Chinese state media Beijing Daily, “With the escalation of the situation in Ukraine and the deepening of sanctions by the United States and Western countries, a game marked by ‘de-Russification’ is unfolding vigorously.” As various “extreme sanctions” are being implemented against Russia by the US and its allies, Beijing Daily’s Qiu Changqing criticizes these actions as showcasing “double standard to the fullest to achieve political self-interest.” Beijing Daily’s commentator Yuxin also calls out the US specifically, condemning the US for “acting as the primary instigator of the Russian-Ukraine conflict,” saying “the US and the West are using sanctions to control the world, and are trying to create a ‘one-sided’ anti-Russian voice.”
Chang’an Observation comments how the US is also negatively impacting the EU’s economy by boasting that “all Western allies are united against Russia.” The author says, “adopting a tough stance is a form of ‘political correctness’ in the West, and any ‘relaxation’ on Russia’s stance could lead to a storm of criticism.”
China Daily’s Dong Yifan describes Ukraine as “a pawn of the US to strategically destroy the Russian economy”. Whereas China Daily’s Pogosian claims that “the ultimate goal of the West is to create a pro-Western government in Russia, paving the way for further expansion of the EU and NATO.” Aside from criticizing the US and the West for “fanning the flames” in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, Pogosian also reiterates China’s support for “peaceful solutions” to reconstruct world order.
Russian-Ukrainian war is a mirror for the China and Taiwan issue
In Taiwan’s independent media outlet The News Lens, Lai Yizhong shares reflections on the Russian-Ukrainian war and analyzes the implications for China and Taiwan. Lai describes the Russian-Ukrainian war as a “game of chess between the great powers that was orchestrated by the American boss to clear roadblocks.” Since the conflict erupted, pro-Beijing voices, also known as the Blue Camp, have painted the US as the villain and criticized the country for a lack of concern for Ukraine. Lai defends the US against this criticism by vaguely saying that “there are many reasons why the US does not directly send troops into Ukraine, but it is definitely not what the Blue Camp said about the US having no morals and not caring about Ukraine.”
Even though Lai defended the US, the author still has doubts about the US desire and ability to defend Taiwan if China did launch a violent attack. In Taiwanese newspaper China Times, Wang Hailiang questions the US chances of winning if Russia and China stand together in a war against Taiwan, since the US and Europe are already feeling powerless in responding to the current Russia and Ukraine situation. In light of the above speculations, Wang adds that he is uncertain if the US and its allies will abandon Taiwan or counterattack the People’s Liberation Army if the Taiwan Strait war does happen. Wang hypothesizes that “if the Taiwan Strait war breaks out and the US adopts similar or even more severe economic sanctions against China, China’s countermeasures will far exceed Russia’s, because they have a larger economy and are one of the largest trading countries in the world.” Hence, if the US does enforce sanctions on China, it will inevitably inflict damage to itself as well.
Similar to mainland Chinese media, Taiwanese media also singles out the US for being the lead of the Western countries. China Times’ Huang Zhenghui says “the ultimate goal of the US is to establish an ‘anti-China alliance’, and it is not difficult to achieve this goal, because the US holds Taiwan, or the Taiwan independence movement, as their ready-made trump card.” Huang says, “China’s close relationship with Russia is also tantamount to a wake-up call for the US, forcing them to reconsider their strategies if China does elicit a full Taiwan Strait war.”
Reactions of the Chinese community in Canada
According to the Vancouver-based Van People website, “The Chinese community sympathizes with the Russian and Ukrainian communities in Canada, as they all came to settle in Canada in hopes for a better life.” An analysis by MIREMS’ Chinese Team shows that the overall tone of the mainland Chinese sources in Canada towards Russia have been neutral, with no criticism or support for Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
This is in line with the approach that the Chinese foreign ministry is adopting, where its spokesperson Wang Wenbin has not expressed explicit support for either Russia or Ukraine, but says that “the issue between the two has been historically complex.”
As the Chinese media or social applications are strictly controlled by the government, their reports or comments are very closely aligned with China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In contrast, media from the western countries have been strongly criticizing Russia since the invasion.
Having access to both Chinese and Western media at the same time is part of the reason why the majority of the Chinese community in Canada is neutral about the war, even though they do express sympathy toward people affected by the war and Ukrainian refugees that are forced to flee the country.
Aside from announcing economic sanctions against Russia, Vancouver’s Van Sky website reports that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also announced the expedition of processing Ukrainian refugee applications.
This news fueled discontent amongst the Chinese community, which has long criticized Trudeau’s refugee policies. According to a Van Sky article, the Chinese community described Trudeau’s management of Canada as “a mess” and said, “he should focus on resolving internal affairs instead of meddling in other countries’ business.” Furthermore, in Vancouver-based newspaper Rise Weekly, Wu Qiong believes that “Canada should stay away from risks and should not get involved in the escalation of [the Russian-Ukrainian] conflict.”
A March 18, 2022 article from the Washington-funded Radio Free Asia reports that pro-Russian rhetoric was spotted in Canada's Chinese community, which has some “experts” worrying that it will hurt the Chinese community's image.
The March 18th article quotes former MP Kenny Chiu, who heard a commentator on Vancouver’s CHMB AM 1320 Chinese radio station saying the West is “taking away the Russian people's wealth” and that “they may do the same to China next”. Chiu calls such commentary exaggerating and misleading, and it hurts the Chinese community in Canada because it will make others think the Chinese community is standing on the opposite side of Canadian mainstream values.
The article also reports that some Wechat and Chinese-Canadian forum posts contain twisted and exaggerating comments on the issue, such as “Chinese work hard to earn money and make a living, but their properties may be taken away one day”; “their US property, businesses, and listed corporations are all hostages”; and “Russia today, China tomorrow.”
Another commentator quoted in the article says that he knows many former officials from China currently in Canada, and they may be community leaders locally, but they really represent the Chinese government's voice. While some people really do think China is great, some may be following the Chinese government's rhetoric because they still have family and properties in their home country and must listen to the Communist Party. Meanwhile, some might be following instructions since they're given benefits.
The article also points out that while rallies have been held in many major Canadian cities with participants from various ethnicities, no representatives from Mainland Chinese communities have ever participated, nor have the National Congress of Chinese Canadians, the Chinese Benevolent Association or the Canadian Community Service Association ever released any statements concerning Ukraine's situation.
However, Sing Tao Vancouver reported that a lot of Mainland Chinese immigrants do support Ukraine, even if they may not be vocal about it, as some have donated to Ukraine, and some participated in efforts to counter misinformation about the war.
Sing Tao cited a Mainland Chinese immigrant who said: "Many may think Mainland immigrants all support Russia because no Chinese community organizations voiced support for Ukraine, but that's mistaken, because organizations can represent the community, but the community cannot be simply differentiated by China/Hong Kong/Taiwan. Groups with Chinese background are large in numbers and highly complicated, and cannot be represented or enveloped by just a few community organizations."
This immigrant also noted that: "WeChat's posts often get repeated a lot and the platform is also closely moderated. Because of this bias, it cannot represent the real opinions of Chinese readers.”
Italian Canadians and the war in Ukraine: A historical take on a current conflict
By MIREMS Senior Media Analyst Team
Italian Canadians have special historical and lived experiences of what it is like to experience a homeland war. On June 20, 1940 William Lyon Mackenzie King labelled 31,000 Italian Canadians as enemy aliens. Between 1940 and 1943, between 600 and 700 Italian Canadian men were arrested and sent to internment camps as potentially dangerous "enemy aliens" with alleged Fascist connections. On May 27, 2021, 70 years later, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau formally apologized at the House of Commons for the war internment of Italian Canadians.
Today, Putin warns Russia against pro-Western “traitors” and scum. The sides might have changed for Italy and Italians abroad, but the memories are there.
The end of the Cold War was supposed to usher in a time of peace and hope, but it left some unfinished business. The end of the Soviet bloc, like the collapse of four great empires in 1918, saw conflict flare up. That was already clear in 1990 when fighting broke out in Moldova (Transnistria), followed over the years in Georgia (Abkhazia, South Ossetia), Yugoslavia (Bosnia, Kosovo), Chechnya, and finally Ukraine (Crimea, Donbass). The same happened after the Great War with territorial disputes pitting Italy against Yugoslavia, Poland against Germany, Poland against the Soviet Union, and the Baltic States against the Soviet Union.
Whatever the time or place, such conflicts raise issues of borders, national identity, and interethnic coexistence. Above all, they send civilians on the run. Like my own maternal grandmother who fled her home village in Italy, levelled to the ground during WWI – the one that was supposed to end all wars. Just like Warsaw in 1944, Berlin and Hiroshima in 1945, Grozny in 2000.
The impact of Ukrainian refugees in Italy
This is now the case as Ukrainians pour out of their country. Many are travelling to Italy, which already has a large Ukrainian community (around 240,000). It’s the fourth largest foreign community in the country and the second largest Ukrainian community in western Europe, 80% of whom are women.
While not bordering Ukraine, Italy lies in the outer ring, just next to the countries of first refuge. Therefore, it has received thus far a relative limited number of displaced people, but this might change, as countries like Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, and Moldova reach their limit.
Along with the ongoing fighting and the geopolitical repercussions of the war, the refugee crisis tops Italy’s news cycle. In one of its latest reports, Rome-based La Repubblica (15/03/2022) noted that since the war broke out, 1.5 million Ukrainian children are on the road, a situation that has prompted the Italian Interior Ministry to order a census of all recently arrived minors.
In a long piece, Milan-based Il Corriere della Sera (11/03/2022) stresses that the Ukraine refugee crisis is the worse in Europe since 1945 with 2.3 million people in flight as of last Friday. The article, linked to the UNHCR’s Operational Data Portal Ukraine Refugee Situation also looks at the legal status of refugees as well as the cost for Italy of accepting refugees: CAD$13,500 per person. The paper estimates that the European Union faces an overall price tag for the Ukrainian refugee tsunami of CAD$31 billion.
Italy’s business newspaper, IlSole-24Ore (16/03/2022), reports that the Italian government is increasing funding for families willing to take in Ukrainian refugees, just shy of 50,000 (24,000 women, 19,000 minors, and 4,000 men) as of March 16.
Turin-based La Stampa (15/03/3022) carries survey results that indicate that almost 6 Italians in 10 are in favour of welcoming refugees. Vatican News (16/03/2022), the news website of the Vatican Dicastery (Department) of Communications, reports that Italian towns and small urban centres are mobilizing to receive Ukrainian refugees.
Not only refugees concern the Italians. In Il Cittadino Canadese, Alessandra Cori reports that the winds of war drive up the prices of pasta and bread. Combined, Russia and Ukraine represent respectively 30%, 20% and 80% of the world’s wheat, maize and vegetable oil exports. Italy can meet 65% of its grain needs, which leaves it vulnerable to external factors.
For Italian-Canadians, the tragedy in Eastern Europe resonates twofold
The tragedy doubly resonates for Italian-Canadians due to memories of war time internment and the major influx of immigrants from the region. A few years after the interment, Canada reopened its doors and Italians came in their tens of thousands, many of them refugees from the Istrian Peninsula, Fiume-Rijeka and Dalmatia, a mixed Italian-Croatian-Slovene region once part of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, annexed by Italy in 1919, and ceded to then Yugoslavia in 1947. Now it’s another region and people paying the price of clashing nationalisms.
Given its experiences, in Canada, Italian-language media could not but cover the Ukraine crisis, especially the fate of refugees.
Toronto-based daily Corriere Canadese (04/03/2022) reported that the Polish-Canadian community began mobilizing to help Ukrainians. Over 2.5 tonnes of supplies were collected and set to be shipped to Poland to help Ukrainian refugees. The daily also reported that Italians in Toronto are raising funds for the Sisters of the Order of St. Basil the Great at the Monastery of Sts. Peter and Paul in Zaporizhzhia (eastern Ukraine) who have decided to stay to help refugees.
Corriere Canadese (10/03/2022) looked at the unprecedented humanitarian crisis, with almost 24,000 refugees in Italy two weeks into the crisis, and published a vignette on Britain’s failure to take in refugees. Montreal-based Il Corriere Italiano weekly (10/03/2022) also looked at the refugee situation in Italy, noting that in the first 10 days of the war, about 15,000 Ukrainians had arrived in Italy, mostly going to Rome, Milan, Bologna and Naples, cities with important Ukrainian immigrant communities.
Italian Canadian columnists bring a historical perspective to the conflict
Most are critical of the lack of this perspective in the evaluation of the current situation.
In the Montreal based weekly newspaper, Il Cittadino Canadese (16/03/2022), Claudio Antonelli remarks that Russia’s aggression undermines the established wisdom that walls had to be removed, that we are all citizens of the world, a view held by many in Italy as well. He says this war has also undermined another sacred cow, the Western feminist-progressive idea that the differences between the two sexes were reactionary and anti-historical. Instead, the Ukraine war seems to have reinforced the male-female divide since only women and children are allowed to leave the country. Given this discrimination, feminists should be in the streets to protest. Ukrainians in Ukraine face down Russian soldiers, calling them “Fascists go home”, while for Putin, Ukraine is full of fascists, a country in need of denazification.
In another Il Cittadino Canadese column, “Ukraine: history bites back”, Claudio Antonelli says Putin is an invader and a butcher, but his claims deserve to be known a little better. Some scholars and thinkers have analyzed Putin's reasons, warning us in vain about what could happen. The idea that peace on earth should prevail failed to consider the relentless logic of the balance of power between the major world powers. “In the age of the here and now, Putin and Zelensky are throwbacks to the past. History is back, tragically back, and therefore present.”
In the March 9 edition of Il Cittadino Canadese, Angelo Persichilli says the question that must be asked is whether the madness of Russian President Vladimir Putin has developed in recent months or already existed, but the West turned a blind eye to it. In short, all the signs about Putin were there, except it was convenient not to see them. One thing, however, is certain: Putin is a war criminal and will have to be treated as such when the weapons fall silent.
In an editorial in Corriere Canadese, former federal minister and editor Joe Volpe “cuts through the haze” between Ukraine and Russia saying the Canadian House of Commons’ debate on Ukraine on February 28 was full of emotion, condemnation for the aggressors, and “rah-rah” for the “underdogs” but short on specific facts in terms of concrete actions to support Ukraine economically and militarily. Volpe also says that the amount of “sacrifice” the Canadian population is willing to endure for that commitment is more pressing. Canadians would face repercussions of economic sanctions in areas like oil and gas, the price of both of which has increased.
Furthermore, Volpe remarks that “the tendency to ennoble the Ukrainians and vilify the Russians does not help us better understand the dynamics.”
This is a wise reflection in Canada where both communities must coexist.
Domenico Maceri in Corriere Canadese (16/03/2022) says Putin and the West are dominated by reciprocal fear.
After almost a month of war, it’s anybody’s guess when it will be over. The refugees will keep coming though. Like my grandmother.
By Kinga Romanska, Senior Polish Media Analyst
“Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans.” John Lennon
What happened to Lennon was he got shot. What happened to Poland was Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. This was not in the plan. It might have been always a fear, but now it raises a whole series of security, economic and humanitarian challenges for Ukraine’s neighbouring countries. And the war in Ukraine is within earshot of the Polish border today.
Social media has also brought the conflict much closer – regardless of geographical location – and made it feel more real. Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania are all part of NATO and feel their security is guaranteed by NATO. Many of these countries have a history of experiencing fear rooted in repeated Russian invasions over the centuries. And although most people trust the NATO alliance and the EU, others have been on edge and are getting extremely nervous about the potential for the conflict to spill over into their own territories.
The Polish media in Warsaw - the dailies Gazeta Wyborcza, Wirtualna Polska, TV - Polsat News and TVN24 - all reported on Polish President Andrzej Duda’s meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday March 10 to discuss the situation in Ukraine. “Poland is counting on Canada's support in the event that we are unable to deal with the refugee crisis,” said Duda pointedly. Barely a week later, that event is here.
NATO and the MIG29s
As a Polish media analyst, I’ve observed how people’s concern increases the closer the war gets to their borders. It’s one thing to see the war on TV, it’s another to actually hear the war and explosions from your own home. On Sunday morning, instead of the morning news, Poles were awakened by the sound of explosions, as Russians shot at the military training ground in Yavoriv, Ukraine. Russia’s strike on the centre less than 25 kilometers from the border shook the confidence of Poles living nearby.
Deutsche Welle Polish’s Jacek Lepiarz poses the question that started the unrest: Will Poland provide Ukraine with MIG-29 fighters? The authorities in Warsaw wish for Putin's defeat but do not want to be his target, writes Christoph von Marschall in the Berlin-based daily Tagesspiegel.
In the German paper Die Welt, Philipp Fritz and Christoph B. Schlitz also write about the "unclear situation" regarding Polish fighters for Ukraine. According to the authors, the Polish leadership is "cautious" and does not want to become a party to Russia's war against Ukraine. Poland wants NATO as a whole to make a common decision regarding MIG29s. However, neither the EU nor NATO believes that the Polish MIG-29s would significantly affect the course of military operations. "There is only one problem: nobody wants to tell Ukraine that," a high-ranking EU diplomat told the editorial office of Die Welt.
Polish mass media remains unconvinced that the issue has been diffused. On Polsat TV, Poland’s second largest television channel, Dorota Gawryluk and Juliusz Sabak from Warsaw daily Defence24 agree that Poland and its 28 MiG-29 planes remain on the political and media battlefield. Polish airports are already being used. If Russia was looking for a pretext to accuse Poland of involvement in the war in Ukraine, it does not need to look far. Today, Sabak says, the actions of the US administration seem to be an attempt to transfer to Poland both the costs and the responsibility for supporting Ukraine with this transfer of MiG-29 fighter planes. Ukraine must be helped without weakening Poland.
On TVN24 in Warsaw, Monika Olejnik interviewed the former director of the NATO Information Office in Moscow, Robert Peszcz, and former Polish ambassador to Washington, Ryszard Schnepf, about the war in Ukraine and NATO. When asked when the world will realize that Russia has crossed the red line, Schnepf replied: “I'll be brief and it may sound brutal. There is no red line and there will be no red line”. He said that despite the unity, the West is mentally not prepared to confront the brutal determination of Vladimir Putin and his army.
The nervousness reaches Canada, where Wojciech Michal Wojnarowicz says on CJMR 1320 AM Radio 7 Zycie in Mississauga that to think that sanctions will stop Putin’s aggression is naïve. The helplessness of the West means Putin goes on. The US troops have relocated two Patriot air defence batteries to Poland – is this a signal of a possible Russian aggression against Poland soon?
Polish TV channel TVN reported that from the moment Vladimir Putin's troops entered Ukraine on February 24, there was an increased and unprecedented interest in obtaining a passport in Poland. Residents of both large cities and small villages stood in gigantic queues to apply. People want to be prepared for a possible escape from war. Rzeczpospolita, a Polish nationwide daily newspaper, also noted a rising interest in military service in Poland, in response to increased defence spending.
As Karol Wasilewski wrote for the weekly Polish TVP magazine “the bigger and stronger Ukraine is, the further we are from Russia.”
Katarzyna Pełczyńska-Nałęcz, the former ambassador of Poland to Russia, writes in Poland’s daily newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza that if Ukrainians lose, “The iron curtain will fall on our eastern border”. She writes that people are coming to realization now that life will get difficult: prices will go up, healthcare and schools must be shared with over a million refugees. This is the moment people might start questioning if all their sacrifice to help a neighbour is worth it. And this is the moment to stop and think what this war is really about? Because if Ukrainians lose, Russia will build a totalitarian system there. Not two, but 10 million or more people will flee from Ukraine. And Ukraine’s neighbouring countries borders will be surrounded by a Russian army armed to the teeth.”
But wait, since this was written, less than three weeks ago, the number of refugees has grown past 3 million already.
The War Refugees
This war is causing a massive influx of refugees into the European Union, and it will spread all over the world, especially Canada. More than 2.8 million people have fled Ukraine in the wake of Russia’s invasion, according to the UN refugee agency, the vast majority seeking refuge in Poland, which has taken in more than 1.7 million refugees so far.
Hungary, Moldova, Slovakia, Romania and other countries around the world are also receiving Ukrainian refugees, but Poland tops the list of refugee destinations, and with it the Polish Diaspora, which comprises Poles and people of Polish heritage or origin who live outside Poland. It is also known in modern Polish as Polonia, the name for Poland in Latin.
Why is Polonia so important to the Ukrainian refugees in Poland? This is why:
This is the map of Polonia (darker means more population)
Map of the Polish people around the world. (The map might include people with Polish ancestry or citizenship)
And the following is the map of the Ukrainian Diaspora on the same scale
The Ukrainian expatriate communities met the refugee challenge head on, but close behind was the Polonia network.It’s been a massive mobilization of ordinary citizens to a migrant cause. Private citizens and volunteers have been offering help including transportation and their own homes to those whose lives have been shattered by war. The solidarity is beautiful but most of these refugees are women and children, and there are concerns about their safety.
The neighbouring countries that are naturally taking the most refugees right now, are counting on the rest of the world to step in. Many of those fleeing their country might prefer to stay in Europe but Ukraine’s neighbouring countries are not currently equipped to handle the volume of refugees that are arriving and are likely to arrive on their borders in the coming weeks.
While Canada has one of the world’s largest Ukrainian diaspora communities, at 1.3 million people, it has a similar number of Poles at just over a million.
Both in Poland and in Canada, the media is not exactly happy with the way the Polish refugee crisis is being handled.
In the Warsaw daily newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza, Anita Karwowska and Waldemar Pas say volunteers are doing all the work. Even cancer drugs are being purchased with volunteers’ money. For the moment, the organization of humanitarian aid has been mostly addressed by individuals and ad hoc initiatives. Janina Ochojska, member of the European Parliament, said to the European Parliament: “I want to make you aware that it is not the government but Poles who are hosting the Ukrainian refugees.” Prof. Witold Klaus, President of the Board of the Legal Association, expects most of the people from Ukraine will stay in Poland due to linguistic closeness, the large Ukrainian Diaspora and the hospitality of Poles.
While TVN24’s Tomasz Pupiec reports on Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki praising the Polish government for coordinating and arranging aid for refugees from Ukraine, the problem is that volunteers and non-governmental organizations do most of the work themselves and at their own expense. The government is not providing transportation from the Ukraine border to cities and towns. However, the Polish government says it’s handling the situation just fine.
Will the Polish community in Canada share the refugee load?
Many Polish-Canadians have already been helping Ukrainian refugees, by participating in various fundraising activities or sending money to relatives in Poland to help host Ukrainian families at their homes. Many people want to help as much as they can. Some have even travelled to the Polish-Ukrainian border to deliver supplies.
Canadian Polish newspaper Wiadomosci describes the story of Michał Bogusławski, a sailor and traveler known in the Polish community, who flew from Canada to help refugees at the border. Bogusławski spent a week in Poland, traveling with his friend Darek back and forth between the Polish-Ukrainian border and various cities, driving refugees, comforting them and giving away money that he collected from people in Canada. Bogusławski notes that most refugees didn’t want to accept the money. They don’t want the money; they want their country back. Watching the war on TV does not reflect this tragedy, he says. When you are among the refugees, you feel their despair, fear, you hear their sobs – this tragedy is overwhelming. Immigration consultant Maria Krajewska, said on CJMR 1320 AM Radio 7 Zycie Mississauga this week, that she is starting to receive inquiries from people wondering how they can bring Ukrainian immigrants to Canada. They want to host them or even offer a job.
If Ukraine falls, it will be a tragedy for the Ukrainian people. But it will also be a profound threat to Poland, democracy and international order. That is the lesson history has taught us and we cannot ignore it. We have to confront the uncomfortable reality that our freedom cannot be taken for granted (or can be taken away just like that).
Ukrainians and Russians, Politics and Refugees
By Andres Machalski, President, MIREMS
When do we call this conflict the Third World War? When the aggressor decides it, or when the defenders acknowledge it? US President Joe Biden thinks WWIII will start if NATO and Russia tangle directly. As of this writing Putin is busy making collaboration with Ukraine a declaration of war.
Or is it when it spreads to the Third World?
While the Russians appear bogged down by Spring mud and the Ukrainian Resistance, one wonders about the outcome of previous confrontations between regular and guerrilla warfare in the past century. For Ukrainian partisans, the only thing that has changed over time is the foe.
Beyond the bravery of Ukrainian defenders, the disorder of the Russian attack, and the NATO powers playing cat on a hot tin roof with regards to whether to supply jets to Ukraine, there lies a stunned world that shudders with the memory of previous European conflicts going nuclear.
Whether Kyiv falls to the Russians today or tomorrow, whether dumb bombs are being used, whether there is a no-fly zone or not, whether the comparisons to 1939 are alarmingly precise or not, and whether Mariupol is Guernica, we will be the first generation to be afforded a front seat to view of the horrors of war.
What our parents saw on single source news reels in movie theatres, we will see on YouTube in real time, with the revived news reels to remind us that having forgotten the onslaught of totalitarianism, we are fated to repeat it. Hot or cold, this war is spreading faster than COVID-19, that almost forgotten Plague that has been replaced by War and Conquest, with Famine galloping up, and Death present always.
The incredible attention media worldwide is paying to the war in Ukraine and tracking their own nationals caught up in the conflict shows a difference in approaches. Channels like the British Sky and BBC, DW in Europe and others in Asia present angles to the war that are subtly different from those on CNN and CBC. The sources I look at come from perspectives even more diverse in their worldview.
To kick off a series of blog posts that will be unique because of their sources if not their insights, this first issue will focus on the Americas, from Canada’s far North to Argentina’s Tierra del Fuego, as well as the countries in between.
The Third World War and the Americas
Whether Putin’s two options are improbable retreat or horrific mass murder, and whether we may be already in the Third Word War, as mainstream articles suggest, the one thing that we can predict because it is happening already is the flow of Ukrainian, Russian, and other refugees toward the Americas.
For the Americas, it is certainly a “Third World” conflict. This current of refugees will be guided by the diverse realities and political positions of each country, often the home of both Russians and Ukrainians in close proximity. Each of the two dozen Latin American countries has different historical alliances and policies, and their reaction to the war in Ukraine will depend mainly on their relationship with Russia, but in part on their local Ukrainian and Russian Diaspora communities.
As Buenos Aires Spanish news agency Infobae reports, it is not the first time in the post-Cold War era that Russia has tried to use military threats in Latin America when challenged in its immediate environment. The most recent attempt was in 2018 when Russia declared its intention to establish an air base on the small Venezuelan island of La Orchilla.
This is an uncomfortable war for Brazil and Argentina as the populist governments of Bolsonaro and Fernández try to remain neutral. Raul Rojas and others in the Madrid paper El País point out that the presidents of Argentina and Brazil, Alberto Fernández and Jair Bolsonaro, traveled to Moscow in the weeks prior to the invasion, and a week before, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borizov toured Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba.
Havana has closed ranks with Russia in the Ukrainian crisis and Moscow has restructured Cuba's debt. Caracas-based TeleSURtv’s Ignacio Ramonet remarks that Latin America is not a relevant actor in main geopolitical tensions linked to the Russia-Ukraine conflict, because of Moscow’s lack of relevance except in its relations with Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua.
The War Refugees
Will sanctions, internal resistance in Russia and sending weapons stop the war in the short term? Probably not, at least not in time to stem the tide of refugees.
From the Russian, Ukrainian and general European point of view, from Finland to Moldova and beyond, there is simply not enough infrastructure to absorb an estimated 4 million combined Russian and Ukrainian refugees.
What will happen then?
While many hope to return home, they may find home has disappeared. The prognosis for this war is that it will become one of occupation and resistance, and not a place to return to unless to get involved.
Historically war has been the major trigger of migration to the not so new "New World" over the past four centuries. Ignoring the fact that the Pilgrim Fathers were on the run, we have the WWI working class wave, the WWII wave of professionals, and now, we will have the WWIII wave of cyber-smart millennials. Sadly, a lot of young widows with babies.
Further to this, established migration trends in the Americas are South to North, so Canada is the end of that road for some. The demographics at the US Southern border are clear: “According to a TIME analysis of Customs and Border Patrol data, the number of encounters between U.S. border agents and Ukrainians and Russians at the U.S.-Mexico border increased 753% between 2020 and 2021. In 2022 so far, the number of Ukrainians and Russians encountered at the border has already surpassed the previous two years, with the most significant uptick happening in the last six months, as Russia’s threats against Ukraine increased. CPB has not yet provided data for February or early March, making it difficult to track the influence of the Russian invasion more precisely.”
The wave of refugees will not stop
Diario Juridico in Barcelona reported ten days ago that Mexico received a plane load of refugees from Ukraine, half of them Mexicans, some of Ukrainian origin, but including Ecuadorians and Peruvians as well.
The point of entry will not only be Mexico but through community channels further South in Latin America.
Starting with the OAS votes on the War from Canada in the North to Chile in the South, including Venezuela represented by Juan Guaidó’s “interim government” and Uruguay’s vote change, all countries approved of the condemnation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that was suggested by the US – except for Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia and Nicaragua.
Of course, non-OAS members such as Cuba and Venezuela may not count in the diplomatic context, but they are countries that have significant expat populations in Canada. That means six Latin American countries did not vote to censure the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Statistics Canada tells us that out of a total of 7.5 million immigrants, about 5% come Latin America, and of those, the top sources are Mexico, Colombia, El Salvador, Peru, Chile, Guatemala and Ecuador, but Brazil, Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua make up 18% of that contingent, according to the 2016 census.
However, the numbers of the Latin American population in Canada are highly controversial. The Latino community argues that the data does not represent the demographic reality and the population is largely underrepresented. In 2016, the official number was about 640,000, or 2% of the population, but after the adjustment, it reached 1 million, says the Canadian Hispanic Bar Association.
Of course, these numbers are less than the 1.3 million Ukrainians, but match the more than half a million Russians in Canada, even though Latino culture and media has been arguably more visible recently than both European ones as the latter are more ingrained in the Canadian heritage.
The official reaction of the countries must be mapped on that of the local expat Russian and Ukrainian communities. In each country the relationship with Ukraine is different, ranging from Mexicans who fled Michoacán violence by going to Ukraine and had to return, to 30 Mexicans who decided to stay and fight. Collaboration between the Chilean and Colombian embassies in Poland helped set up welcome houses for their stranded citizens. Colombian Vice President Marta Lucia Ramírez offered Colombia as mediator in the conflict between Ukraine and Russia.
From Buenos Aires, Perfil online reports the first family of Ukrainians who escaped from the war arriving in Argentina, a woman with a 9-year-old son and her grandmother. The story remarks they were contacted by one of the Ukrainian communities in the country and it was not a formal request to the government. Ukrainians in Argentina number slightly under half a million.
Deutsche Welle reports on how the Ukrainian communities in Argentina, the seventh largest in world, and Mexico have taken to the streets to protest the invasion.
In contrast, former head of the Argentine Army César Milani blamed NATO, the United States and Great Britain for the attack initiated by Putin, whom he described as "the most important leader in the world so far this century."
In La Nación on March 12, Pablo Fernandez Blanco and Camila Dolabjian showcase the Russian connection and the plot of travel and loyalties behind Kirchner’s sympathy for Vladimir Putin with a photo of a banner saying “Thank you Vladimir – [signed] Cristina and Alberto” placed by Kirchnerist militants in the Government House. They say ties with Russia increased with Cristina Kirchner and grew even more with Alberto Fernández.
The Real Instituto Elcano think tank in Spain calls Latin America a silent partner in the strategy of Putin's Russia in the Ukraine crisis and just one more pawn in a larger strategy aimed at weakening the international influence of the US.
The US Military Review in 2019 published a chronicle of Russian initiatives to influence the Russian speaking communities in the region. In the article Brian Fonseca and Vladimir Rouvinski conduct a detailed examination of the coordinated effort over the last decade to consolidate the Russian diaspora in Latin America and the Caribbean in an attempt to strengthen Moscow’s connectivity to growing and increasingly more organized Russian-speaking communities.
Diaspora-focused organizations range from compatriot movements to cultural centres, the Russkiy Mir Foundation, Russian media outlets, and of course, the Russian Orthodox Church, all of which help cultivate Russian-speaking communities as a source of Russian national power.
For example, in Argentina, the Coordinating Council of Russian Compatriot Organizations (KSORS), established in 2007, and the Coordinating Council for Russian Youth, established in 2012, are prominently promoted on the local Russian embassy website. The diaspora as an instrument of Russian national power in Latin America and the Caribbean is still in a relatively young stage and has not yet yielded any serious benefits outside of aiding in cultural awareness. Still, it is important to note that Latin America and the Caribbean have been used to test Russian foreign policy in the past, the authors say.
What is happening in Latino community and homeland media read in Canada?
The gist of the reporting is that Canadian authorities are welcoming Ukrainian refugees in a transitory mode, an expectation shared by the community leaders, as executive director of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC), Ihor Michalchyshyn, told CBC News. Prime Minister Trudeau has discussed ways and means to evacuate refugees from Poland to Canada.
However, Eduardo and Ivania Olivares from Vancouver’s Fairchild Radio Latino Soy report that Russia is concerned that Ukrainian nationalists may prepare a provocation with toxic substances to then blame Russia for using chemical weapons in Ukraine. Ukrainian nationalists reportedly brought in 80 tons of ammonium to Zolochev. Residents leaving the area reported that nationalists taught them what to do in the event of a chemical attack.
According to HispanTV, the US views this report with respect to its chemical weapons laboratories in Ukraine as false and absurd and as an example of Russian disinformation. However, the radio hosts report that Russian Foreign Affairs spokesperson Maria Zakharova said they have proof that the US manufactured chemical weapons in Ukraine close to the Russian border, and that the US Embassy in Kyiv recently eliminated all pages about the biological weapons laboratories from its website. Russia has accused the US for years of developing biological weapons close to its borders and the US Defense Department funded at least 15 different biological laboratories in Ukraine, they say. At least eight of them are biological weapons laboratories run exclusively by the Pentagon. Meanwhile, Prensa Latina in Washington reported that the US House of Representatives has approved $13.6 billion in aid for Ukraine, including weapons to counter the Russian operation.
The immediate focus is currently on the overflow of refugees from Ukraine via Poland, Germany, Romania and other neighbours. MIREMS Senior Polish analyst Kinga Romanska, who like many other Polish people in Canada has been helping Ukrainian refugees, says that Polish-Canadians are sending money to relatives in Poland to help host Ukrainian families at their homes. The Polish Canadian Gazeta website reports that Mrs. Dorota Weiss, a Polish immigrant, wrote a check for $50,000 to the Canada-Ukraine Foundation to help people in Ukraine, as she said they would know best how to distribute the money.
While Poland tops the list of refugee destinations, Hungary, Moldova, Slovakia, Romania and other EU countries, as well as Russia and Belarus, are also on it.
However, many others will find their way to Canada by way of Latin America. To understand the entire Latin American impact of the war in Ukraine in terms of media reporting, polarization and politics, let’s add the 60 million Latinos, the 3.13 million Russians and 1 million Ukrainians in the United States to the mix when it comes to adding Ukrainians and even Russians to the South to North stream of migrants in the Americas.
Maria Jose Vargas in the Peruvian La República lists those Latin American countries ready to receive Ukrainian refugees - Guatemala, Uruguay, Argentina and Chile - and she notes the total possible volume of refugees could reach 4 million. The Peruvian El Comercio and the Mexican Milenio report that Russian and Ukrainian families arrived in Tijuana to seek asylum in the US. Claudia Pérez, a Mexican migration agent, revealed that they are mostly immigrants of Russian origin, but now more families are beginning to arrive from Ukraine.
According to the Peruvian El Comercio, hundreds of people demonstrated this Saturday at the gates of the Russian Embassy in the Chilean capital against the war in Ukraine and were shouting "Putin Murderer!" The Buenos Aires newspaper La Nación tells the story of the Argentine nun, a friend of soccer player Messi, who traveled to the Romanian border to rescue Ukrainians and denounced the existence of border mafias.
The Ecuadorian daily El Comercio tells the story of Diego Moncayo, trapped in Ukraine because of the war. The young man is Ecuadorian and went to Ukraine to study philology. He is one of the few foreigners who remain in the town of Shostka, in the Sumy oblast (region), in eastern Ukraine, trapped by the Russian war and the cunning of swindlers who have lied to him with offers to take him out from that area.
On March 8 in Buenos Aires Daily Página 12, Mercedes López San Miguel contrasts Europe’s reaction to the recent displacement of people from Ukraine to the response to non-European refugees coming to the continent. On January 25, Poland began building a wall on the border with Belarus to prevent the entry of displaced persons from Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. She concludes that when it comes to people fleeing violence, there is no place for double standards.
The editorial in the daily La Nación out of San Jose, Costa Rica says the world and its institutions must ensure that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s atrocities in Ukraine do not go unpunished. Possibly, the International Criminal Court could charge Putin and his weathered generals for the horror they have caused. The worst is yet to come, as French President Emmanuel Macron said during a telephone conversation with Putin, but so may be the reckoning.
Quoting Roman orator Cicero that “I would prefer the most unjust peace to the most just of wars,” Toronto’s newspaper Correo Canadiense reaffirms its unwavering commitment to peace and dialogue as the only way to resolve differences among nations. The Latino community expresses its support for the people of Ukraine and advocates that the life of millions of people now in shelters to escape the horror outside be respected. Many demonstrations of support are taking place in various parts of Canada and South American nations as an example of the peace the world is seeking.
It seems that Peace, like Freedom, has become dependent on a point of view. But so, for that matter, has War.
In a dramatic shift, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine caused a complete pivot in ethnic media attention.
Why is this issue of such great importance to ethnic communities in Canada?
Curiously enough, it is Russian Canadian web Russian Week’s commentary that nails the twofold issue: "As a smaller country sitting next to the world’s largest superpower, Canada has a massive stake in ensuring international norms and laws are respected to protect itself and global stability. Those include preventing one country from being allowed to invade or otherwise seize parts of another country. The fear is that ignoring Russia’s actions weakens this prohibition... The fate of Ukraine is also a personal matter for the more than 1.3 million Canadians of Ukrainian descent, many of whom still have strong connections to their ancestral land and are opposed to Russian interference in the country. Because of its size, the Ukrainian community is seen as having significant influence, and it is demanding Canada support Ukraine."
So, the attention of multilingual Canada veered away from three weeks of ‘Freedom Convoy’ coverage and two years of a heavy focus on COVID-related news at local, national and international levels to outrage and concern over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and responses from Canada and the international community.
At the forefront of these demands, and of solidarity rallies and marches in Canadian cities, has been Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Chrystia Freeland, who is herself of Ukrainian descent.
“But not all the outraged voices are Ukrainian,” says MIREMS President Andres Machalski, whose father comes from Western Ukraine. “These demonstrations have been reflected widely in the ethnic media of all language groups in Canada.” The Canadian Punjabi Post highlighted that Canada is home to the world's largest population of Ukrainians after Ukraine and Russia and that several Canadian political leaders are of Ukrainian origin. The paper sees Ukraine as a link or bridge between Russia and Europe, and “the collapse of that bridge is like inviting a major flood.”
The Tamil East FM radio reported that protests were held in Toronto, Montreal and other major cities in Canada to urge the Canadian government to undertake stronger action against Russia. Speakers at the protest condemned Russia's action and expressed shock and dismay over this “senseless act” by Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Punjabi Red FM radio in Calgary reported on the rally in Calgary and interviewed several participants, including a Russian citizen there to show his solidarity with the Ukrainian people and to send the message that ordinary Russians do not support their president’s “insanity.
Obviously the most active discussion has been in the Ukrainian and Russian community media, but with a Canadian twist. The Russian website Knopka cited Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) Quebec branch head Michael Shwec saying that the whole world has a duty to rally behind Ukraine as a failure to act strongly in response to Russian aggression would send a signal to other authoritarian countries and spell trouble for democracies across the world. The Russian Torontovka quoted several UCC representatives who organized the protests in Montreal and Edmonton events calling them “an opportunity for people from the community to come together and raise awareness about Russian aggression in Ukraine” and to express their disappointment with the international response to the conflict. MIREMS Ukrainian and Russian languages analyst Oleg Schindler says that most Russian Canadian ethnic media condemn the aggression and support sanctions against Russia. Yet, on Facebook pages of different media sources as well as different Canadian public groups, there is a strong verbal battle between the communities. It appears that quite a lot of Russians in Canada write comments in support of Putin's invasion. The Ukrainian side accuses them of being brainwashed by the Russian narrative about 'fascists' in Ukraine.
MIREMS Editor in Chief Silke Reichrath confirms that Canadians of Ukrainian and Russian origin are not the only ones triggered by the events in Eastern Europe. Nationals and descendants of other countries in the region have long considered Russia an ‘uncomfortable neighbour’ and vividly remember a past life behind the Iron Curtain. A Latvian protester explained on OMNI Italian News that having been occupied by the Soviet Union for years, Latvians understand the consequences of Russian aggression.
The Polish Gazeta featured the Polish-Canadian organization Konekt, which joined the Sunday march for Ukraine in Toronto organized by the UCC. Konekt stated, “what has been to our generation a nightmare from the past century has become an unthinkable reality for our Ukrainian neighbours.” The Polish newspaper Goniec described how Latvians, Estonians, Lithuanians, Poles and others joined together in the protests to support Ukraine. The Polish Radio 7 Zycie aired a heartbreaking interview with a Ukrainian woman living in Toronto who worries about her family in Ukraine. The woman suggested donations to “Come Back Alive,” a Kyiv-based NGO, and thanked people in Poland for opening up their homes to those fleeing the war. Radio 7 Zycie has created a GoFundMe campaign “Radio 7 Helps Ukraine.” The Romanian Observatorul showcased in a long article how Romanians are rallying to help Ukrainian refugees arriving in Romania, despite the sometimes-difficult history of the two countries.
Chinese community media are clearly concerned that Russia is setting an example for China to follow with respect to Taiwan. A1 Chinese Radio radio host Mary Yang feels Russia's invasion of Ukraine is ‘heartbreaking.’ She wonders if Beijing is supporting Russia’s military move and if Russia’s invasion is giving inspiration to Chinese President Xi to attack Taiwan. Sing Tao referenced Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations, Bob Rae, who said that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could inspire other invasions if it is not stopped. Rae’s comments came as speculation is growing over whether Russia’s invasion will embolden China to invade Taiwan.
The Jewish community has close ties to the Jewish community in Ukraine, which is the second largest in Europe and, by some counts, fourth largest in the world. The Canadian Jewish News have been posting podcasts of interviews with Jewish leaders in Ukraine. A rabbi spoke of spending Shabbat in synagogue basements for safety. The TanenbaumCHAT high school in Toronto and the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg are raising funds for Ukraine. Ukrainian-Canadian Alti Rodal has been running a group called Ukrainian Jewish Encounter to bridge the longstanding distrust between Jews and Ukrainians that dates back to the Second World War, when Ukrainians were reportedly the worst Nazi collaborators in all of Europe. Rodal said Putin’s claims to want to de-nazify Ukraine were absurd because Ukraine has a Jewish president and defence minister. Jews are equal and protected under the law in Ukraine.
Some Germans see spectres of a potentially nuclear World War III. An opinion piece in the German monthly paper Der Albertaner reflected that Putin justified the invasion of Ukraine with the argument that he is restoring peace in the Donbass, which is reminiscent of Hitler justifying the invasion of Poland with the argument that he was retaliating for a Polish attack on a German radio station in Silesia.
Other ethnic communities have largely focused on reporting news coverage from Ukraine and on the responses from the federal government in terms of military and humanitarian support for Ukraine and sanctions on Russian banks, planes, ships and oil. They have also zeroed in on the prospect of a large number of Ukrainian refugees, as immigration is generally a topic of great interest to newcomer communities. The federal government and several provincial governments have shown themselves eager to welcome Ukrainian refugees to Canada. Russian Week featured Michael Bociurkiw, a Canadian security expert, who argued that many Ukrainians are talented and have multiple degrees, so they are exactly the type of immigrants Canada needs. OMNI Filipino News featured immigration lawyer Chantal Iannicielo, who pointed out that Ukraine is the only country in the region whose citizens require visas for Canada, so if Canadian authorities really want to allow people to leave Ukraine quickly, they should lift the visa requirement.
Social media groups have pointed out the double standards in the welcome white Ukrainians receive, compared to the rejection of refugees of colour from other crisis hotspots. An article in the Polish Goniec countered foreign media reports that some people cannot get through the Ukraine-Poland border due to the colour of their skin. Polish UN Ambassador Krzysztof Szczerski said that assertions of race- or religion-based discrimination at Poland's border are "a complete lie and a terrible insult to us."
MIREMS Chinese-language analyst Vivian Kwan notes that the Chinese media have traditionally held a more negative view of refugee acceptance in Canada, especially when Trudeau accepted a large number of Syrian refugees between 2015 and 2016. To that point, the Chinese website Van People quoted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s statement that Ukrainian immigrants who want to come to Canada will be prioritized, while IRCC said it is expediting the processing of applications for immigrants trying to flee Ukraine. The editor commented that Canada has a goal to recruit 1.3 million newcomers in three years, but the spots have all been reserved for “these people” (i.e. refugees).
The Van People website also reported on increasing animosity between Russian and Ukrainian residents of Toronto, who have been tearing flags off and damaging each other’s cars. “Other than history, one part of the explanation for this cleavage between the behavior of the Russian and Ukrainian communities and that of their media is that people in both communities do their best to follow homeland news and media as well, perhaps out of concern for families there, and become polarized by the atrocities of war,” says Machalski.
By MIREMS Editor-in-Chief Silke Reicrath
MIREMS – Multilingual International Research and Ethnic Media Services – has been closely tracking reporting on the outcome of the 2021 federal election in the ethnic media. We found that many outlets followed the lead of the mainstream media in covering press conferences and speeches which they translated and interpreted in their respective languages.
The outlets added coverage of interest for their readership on candidates from their respective ethnic and linguistic groups, while also featuring community responses and providing analysis on the impact of homeland-related policy issues on the voting patterns in specific communities.
Ethnic media initially responded to the election outcome by reporting the results at the federal level and in local ridings. There was a wide-spread sense that the election was a waste of money because it had not led to any change. Some sources like the Russian website NewsRu.ca worry that another costly election may be looming in 18 months. Ottawa-based Chinese website CFC News, however, expects that the Conservatives and NDP, who repeatedly attacked Justin Trudeau for holding the election, would likely not overthrow the government in the near future.
OMNI Filipino TV featured interviews with democracy experts who pointed out that many countries like France and Germany have stable minority governments, and this allows the smaller parties to exert more influence. A column in Toronto’s Spanish paper El Popular argued that a majority government is essentially a dictatorship, while a minority government has to negotiate policies. The question is whether the prime minister has the temperament to engage successfully in the necessary negotiations. Vancouver-based Chinese website Van People pointed out that the positivity the Liberals exhibited in 2015 had vanished and the Liberals kept attacking their opponents during the 2021 campaign, continuously telling voters how terrible it would be if the Conservatives came to power.
On the second and third day, the coverage widened to include more detail on the outcomes in local ridings with a high representation of the respective ethnic group and candidates from the ethnic group that had won the election. Filipino media ran several features on newly elected MP Rechie Valdez, the first female Filipina MP. She was perceived as representing not only her riding but all Filipinos in Canada. Punjabi media reviewed the results in the Brampton ridings and Surrey. Toronto’s Hamdard Weekly newspaper reported that 18 candidates of Indian origin, including 16 Punjabi candidates, won the election. WTOR 770 AM Asian Awaz Punjabi radio featured MP Iqwinder Gaheer.
OMNI Italian TV focused on areas with a high Italo-Canadian population like York and Vaughan, and on Italo-Canadian candidates like Francesco Sorbara, Marco Mendicino and Frank Caputo. The Portuguese papers featured Portuguese-Canadian MPs Peter Fonseca and Alexandra Mendes. OMNI also ran a feature on Indigenous representation later in the week, noting that more Indigenous representation is needed in Parliament to get Indigenous issues like clean water and housing on reserves addressed and to settle outstanding land claims.
Van People reported that fewer Chinese candidates ran in this election, but nine Chinese MPs were still elected. They also observed that voter turnout is usually low in ridings with a high proportion of Chinese residents and ran articles on initiatives that had promoted voting among Chinese residents.
Van People noted on Sept. 22 that Chinese ‘netizens’ believe the Chinese will be better off with the Liberals in power. They consider that the Conservatives have always been less friendly to China than the Liberals and pointed to Erin O’Toole’s “anti-China remarks” on blocking Huawei and banning WeChat. They concluded, “Judging from the large number of incidents of Asian discrimination caused by the constant ‘anti-China’ remarks made by former US President Trump during his administration, if politicians are anti-China, incidents of people discriminating against Asians are more likely to occur.”
Several Chinese outlets picked up on the news that Conservative candidate Kenny Chiu complained to the National Post that his defeat was related to the Conservatives’ anti-China policies. Chiu had received attacks in the Chinese media and social media during the campaign. He believes that his bill to establish a Foreign Influence Registry and call for sanctions against Chinese officials made him a target of the Chinese authorities and pro-Beijing forces in Canada.
Van People and Dawa Business News, another Vancouver-based Chinese website, pointed out that Chiu was not elected in a riding with a high population of immigrants from Hong Kong, which shows that he does not speak on behalf of people from Hong Kong. O’Toole’s anti-Chinese rhetoric had Canadians of Chinese origin campaign for the Liberals and vote against the Conservatives despite their usual indifference to Canadian politics. The Chinese paper Vision Times, however, quoted Civic Education Society Canada President Dong Dacheng reporting that Kenny Chiu and NDP Candidate Jenny Kwan were attacked with fake news because of their criticism of China’s human rights record.
Radio host Harjinder Thind also pointed out on Red FM 93.1 Punjabi in Vancouver that minority communities are not able to trust the Conservatives and that Erin O’Toole did not spend enough time with these communities to build any kind of relationship. In fact, CHTO AM 1690 Hulchul Radio host Sandip Bhatti mentioned that sweets are being distributed in India because the Liberals won in Canada. This is likely due to their perceived immigration-friendly stance.
The ethnic media have played an important role in translating the election outcomes for their local audiences and reflecting community-specific developments around candidates originating in the community or running in neighbourhoods with high concentrations of residents from the community. They have also picked up on dynamics and issue areas particular to some of the ethnic and linguistic groups.
By MIREMS Sources Director Blythe Irwin
Canada’s ethnic media are closely following the 2021 federal election campaign and highlighting the uncertainty surrounding re-election for Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau. At MIREMS – Multilingual International Research and Ethnic Media Services – we are tracking the campaign through the eyes of the ethnic media, where we have come across plenty of coverage indicating an election was not necessary during a pandemic and that a majority government may not be in the works for the Liberals.
Chaos and uncertainty
In an article titled “Liberals – chaos and uncertainty”, Mississauga’s twice monthly Polish newspaper Puls asked whether Justin Trudeau can be trusted again, and whether Canadians can trust politicians that botched the COVID-19 vaccine rollout? Puls commented that when choosing a government for the next term, citizens are condemned to chaos, because there is no guarantee that in other aspects of life this government will not behave as it did in the case of the vaccines.
According to Montreal’s weekly Italian newspaper, Il Cittadino Canadese, notwithstanding Trudeau’s constitutional right to call an election, it all seems contrived, neither essential nor germane; more like a referendum on Trudeau’s handling of the pandemic. The article noted that the prime minister is betting voters will pay him back for the generous subsidies the government provided them, which is a calculated risk, perilous and ill-timed. In the end, he might pull it off though because of lackluster opposition leaders, added Il Cittadino Canadese.
With an article titled “Majority government or bust?”, Milenio Stadium, a Toronto-based weekly Portuguese newspaper, suggests that COVID-19 has been good for Trudeau, even though he screwed up and dropped the ball when it came to the vaccine rollout. However, in an editorial, Milenio Stadium’s Manuel Da Costa noted that as we rush into Canada’s 44th election campaign after two years of a minority government, the God of Canada suggests a need for a new mandate to govern this country. The requested mandate carries the funk of a prime minister consumed with a hunger for power not seen in decades, he added.
Asking if Trudeau will regret calling the election, Vansky, a Chinese website in Vancouver, indicated that since Trudeau started his political career, God has been on his side, but he doesn’t seem to know how to cherish this gift from heaven. Trudeau has become an international laughing stock and was punished by citizens in 2019, when the Liberal government went from a majority to a minority government, noted Vansky.
Is an election necessary right now?
According to East FM 102.7, a Toronto-based Tamil radio program, the decline of the Liberals can be associated with a sole fact that they called an election during the pandemic.
Discussing the election on Oakville, Ontario’s CJMR Punjab Di Goonj (Punjabi), radio host Kuldeep Deepak said the election campaign this cycle is lifeless and dispirited, and neither the people nor the parties seem enthusiastic about it. The campaigns seem shapeless and all the parties seem to be cycling the same four or five issues: childcare programs, long-term care, income support for seniors, green industry, climate change, and "boosting the economy" by creating between 500,000 to a million jobs. And, of course, literally everyone is talking about affordable housing.
On Markham’s A1 Chinese Radio AM 1450 Newsbeat (Mandarin), radio host Liang Yian asked current affairs critic Gabriel Yiu about his views on the election. Yiu said that an election was unnecessary since the Liberal government had no difficulties passing bills during the pandemic. Out of all the leaders, Yiu has the worst impression of Trudeau and thinks that everything Trudeau does looks fake. Yiu has the best impression of O’Toole, because he really demonstrates a leadership vibe.
Jarnail Basota, a radio host on Edmonton’s Punjabi World FM 101.7 Basota show, said that as the delta variant gains ground every day, Trudeau's call for elections seems more and more like a power grab, since an election really did not have to be called right now. The real question is what would Trudeau say to the Canadian people if once again a minority government comes to power after these elections? asked Jarnail Basota.
Another minority government?
On the Punjabi CJMR Parvasi radio program, host Rajinder Saini said it is clear that the Liberals are going to form a minority government, and if they do, this means that Jagmeet Singh will again play a crucial role.
Toronto-based Italian newspaper Corriere Canadese published an article titled “Elections, clouds on the horizon for Trudeau” which said that once again, we may find ourselves in a situation similar to two years ago: a minority government, without the necessary absolute majority in the House of Commons, which translates into a high level of instability and risk of another early election in a short period of time. In another article on Corriere Canadese, Francesco Veronesi wrote that the idea that Trudeau and his entourage miscalculated in deciding to send the country to the polls two years after the last election is definitely getting stronger.
According to radio host Harjinder Thind on Vancouver’s Red FM 93.1 Punjabi Morning show, it is quite unlikely Singh will become prime minister, but both the NDP and the Bloc have a chance at ruining the Liberals' desire for a majority.
Accent, a twice monthly Romanian newspaper in Montreal, reported that experts expect a smaller number of participants in these federal elections, especially in areas with high COVID-19 transmission rates and less stringent public health measures. Whether this will have an impact on the Liberals’ chances of winning is hard to predict, so we can say that the current situation represents both a potential opportunity and a risk for the Liberals, noted Accent.
Some positive feedback for Trudeau
In a positive endorsement of Trudeau, an article on Vancouver-based Chinese website Van People said that popular celebrities would utilize their advantage to gather women, but Trudeau has chosen to gather the hearts of the people and he really knows how to market himself. The article favourably compares Trudeau to Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole, saying O’Toole is a fanboy of Pompeo and tries to imitate the US. Van People noted that Trudeau's acts of packaging himself into a “high-quality Canadian man” over the past two years were to prepare for this early election.
Speaking on Markham’s A1 Chinese Radio AM 1450 Pulse of the City (Mandarin), radio host Nan Bing believes that Trudeau will likely be re-elected unless something happens between now and September 20. Radio hosts Nan Bing and Han Xiao are curious as to whether the current economic recovery is due to the Liberals' policies or if it’s a natural progression because the pandemic has eased.
As the 2021 election campaign progresses, MIREMS will continue to pay close attention to the multilingual political opinions trending in the ethnic media. Stay tuned for further updates as MIREMS makes language barriers transparent in order to offer unprecedented access into this diverse coverage on the elections.
By Leanne O'Brien
Image: Snapshot from front page of The Philippine Reporter, June 21, 2021
This National Indigenous Peoples Day, MIREMS' highlights some of the conversation emanating from Chinese, Filipino, Italian, Portuguese, Polish, Punjabi, and Spanish media that reveals their unique take and corresponding sentiment on Indigenous issues. Many of the comments are similar to those expressed in Canadian mainstream media, what is relevant is from where these are coming.
During National Indigenous History Month, varied voices from ethnic media sources have been speaking out in their communities on Indigenous issues, from raising awareness to providing poignant insight as fierce allies. The recent uncovering of the remains of 215 residential school victims by the Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School has spurred discourse in ethnic media, touching on some of the varied Indigenous issues in Canada.
Filipino media draws poignant parallels
Downright calling out Canada for its hypocrisy, Filipino media asks, “Is it a double standard for Canada to recognize the Uyghurs and not Indigenous people?” Earlier this year, the House of Commons passed a non-binding motion to recognize China’s treatment of Muslim Uyghurs as genocide. A report of the crimes included “evidence of Uyghur children being forcibly removed from their parents,” placed in orphanages and mandatory boarding schools. It also said children “are deprived of the opportunity to practice their Uyghur culture… are sometimes given Han names, and are sometimes subject to adoption by Han ethnic families.” The report concludes there is enough evidence that their forced removal is carried out with the intention of “destroying the Uyghur population as an ethnic group.” Similar descriptions could be applied to what churches and governments in Canada did to Indigenous children who were sent to residential schools.
(The Philippine Reporter, Toronto, 18/06/2021)
Punjabi media echoes truths by Indigenous voices
OMNI TV’s Focus Punjabi illuminated for their audiences the work that is being done in the First Nations community by Carley Gallant-Jenkins, Coordinator of 'Save the Evidence' at Woodland Cultural Center in Brantford, to preserve evidence of the Mohawk Institute – the first residential school in Canada – demonstrating solidarity in Gallant-Jenkins’goal of making people see what happened to First Nations children and youth and to see where the community is today. In 1970, the Mohawk Institute closed its doors. Two years later, it reopened as a cultural centre to promote First Nations culture and heritage.
Headlines such as the Hamdard Daily’s “Genocide under the guise of residential schools in Canada” demonstrate further solidarity with Indigenous communities.
The Punjabi media is also acutely aware that Indigenous issues are varied, educating audiences on Canada’s Bill C-15, which seeks to align Canadian law with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), to issues on Indigenous women’s rights, such as forced and coerced sterilization, and being seven times more likely to be murdered and three times more likely to be victims of violence and sexual exploitation than white women. President of the Native Women's Association of Canada Lorraine Whitman is also quoted as speaking on substandard living conditions, a lack of clean drinking facilities, and average income and life expectancy.
(Hamdard Daily, Toronto, 20/06/2021)
Chinese media highlights just how much work needs to be done by the Canadian government
Using the recent announcement that Indigenous people can now apply to use their traditional names on passports and other government identification documents, raising awareness is a mandate for some in the Chinese community. Statements such as, “In Canadian history, Indigenous people were renamed by different institutional systems, deprived of their original traditional names, and took European or Christian names,” by Ryan Beaton, a lawyer and jurist who specializes in Indigenous law quoted in Van People Daily, (Vancouver, 18/06/2021) are clear indicators.
One Chinese voice in the same issue of Van People takes a very personal approach, on a piece of Canadian history not commonly discussed: “White Canadians would …. purposely spread the smallpox virus through pelts to kill the Indigenous people, killing off almost all Indigenous people along the east coast.”
Italian media sheds some light on the education sector’s shortcomings
Expanding on the residential school system topic, coverage on educational curriculum is the Italian media’s contribution to the conversation. Curriculum reform to teach the history of residential schools and of First Nations, as Natalka Pucan of the First Nations, Métis and Inuit Educators Association of Ontario is shown as saying she remembers looking at the history and social studies books at school, looking for her people, and they were erased from the map and from history. This piece on OMNI TV 8:00 PM Italian News (17/06/2021) highlights that one of the first things the Ford government did was stop the writing of curriculum that would have embedded the truth about Indigenous people in this country.
Polish media outlines their obligations
Journalists in two Polish newspapers declare their audiences have an obligation to learn the history of residential schools and know the truth; the subject of such recent history should be well known. The act of cultural genocide lasted over 100 years, and in its shadow, Canadians lived peacefully. One journalist points a finger in the mirror: “Why, as a Canadian citizen, did I not become interested in the history of people who were deprived not only of their country, but also of everything that makes up their identity, including their children?”
(Zycie, Toronto, 16/06/2021; Gazeta, Toronto, 20/06/2021)
Portuguese media highlights a critical point in moving forward
Although a less emotional and more matter-of-fact tone than other ethnic media, Portuguese sources have opted to include one of the most critical points of the entire conversation on Indigenous issues: Indigenous-led initiatives. While reporting on Ontario earmarking $10 million in funding over a three-year span to identify, investigate and commemorate residential school burial sites, it was mentioned that the funds would be paid over three years as part of an “Indigenous-led” effort.
(Correio da Manha, Toronto, 17/06/2021)
Spanish media reminds us there is still much to learn
In reporting that Ontario NDP MPP Sol Mamakwa, a member of the Kingfisher First Nation, called on local administrations to work with First Nations at each residential school site to “search for our lost children,” one journalist posits that the current situation of First Nations communities differs greatly from what was done against their families and settlements decades ago. This assumption could be controversial, given that the harmful effects of residential schools is inter-generational, as evidenced by the term “inter-generational residential school survivor”. Nevertheless, the journalist goes on to remind the audience that all of us in this country, and in the world in which we live, form a human community, with all the rights the laws confer on us, regardless of our origins and beliefs.
(Correo Canadiense, Toronto, 03/06/2021)
Cross-cultural communication is more important now than ever
While the mainstream media can attempt to highlight Indigenous voices, in contrast, ethnic media aims to explain Indigenous issues to their audiences thereby integrating them into the conversation. As part of the role to educate Canadians, the ethnic media relates Indigenous issues to those of their own history as a community in Canada or in the homeland, such as with the Chinese head tax, the Komagata Maru incident.
In the spirit of inclusivity, for the discussion and education on Indigenous issues to be truly national, it must have ethnic media voices. As showcased by the ethnic medias’ contributions above, every group shares the desire to be heard and listened to by other groups.
At MIREMS, we feel that the inclusion of Indigenous perspectives and voices is a critical aspect of ethnic medias – which is why we will do our best to follow up with a piece next week on more of what is being said post-National Indigenous Day in Canada by ethnic medias, including Indigenous medias’ voices.
By Marielle Francisco
This month’s third instalment of the Speaker Series for 2021 by the Canadian Ethnic Media Association (CEMA) featured guest speaker Dan Kelly, President, Chief Executive Officer and Chair of the Board of Governors of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB). With many parts of Canada going back into yet another lockdown as the COVID-19 variants make their way across the country, Kelly discusses the impact of the pandemic on small businesses within the larger framework of economic and societal disruptions.
CFIB is a non-profit, non-partisan organization devoted to creating and supporting an environment where businesses can succeed and advocate for small businesses with politicians and decision-makers. Kelly states that CFIB expects 1 out of 6 businesses are at risk of permanent closure due to the pandemic, with business owners shutting down not knowing if they will ever reopen. This claim is based on almost 100,000 calls to CFIB in the last year, suggesting that more than 180,000 businesses are expecting to close despite the economy recovering post-pandemic. This claim also supports the idea that 2.4 million jobs will be taken away from Canadians, leaving the country in one of the worst economic downfalls in our lifetime. But what does this mean for society?
With the closure of small businesses, Canadians are left to shop for all their essentials, and then some, at big box stores – resulting in the lining of the pockets of those who need it the least. A large part of these small businesses is a lifeline for the ethnic community, for both business owners and consumers, creating a larger divide in equitable means. When the first lockdown was announced a year ago, Kelly points out that most business owners willingly killed their businesses to comply with safety rules and were understanding of government restrictions as we were all dealing with an unprecedented situation. Yet, as the restrictions evolved and big box stores remained open, policies began to stop making sense and the government gradually lost the public’s confidence in the systems they had put in place. Not only were they implementing restrictions that deemed only big box stores “essential”, but they even suggested that it may be beneficial for individuals to purchase “non-essential" items there as well. By promoting “one stop shopping”, this approach directly hurt local small businesses while attempting to decrease the spread of the virus. Despite numerous outbreaks in distribution centers and factories delivering to these big box stores, major corporations remain open including malls, shopping centres and grocery stores that continue to sell more than just food or health care products.
This decision by the government has not only allowed some of the biggest corporations to flourish amidst an economic downfall, but Kelly claims that it has significantly affected the wellbeing of small business owners. One of the most alarming indicators of this impact is shown through the numerous calls CFIB has received from business owners having suicidal thoughts; Kelly states that their phone lines are resembling more and more those of a crisis helpline. This issue highlights the systemic inequalities that have always defined our society and which the pandemic has made impossible to ignore. Although many can argue that the virus does not choose its victims and the government may not be intentionally affecting ethnic communities through the closure of small businesses – these decisions are inevitably creating a larger economic gap that many may never recover from.
By Marielle Francisco
In my role as ethnic media analyst at MIREMS (Multilingual International Research and Ethnic Media Services), I attended the Canadian Ethnic Media Association’s (CEMA) first two instalments of their Speaker Series for 2021. The featured guest speakers were Jack Jedwab, President and CEO of the Association for Canadian Studies (ACS), and Mark Hayward, Associate Professor in the Department of Communication Studies at York University, and author of Identity and Industry: Making Media Multicultural in Canada.
The two sessions increased my interest in attending the next one, featuring Dan Kelly, President, CEO and Chair of Canadian Federation of Independent Business on “Helping Small Businesses Navigate the Covid-19 Crisis” on April 1!
Jack Jedwab presented extensive weekly surveys implemented by ACS at the national level focusing on various ethnic groups and how they were being affected. Attitudes, perceptions and behaviours of Canadians were observed and discussed by Jedwab, during the worst pandemic to hit the world in over a century. Not only was this information valuable to MIREMS in our mission to connect companies, organizations and opinion makers with diverse ethnic communities across borders and language barriers, but it proves critical for society in addressing arising issues as the world carries forward.
What lingering fears surrounding the pandemic will Canadians have? What assessments could be made regarding the societal impact on mental health? What issues were overlooked at the beginning of the pandemic that are seen as critical now? And what could we do to support society at this crucial time? Inevitably, many of these crucial questions were left unanswered despite Jedwab presenting the findings that their research uncovered within the last year. From my perspective as a communicator, I hope these findings are published by ethnic media outlets across Canada. The answers to these questions may well lie in feedback from the community.
Much of the research aligned with the trends MIREMS had observed from monitoring thousands of COVID- related stories in the ethnic media. From mask wearing, travel restrictions, mental health resources, and vaccination concerns – the opinions expressed in the communities’ native languages have led to a better understanding of diverse ethnic audiences and the media in which they are communicated. Like Jedwab and his team’s findings, much of the information MIREMS gathered by analysing the ethnic media is an asset for policymakers to make informed, evidence-based decisions in response to this ongoing crisis. Yet, many of these glaring issues remain overlooked.
How to begin to address these overlooked issues? With his book, Mark Hayward shares insight on the conversation regarding policy frameworks for diversity that manifest into multiculturalism, and argues how society must shape how we live and work in order to better understand others. This book aims to evaluate multicultural policies originating from the post-World War II era and the shift that occurred since then. As Hayward points out, the Canadian government shifts away from the model of censorship and oppression, and strives to reap the benefits of engagement and connection. The author provides the opportunity to examine the importance of history which in my view includes that of the ethnocultural media in communities across the country.
Though the opinions and voices of these multilingual communities are often ignored by decision makers – mainly because they cannot hear or understand them - Hayward’s book effectively complements the work we do at MIREMS and advocates for the idea that communicators should look and listen before disseminating their message.
Hayward also notes that diversity in Canadian media has been “won and not given” and that the struggle is not over. He makes an important point concluding that multiculturalism cannot be measured in the same capacity that the CDC measures the prevalence of COVID-19 cases, however, there are metrics: recognition for multicultural media has recently become more evident in Canadian mainstream media. Although Canada may be regarded as a multicultural nation, the struggle to establish what that means continues to be a work in progress and ultimately, it is a journey we all must go through together – similar to the one we are enduring with the pandemic.
To learn more about how marginalized communities are affected by COVID-19, the role of ethnic media in the fight against pandemic fake news and what you can do to recognize Canadian diversity as an asset, take a look at our White Paper on Ethnic Media Lessons from 2020 for an Inclusive Recovery: http://www.mirems.com/covid-19-white-paper.html
Hope to see you at the next CEMA event!
By Silke Reichrath
As noted by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) in its October 2020 report “From risk to resilience: An equity approach to COVID-19,” the determinants of COVID-19 susceptibility – and of health in general – are racialized. They include material circumstances (income, housing, employment), psychosocial factors (social connections), biological factors (genetics), behavioural factors (nutrition, physical activity, substance use) and access to healthcare. The PHAC analysis highlights the over-representation of newcomers (especially newcomer women) among high exposure workers including meat processing workers, personal care staff in residential care facilities and home care, and employees in service jobs, transport and retail. Low-income workers and members of larger households are also over-represented, two population segments that tend to overlap with newcomer status. According to the report, differential exposure among newcomers is connected to the inability to maintain physical distancing due to the inability to work from home, the lack of paid sick leave and job security, reliance on childcare outside the home, crowded living conditions and possibly the use of public transportation.
Representation in the mainstream media
Several reports published in the Canadian mainstream media in November 2020 have been giving voice to a fiery debate about the role of culture vs. economics among the causes of the high rates of COVID-19 transmission among visible minorities in communities with high proportions of newcomers.
OMNI TV Digital Content Producer Eden Debebe published an article on the website of Vancouver’s NEWS 1130 radio, referencing the high COVID-19 rates in the South Asian community and a statement by BC Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry that the increase of cases in the South Asian community is mainly due to weddings and celebration-of-life events. Henry acknowledged that front-line work also plays a role and that the increase in cases started with Thanksgiving. Debebe admonished community members to celebrate Diwali at home.
Global News broadcast a report by Mike Drolet on the overlap between COVID-19 hotspots in Brampton and Surrey with the locations of the liveliest Diwali celebrations in normal years. Drolet noted that local public health authorities pleaded for restraint and mostly got it, with only one parking lot line-up in Brampton needing to be disbursed by police. Two South Asian public health experts were quoted, who linked the high COVID-19 rates to multi-generational households, a tradition of large gatherings at home, front-line work and the inability to self-isolate in crowded housing.
Debate on the role of culture in COVID-19 transmission
South Asian Physicians Zain Chagla, Sumon Chakrabarti and Tajinder Kaura pointed to the role of culture in COVID-19 transmission in a Toronto Star article. They noted the role of hospitality, where a “guest leaving your house on an empty stomach is considered a travesty,” and the tradition of living in large multi-generational families. They also mentioned that “many well publicized COVID-19 outbreaks in Canada have been associated with South Asian events, such as weddings.” They warned of the impending Diwali celebrations. Together with the prevalence of “public-facing professions” and financial instability among newcomers, the authors state these cultural factors have resulted in a greater spread of the virus. Compounded with the pre-existing “high rates of underlying diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and obesity within the South Asian population,” South Asians are also at greater risk of adverse outcomes like hospitalization and death. Notably the goal of the authors is to call for targeted interventions including culturally and linguistically appropriate communications materials and awareness-raising campaigns involving community leaders.
A response to the article was published the following day on First Policy Response, written by a fellow South Asian author, Seher Shafiq. She expressed shock at what she saw as “pathologizing an entire race by using culture and values as explanations for higher COVID rates, stigmatizing already marginalized communities” and a matter of “shaming and blaming.” Her explanation for the higher COVID-19 rates in racialized communities in general is their prevalence in precarious jobs in the service industry and gig economy where they have a lot of customer contact, cannot work from home, take transportation on crowded buses and go to work sick rather than lose a paycheque. She does concur with the impact of multi-generational, high-occupancy homes and gatherings during festivities like Diwali, but points out that Thanksgiving also led to a significant spike in cases.
Premier Kenney weighs in on Punjabi radio
On November 25, Premier Jason Kenney went on the air at the South Asian radio station Red FM in Calgary, linking the high rate of COVID-19 among the South Asian community in Calgary to the large multi-generational families and the tradition to have big family gatherings at home. The host of the program, Rishi Nagar, took his response to CBC News. He asked whether South Asian get infected more often because of their culture, or because they are front-line workers and cannot work from home. He also wondered why Kenney did not focus on anti-maskers, why there was no mandatory mask policy or effective contact tracing, and why no extra resources were dedicated to the most affected communities for PPE, top up wages or educational activities.
CTV News published a piece by Journalist Mark Villani objecting to Kenney’s comments, and the Edmonton Journal an opinion contributed by medical student Sharan Aulakh. Villani cited Dr. Mukarram Ali Zaidi, a spokesperson for the Canadian Muslim Research Think Tank, who demanded an apology from Kenney and said North-East Calgary’s immigrant community is mainly employed in jobs that don’t allow them to work from home, such as janitorial staff, taxi drivers or warehouse workers. Aulakh said Kenney missed the mark blaming South Asians, who are mostly essential frontline services, have limited access to compensated sick leave, and live in multigenerational housing due to financial constraints. Instead, she blamed Kenney’s inaction in the face of anti-mask protests, refusal to implement restrictions like mandatory masks, and failure to adopt the federal contact tracing app.
Overall, the mainstream media has generally taken the position of explaining high positivity rates in newcomer communities with systemic factors like the type of work people do, crowded housing and possibly the use of public transit. Public health and local government authorities are frequently cited as warning residents to celebrate festivities at home, whether it is Diwali, Thanksgiving or now Christmas. In addition, a lot of the debate in the mainstream media has been carried by authors from newcomer backgrounds or, at minimum, has cited experts from the affected communities. Red FM, a prominent ethnic radio station, has become featured in the Alberta mainstream due to comments made by the premier on the station and the response of the program host.
As part of the Bridging the Mainstream-Ethnic Digital Divide in Covid-19 Literacy project, we have analyzed coverage by ethnic media outlets in Canada over the month of November to see what the insider perspective is on this highly relevant question.
Representation in the ethnic media
The debate reflected in a similar, but more defensive, way in the ethnic media. Numerous admonitions from municipal and public health authorities to celebrate Diwali at home, along with threats of bylaw enforcement, were passed on in all the South Asian media in the run-up to Diwali and Bandi Chhor Diwas. Two large gatherings in parking lots in Mississauga and Brampton made the news with wide coverage in South Asian media, but the high level of compliance overall was also highlighted. Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown’s speech in defence of Brampton’s essential workers was also widely picked up in the South Asian media. Warning of Diwali gatherings have now given way to warnings of Christmas gatherings.
Ethnic media bridging linguistic silos
In an interesting use of ethnic media to bridge silos between minority groups, Patrick Brown and Portuguese-Canadian Councillor Martin Medeiros were interviewed on the Portuguese TV station FPTV on 19 November to explain the high rates of COVID-19 transmission in Brampton and speak out against the racialized finger-pointing and stigma against the Indian community. They said Brampton’s essential workers bear the brunt of COVID-19 and they are the ‘unsung heroes’ keeping the food processing, transportation and medical system running. Brampton is at the forefront of Canada's supply chain and Brampton truckers keep travelling to the US, where COVID-19 is out of control. They also again pointed to Brampton’s disadvantage with respect to health care funding, the lack of hospital beds, and delays in getting an isolation centre.
Similarly, radio host Mark Strong at G 98.7 FM, a radio station with a primarily Black audience, picked up MPP Gurratan Singh’s reaction that Brampton essential workers shouldn’t be blamed for risking their lives in factories and trucks so that others can work from home. They also shouldn’t be blamed for having only one hospital due to health care under-funding. Mark Strong linked this defence of South Asians to the situation of Black people, who also suffer a lack of resources and live in crowded low-income housing, which also makes them less able to control and resist the pandemic.
A report by the Toronto non-profit ICES showing that most positive cases in the Greater Toronto Area were among racialized and immigrant populations received wide coverage. The Toronto Star article was picked up by PTC Punjabi TV and set off a flurry of pushback highlighting the role of Brampton essential workers working in factories, warehouses, food processing plants and trucking and keeping grocery stores stocked while other Canadians were working from home. OMNI Punjabi TV featured Jaskaran Sandhu of the World Sikh Organization of Canada commenting on the exposure essential workers have to live with and a tweet by Naheed Dosani, who said “continually blaming Brown people in Brampton for rising #COVID19 cases is unnerving & racist.”
Community initiatives to fill the communications gap
This OMNI report also started off a series of spotlights on constructive initiatives from within the South Asian community to counter the pandemic, featuring the Canadian Sikh COVID-19 Task Force. This task force, founded by Sikh physicians, was also highlighted by 5aabtv. The task force was formed in an effort to create greater awareness about virus and why it is hitting the community hard, and to share important messaging on what they can do to prevent transmission with South Asian communities in their language. The task force also addressed the taboo and stigma around getting tested for COVID-19 and telling anyone if a test is positive.
Another report on OMNI Punjabi presented the Canadian Muslim COVID-19 Task Force and Hindu COVID Task Force alongside the Sikh COVID Task Force. Spokespersons pointed out that not only South Asians, but all marginalized populations are highly afflicted by COVID-19. They try to translate the public health messaging and to develop and disseminate "culturally sensitive and culturally appropriate" information. The Hindu COVID-19 Task Force and the umbrella Canadian South Asian COVID-19 Task Force were also featured on the Tamil radio station CTBC, the Hindi Radio Shon – CINA and Punjabi WTOR Radio.
OMNI Punjabi also featured a public awareness campaign entitled "Humans in Brampton," which is trying to tell the stories of front-line workers on social media. Their message is that 'Brampton should be celebrated, not stigmatized.' Another spotlight on OMNI Punjabi reported on the COVID-19 Sikh Gurdwara Initiative, which distributed adapted cloth masks that can be worn with turbans and produced cardboard displays showing correct 2 m distancing equaling the length of an unrolled turban for use in gurdwaras.
Need for culturally appropriate local language information
Ethnic media also pointed out the fact that minority communities have special communications needs. A talk show on Radio Humsafar 1350 AM on 22 November conveyed a sense that mainstream media never talked about the healthcare needs of Bramptonians (more hospital beds and testing centres) and that the government did not support ethnic media in its role of conveying the government's policies and plans to their communities. OMNI Punjabi TV reported on the lack of government communications targeting minority communities. The three levels of government release new numbers and information every day, some of which are contradictory and confusing even to people who speak English as a first language. The Canadian government and United Way funded a COVID-19 helpline for South Asians in the GTA with capacity in several South Asian languages, and the Peel Region COVID-19 website can be translated into a range of languages, but this is not enough. The Tamil Canadian Centre for Civic Action called for local-language information not only about the public health guidelines but also about available supports. The pandemic has disproportionately impacted marginalized communities, so the outreach to them should also be disproportionately resourced.
Very few sources included critical comments about COVID-19 transmission during Diwali fireworks, international students disregarding the guidelines, lenient mask use A talk show guest on a Punjabi CIAO AM 530 program argued fireworks should not have been sold for Diwali. Residents interviewed on the street by OMNI TV mentioned that newly arriving immigrants and students do not observe the quarantine properly and that people were still planning Diwali get-togethers. Community members speaking to the Punjabi Zee TV mentioned that a lot of people came to markets and religious sites without masks and that there were crowds at sweet shops before Diwali. An opinion piece by Surjit Singh Flora on Asia Metro argued that “our touchy-feely instincts are getting in the way” as residents of Brampton just fail to follow the guidelines.
The main difference observed in the ethnic media from the mainstream is the high number of reports that defend the community as being affected by COVID-19 mainly due to their position as essential front-line workers and their economic marginalization and the concerted effort to communicate public health guidelines and information as they relate to the local culture, in local languages and pertaining to local festivities and events. In addition, ethnic media highlight initiatives taken within the community to raise awareness and meet community information needs. In this way, ethnic media fulfill a very real need to translate government and expert messaging into culturally and linguistically relevant formats and in adding information from the grassroots.
What to Do?
As Editor-in-Chief at MIREMS, my daily job has been to review the coverage of COVID-19 in the ethnic media since January of this year, and we see the ethnic media are fighting a battle on three fronts: One against the virus, including the fight against disinformation and disconnect between government and the governed; the other against polarized accusations from the mainstream of culture being the driver of pandemic spread; and a third against relative neglect in the distribution of government resources to off-set pandemic revenue losses.
Instead of viewing diversity as a barrier to communication with these audiences, would it not be natural to think of the matter differently? The Brampton trucker, factory worker, grocery clerk and front-line caregiver new to the country and struggling in English are unlikely to follow the daily stream of press conferences on mainstream media. So why not reach out to them with pertinent, culturally adapted communications in their language through the media they are in tune with?
Viewed from a demographic perspective, we see ethnic media as a mature set of organizations with established audiences and a local advertising base. They are the successful outcome of the historical combination of population needs and government multicultural policies.
What is important is to recognize how influential this channel can be in the fight against social media disinformation. After thirty years of observation, even without the help of much in the way of available statistics, we think that they just might have the eyes and ears of their local audiences, as well as their mouths, above all on talk shows and in the streets.
A cultural – linguistic and demographic approach to COVID would also perhaps address the problem of generational understanding and conflict. It would make sense to educate the older generation who still read or listen to traditional media on the need to remain connected with the rest of the family over Zoom, not dinner. Getting the elders and guardians of culture on board could help catalyze a temporary shift in family traditions.
Our eye on the debate between ethnic media organizations and the government has always included lack of funding, but this has been exacerbated by COVID-19. Wage and rent subsidies do not reach most small outlets, and government advertising related to COVID-19 reached only a small proportion of outlets. The pandemic has disproportionately impacted marginalized communities, so the outreach to them should also be disproportionately resourced.
The only thing the ethnic media needs is government recognition and support as a channel with equal rights to English and French media.
See also an article from New Canadian Media: "Unsung Heroes of Super Spreaders: Racial and Ethnic Minorities in COVID-19 Coverage".
This article is part of the Bridging the Mainstream-Ethnic Digital Divide in COVID-19 Literacy project. New Canadian Media has analyzed ethnic media coverage of COVID-19 between May 1 and November 30, using web, print and broadcast news summaries provided by MIREMS media monitoring.
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By Silke Reichrath
For over 30 years, ethnic and multilingual media monitoring has proven its usefulness to policy-makers and business or NGO decision-makers. While the importance of engaging with the numerous Chinese - and South Asian-language media in Canada is obvious because these population groups make up major market segments and constituencies in the big cities, the relevance of some smaller languages in the Canadian context is sometimes discounted.
Armenian media in Canada
For example, the Armenian media in Canada consist of three primary publications: two weekly papers published in Montreal - Horizon Armenian Weekly and Abaka – and the TorontoHye monthly out of Toronto. Each has a website that is updated regularly. Their absolute number of readers may be limited, but their reach within the Armenian community is significant. Horizon Armenian Weekly has an estimated circulation of 8,000 within an Armenian-Canadian community estimated at 80,000-100,000.
These outlets have a threefold purpose: 1. to translate and convey key Canadian news; 2. to inform about events and initiatives within the Armenian-Canadian community; and 3. to compile key homeland news. With the homeland crisis around Nagorno-Karabakh/Artsakh over the last two months, these three areas have been conflated, with a focus on lobbying and protest action within the Armenian-Canadian community and on statements on the conflict by Canadian policy-makers at all three levels of government.
Thrust in the limelight: Coverage of the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict in the Armenian-Canadian media
In October, the Armenian media highlighted that Azerbaijan was using Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 attack drones, which are equipped with Canadian-manufactured target acquisition sensors made by L3Harris/WESCAM and that Armenia accused Turkey of redeploying fighters from Syria and F-16 fighter jets to support Azerbaijani forces. They reported on statements by Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne, then-Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, Canada-Artsakh Parliamentary Friendship Group Leader Rachael Harder and other MPs, the Green Party, British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix, MPP Aris Babikian, and Toronto Mayor John Tory against the Azerbaijani operation and against Turkish support for Azerbaijan and in favour of Artsakh. Much of the coverage was on community lobbying efforts by the ARF, the Armenian National Committee of Canada, and a coalition of 20+ Armenian churches, organizations, associations, political parties, and independent community leaders grouped in the newly formed United Armenian Council of Ontario (UACO) before Canadian federal and provincial representatives in Ontario and British Columbia.
As the month progressed, the main Armenian media continued reporting on protests by Armenians in Canada against Turkish-Azerbaijani aggression against Artsakh and on Champagne’s statements in support of a ceasefire and the OSCE Minsk mechanism (TorontoHye, 20/10/2020). An article in TorontoHye blamed Champagne for issuing export permits for the target acquisition sensors despite a 2019 ban on arms sales to Turkey. The article claimed 12,000 civilian deaths in Artsakh, 25% more than the Canadian COVID-19 death toll (TorontoHye, 20/10/2020). Armenians in Montreal wanted Mayor Valérie Plante to recognize the right to self-determination for the people of Artsakh, while Armenians in Vancouver protested outside the CBC against “the barbarism committed by Azerbaijan and Turkey’s governments and soldiers” (Horizon Armenian Weekly, 19/10/2020). In a debate in the Ontario legislature, the three parties condemned the “inhumane crackdown by the governments of Azerbaijan and Turkey on the Armenians of Artsakh,” which they called a second genocide (Horizon Armenian Weekly, TorontoHye, 22/10/2020). A letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau from “the Armenian-Canadian community at large” was highlighted several times, signed by L’Union des communautés arméniennes du Québec, the United Armenian Committee of British Columbia, and the United Armenian Council of Ontario and published in TorontoHye and Abaka (TorontoHye, Abaka, 22/10/2020).
In November, coverage continued of efforts by the Armenian National Committee of Canada to organize protests from Vancouver to Waterloo and lobby Canadian politicians, including MPs Kerry-Lynne Findlay and Kenny Chiu. Senator Leo Housakos, Green Party MP Elizabeth May and the City Council of Laval expressed their support for Artsakh.
The other side of the coin: Coverage in Turkish media
While to our knowledge, there are no active Azerbaijani sources in Canada given the relatively small Azerbaijani community in Canada, we looked at active Turkish-Canadian sources. The two main active Turkish websites, Canadaturk in Toronto and Turknews in Hamilton, responded primarily to the export ban against Turkey. One Turknews article on Azerbaijan's perspective cited Turkish Ambassador Kerim Uras calling on Canada to act like an ally and stating that the suspension of weapons exports was hasty and contrary to the spirit of NATO. Uras pointed to the claim that Armenia had occupied 20% of Azerbaijan’s territory and caused the dislocation of a million refugees. He called on Armenia to withdraw from Azerbaijani territory. He denied that Turkey had sent Syrian fighters to Azerbaijan and claimed that Armenia was using Kurdish “terrorists” (Turknews, 08/10/2020).
Historically, the Armenian community has kept Genocide Remembrance Day alive and well in Canada and in the minds of Canadian political leaders. The material we found demonstrates that the community has been effective not only in attracting mainstream media coverage even in the midst of a pandemic but also in using the community media internally to elucidate their point of view. Ethnic media provide a window into the discourse and organizational life of a minority group in Canada as it relates to Canadian politics. Monitoring these outlets can provide policy-makers and advocates with context for the demands of different spokespersons and help clear up misinformation that may be circulating.
By Lina Katrin
Since the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, people have been debating over masks: should one wear them or not? How effective are they in preventing the spread of the virus? While some have very strong opinions regarding mask-wearing, others are still not sure what to do. Across ethnic media sources, there is a lot of commentary regarding the issue.
Amandeep Benipal, the host of the Punjabi radio show Morning Awaz with Aman Deep on CIAO 530 AM from Toronto, believes that people should wear masks because safety should be the main concern for Canadians as a high number of cases are being reported from across the border. Even though newly confirmed coronavirus cases in Canada remain in steady decline, the number of infected people is spiking in the U.S., according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. On the show, Benipal asks Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier Doug Ford to make a careful decision about reopening the Canada-U.S. border for public travel.
According to a Spanish talk show on CIRV FM 88.9 from Toronto, a study in Ontario showed that without the isolation measures, the death rate from the virus would have been much higher. Toronto’s City Council made masks mandatory in indoor public settings as of July 7, and masks are expected to be compulsory in Mississauga, Brampton, Durham, Niagara Region, and in many other municipalities in coming days. The talk show host Fabian Merlo said that initially wearing a mask bothered him but he is getting used to it, as it’s “a good thing to take care of each other.”
Now, will the mandate of mask-wearing change the behavior of those who have been against face coverings throughout the whole pandemic? Even though not wearing a mask is now a subject to a $195 fine, some people don’t like being told what to do. On OMNI TV: Focus Punjabi, a Punjabi TV program from Toronto, people on the street were asked about the mandatory mask order. While one man said that wearing a mask is a “good idea” to protect others, one woman believes people shouldn’t be forced to wear masks at all.
Americans reported being more likely to wear masks in public than Canadians.
American mask-wearing rate is currently at 71 percent compared to the Canadian 58 percent.
However, it is not surprising that some Canadians are unsure if there are any benefits to masks because of how the Canadian government handled the issue at the beginning of the pandemic. In the early stages of the outbreak, the federal government claimed that masks had little effect in terms of curbing the spread of the virus. Canada's Chief Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam had said in March that putting a mask on an asymptomatic person was not beneficial. Only at the end of May she finally changed her position and officially said that everyone should wear masks as an added layer of protection.
Dushi.ca, a Chinese web source from Markham, reports that mask-wearing appears to be a “simple issue” but since the Canadian government initially did not recommend wearing masks, a lot of non-Chinese Canadians were also against using face coverings. The source says that the Confederation of Toronto Chinese Canadian Organizations had been calling on people to wear masks and self-isolate since mid-March, and the Confederation's recommendation to the government regarding mask-wearing played a positive role. To support the government's pandemic prevention efforts, the Confederation will continue to donate protective supplies to nursing homes as well as to communities.
According to the Chinese web source Sing Tao Calgary, the Alberta government is set to resume its public face mask distribution program on July 13. This is the second phase of the province's public face mask distribution program that will distribute 20 million face masks. The phase-one program distributed the same amount of masks from June 8 to June 22.
Since many people have easy access to face coverings, Dushi.ca reports that Richard Powers, a business professor at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management, said there's nothing wrong with businesses refusing service to customers not wearing masks. He believes that the safety of retail workers and employees exceeds the customers' right to not wear masks.
Canadian Tamil Radio, a Tamil source from Toronto, discusses how recommendations on non-medical masks have been confusing for many in Canada. Still, there is visible progress: a new online poll suggests that a bit more than half of Canadians support the mandate of face coverings. According to the survey, the majority of Canadians said they feel that people should wear protective masks when out in public or confined areas such as grocery stores, shopping malls, or public transit.
Dushi.ca believes that with the summer, the debate over masks in Canada is finally coming to an end. However, it is crucial to analyze the stem of the debate, which roots from the difference in the attitude of various cultures to face coverings.
Van People, a Chinese web source form Vancouver, reported in March that even when Canada's Chief Public Health Officer said it was unnecessary to wear masks, Chinese-Canadians chose to do so anyway. Still, Chinese people worried about being discriminated against for protecting themselves.
Similarly, 51.ca, a Chinese web source from Toronto, around the same time highlighted various comments under mask-related forums. One Internet user, Hongyuwu, wrote that if people continue to get “brainwashed” into thinking that the coronavirus is just a bad flu and don’t wear masks, “they would find out how painful it is once they get infected.”
BBC reports that in East Asia, many people are used to wearing masks when they are sick or when it's hay fever season, because it's considered impolite to be sneezing or coughing openly. The article identifies the key difference between the Asian and Western societies — many parts of Asia have experienced contagion before, “and the memories are still fresh and painful.” That is probably one of the main reasons why many Asian people have embraced face coverings since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, while a lot of Westerners have shunned them.
According to Sciencenorway, in Japanese everyday life, wearing a face mask is associated with taking responsibility for your own and your family's health, and also for the financial situation of the company a person is working for and the nation's economy.
Alternatively, in many European countries, garments that cover the face are banned in schools and public institutions for security reasons. Sciencenorway reports that scientists have conducted a study on why many people in the USA are against wearing masks. Even though a large majority of the informants believed they could protect themselves and others by wearing a mask, they were still not willing to use one. The barriers included everything from others not being able to read their facial expressions to the risk that they could be suspected of planning a crime. The masks were also perceived as unattractive in appearance and uncomfortable to wear.
Such research points to the fact that people in Western societies are more likely to put their comfort above the safety guidelines due to the lack of personal experiences with health crises.
Even before the global coronavirus pandemic, people across the world have been wearing masks to protect themselves from pollution, sun exposure, and viruses. Yet with almost six months into living in the “new normal,” many Canadians are still arguing over the importance of face coverings. People of various cultural backgrounds wear masks mainly to protect each other and help slow down the spread of the virus, but at the end of the day, it is your choice whether to cover your face or not. It is important to stay open-minded, educate yourself on such prominent issues, and follow the safety guidelines to ensure protection for yourself and others.