Caribbean: Pardon is not enough
Vaughan’s weekly print newspaper, Share, reports on the controversy:
Several activists have recently discussed how the legalization of marijuana in Canada has affected Caribbean communities both in Canada and in the region and what lies ahead for the community. The discussion took place at Ryerson University in connection with the mixed reactions evoked by the easing of laws governing the use of cannabis in Canada. The recreational use of marijuana was legalized in the country last October, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promising that his government will consider pardoning people convicted in the past of marijuana possession. However, activist Donisha Prendergast is among those who think that a simple pardon is not enough. She and her fellow panelists addressed many people who have suffered in the past when using or possessing cannabis was against the law. They emphasized how mothers and fathers were arrested, imprisoned and separated from their children, negatively impacting families and their mental health. Prendergast said that marijuana, previously criminalized and presented to society as an illegal drug, has been rebranded for people like former police officers, involved in what is now known as the cannabis industry. (21/03/2019)
MIREMS monitors ethnic media sources and provides valuable insight into the dominant opinions of different cultural communities. These stories are collected and cross-culturally translated by MIREMS multilingual consultants from coast-to-coast.
Ontario’s dynamic provincial election has almost come to an end. What began as a big lead for Doug Ford and the Conservatives has splintered into sweeping new support for Andrea Horwath and the NDP, and steep losses—bookended by Kathleen Wynne’s concession of defeat—for the Liberals.
With swift changes in the polls, allegations and denials, bad budgets and no budgets the election campaign has kept voters on their toes and glued to the news.
MIREMS has paid close attention to the multilingual and multicultural media during this time. Editorials, opinion pieces, columns and commentary stories help us understand not only what is being said, but by who, and why. And following the storytellers, not just the stories, can be illuminating.
In the city of Brampton, where 27.8 percent of people speak a language other than English most often at home the ethnic media has been vocal throughout the campaigns. After allegations of PC candidate Simmer Sandhu’s involvement in the 407 ETR data breach Punjabi CAIO 530 AM Morning called Sandhu, who pulled out of the East Brampton race, “a nice and educated guy.” A different tone came from Canadian Punjabi Post which wrote that the incident changed the entire campaign atmosphere in all of Brampton. Continuing to say “Ford’s charisma has faded away in Brampton and the situation has directly benefited the NDP.” An editorial from Canadian Punjabi Post questioned Ford’s decision to nominate Sudeep Verma as Sandhu’s replacement and not Naval Bajaj, who was second in the nomination race asking “whether Doug Ford’s decision to nominate Verma was a political flaw or a gift to the NDP?”
Mark Strong on Caribbean Radio G 98.7 FM Mark & Jem in the Morning called Wynne’s admission of defeat “very selfish.” Mentioning as well how Horwath said Wynne was playing a dangerous game conceding but encouraging people to vote Liberal anyways to create a minority government. The host said Ford says he’s there to work for the people “while the NDP stands for the wrong kind of change.”
A twice-monthly Punjabi source from Toronto, Good News, also weighed in on the election this week. The author, Ebram Magar predicts June 7 will be a historic day for Ontario. “Ontario is living in its worst days since 2003,” says Magar. He says the Liberal party is “weak, has nothing to offer and many failed projects.” Magar continued saying: “Many believe the NDP is an extension of the Liberal party; it is a party that has expensive plans and they plan for more debt, increases to the Carbon Taxes, and teaching sex ed in schools. Their plan is to make this province a sanctuary. The NDP wants to offer anyone crossing the border into Ontario access to all health and social services, even for illegal people. This will not be paid out of Andrea's pocket, but out of our pockets.” The article didn’t support Ford’s conservatives outright, but gave clear criticism towards his opponents.
In contrast, an editorial in Italian Corriere Canadese called the Conservative’s campaign a “trainwreck.” Saying the only reason people have not turned their back on them is the desire for a change in government and the “right-wing media’s emphasis on Liberal and NDP mistakes, while ignoring those of the Tories.”
Mónica Percivale wrote a column for Spanish Correo Canadiense titled: The verb, to vote: How to conjugate it for the June 7 election. She argued that all parties and candidates have their flaws and features, but that the NDP offers excellent options—with Hispanic candidates in two ridings “who will without a doubt bring our needs and concerns to the provincial legislature if they are elected.” She encourages all readers to “vote without fear and with the conviction that exercising our sovereign right to vote can only strengthen us.”
Amid Ford’s plans for a buck-a-beer and scrapping the carbon tax, his plans for cannabis registered on ethnic media’s radar. MIREMS knows multilingual and multicultural communities have often expressed unique opinions about cannabis legalization. And during this campaign, conservative-leaning publications criticised Ford’s stance on cannabis legalization. In Toronto’s Chinese Today Commercial News Ze Hui wrote that Ford’s plan to create a free cannabis market will “lead to further proliferation of the substance in the community.”
An editorial from Manuel da Costa in Toronto’s Portuguese Milenio Stadium gave some scathing and almost humourous remarks after the final leadership debate in Toronto:
“I’m sorry some people want me to stop writing. Sorry, I won’t. “I am really sorry that more people don’t like me, but I’m not sorry about what I’m about to say,” said Wynne. I watched the last leaders’ debate and started liking Kathleen Wynne. The insanity of it all changed my view about the future of this province. Wynne looked proper and professional, hiding the fact that she has harmed this province for the last 5 years. So Sorry! Ford, showing his chest hair because he can’t afford a Deco Label tie attempted to scare the voters about the other parties but is without any substance. And then Horwath, with red lipstick and a blue blouse couldn’t make up her mind about which party she should belong to. Maybe an orange outfit would suffice and she could move in with Justin Trudeau. The three candidates all offered recipes for disasters. Shame on them for not taking the interests of the voters seriously. Sorry!"
Following these editorials, columns and opinion pieces provides MIREMS with a direct line to the opinions of publishers and commentators that are being shared with listeners and readers across the province in their mother tongue or from the mouth of someone who is a part of their community.
How minority communities are reacting as federal and provincial governments move forward on Bill C-45.
Since MIREMS’s last investigation into coverage of marijuana legalization in Canada’s ethnic media, the onus has shifted to the provinces as they begin planning for July 1, 2018.
As Canada’s provinces begin to unveil their plans for marijuana legalization in Canada, MIREMS has been looking at coverage of these developments in the ethnic media. An analysis of over 800 stories from May to November 2017 show a small shift in opinion.
Ontario makes the first move
Ontario made the first move, rolling out their plans for legislation in the beginning of September. The Ontario government plans to open stand-alone stores. These will all be run by the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, with a behind-the-counter approach similar to the sale of cigarettes. They are to offer online shopping alongside and initial 80 stores, and the legal age is planned to be 19.
Examining editorial, commentary, letters to the editor and radio phone in clippings from the ethnic media in Ontario brings to light some strong opinions in the province.
In a column for Chinese News, Yuan Xiang criticizes the federal and Ontario Liberal governments for lacking professionalism and the deliberation over marijuana legalization by only focusing on the economic benefits while overlooking the various social problems.
In response to the Village Farm International’s announcement that it will grow marijuana instead of tomatoes after legalization a column on online news site 51.ca was critical saying “Canadians will have to rely on American food that is more expensive; cheaper local fruits and vegetables will gradually disappear from the market.” Many commenters on the article were critical of legalization on the whole. ‘Re Xin Chang’ commented advocating for getting rid of this incompetent government; the comment received 17 thumbs-ups.
An online source from Markham, Ontario – Dushi.ca--Asked in a column if Trudeau was rushing to legalize Marijuana ahead of the 2019 election. In this article, the author says the Liberal government is insisting on legalizing marijuana in Canada despite objections from the Canadian police and local governments. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's marijuana legalization will create international and diplomatic conflicts as drug dealers will likely take advantage of the legislation to export marijuana illegally to Asian countries. It is only a matter of time before the marijuana industry goes international and Trudeau becomes the "marijuana prince."
The regular coverage of the issue was less critical, bringing voices of advocates and medical cannabis users to light.
Albert’s approach is to make the government in charge of online sales, but keep the private sector in charge of retail locations. The Gaming and Liquor commission would keep an eye on private retail stores. The minimum age would be 18, same as the legal drinking age, but it is limitations on use in public places such as schools and hospitals raised some concern. The main concerns within Alberta’s ethnic media are control of legalization, impairment and that the province will be leaving store front responsibility to the already established retail sites.
While the West Coast’s cannabis industry has been around the longest in Canada, they are moving slower to announce plans for next Canada day. A public consultation is underway, and Premier John Horgan has mentioned that they are considering the “mixed model” of government-run and private stores.
Coverage in Vancouver of the issue has been more vocal. On September 19 an article in Sing Tao Vancouver the writer says “the worrying parts of politicians' recommendation in dealing with drug issues are insufficient thinking, entangling in ideological or political considerations, and ignoring of real impacts on people's livelihood.” On November 5 the host of Red FM 93.1 Punjabi Morning said that government won't be able to beat the black market by imposing so many taxes on the legalized pot and making it so expensive. And in July, an editorial in Spanish newspaper Contacto Directo said “there is a concerning level of incoherence in the upcoming regulation on tobacco and marijuana.”
As Canada moves forward towards legalization, public opinion will continue to shift. Deliotte recently said that Canada’s marijuana industry is worth almost $23 billion. As a result, stakeholders in all parts of the growing industry, from farmers to consumers will be paying attention as plans are rolled out, and July 1 2018 rolls around. Though Canada’s cannabis industry is considerably not-diverse, that doesn’t negate these communities pushing to be included in the conversation, hoping to reap some of the benefits as well.
Written by Caora McKenna
A Media Analysis Snapshot
The ambitious Bill C-45 has opened a discussion in Canada’s community-based, multilingual media. Alongside the question of provincial authority is an uneasy face-off between the need to de-criminalize marijuana and the economic framework to regulate its activity. At the heart of it is a potential $5 billion industry, the future of which is ever more uncertain as the ambiguity of the bill expands.
The top influencers in the public and private sectors for and against this new industry are the ones that stand to make the most out of this legislation and its implementation, and may be interested in learning how their local ethnic communities are taking positions on pot, and devise plans to impact those opinions.
The multilingual ethnic media in Canada stories picked up by MIREMS have been busy exploring the many gaps in the proposed legislation, taking a close look at its discrepancies and potential pitfalls from their perspective. This overview shows how the legalization proposal launch is playing in the media of each cultural group. Data collected from this report includes 54 stories from 29 foreign language media outlets scanned by MIREMS over the last two weeks. A total of 39 items came from Chinese-language media, 4 from Russian-Canadian media, and the remainder equally divided among Tamil, Urdu, Greek and Tamil sources.
Coverage of the bill can be broken down in three main issues: implementation, social cost and de-criminalization. While the ethnic media coverage was in general critical of the decision to shift responsibility for the implementation to the provinces, the intention to de-criminalize pot was generally seen positively. However, the uncertainty fostered by the federal government on the task of regulating commercial use while discouraging criminal activity was viewed negatively from all sides.
Skepticism has been clear from the start on the Russian language coverage, while articles in Chinese-Canadian print were extensive, thorough and measured. The reaction from the Chinese-Canadian media has been both critical and supportive, exploring the contradictions of the bill in detail, but also highlighting the social benefits.
Chinese-Canadian media outlets (Dawa and Dushi) approach the legalization from both a market and a legislative angle. Dawa, for instance, focused on the links between marketing and law: ‘’If the government puts restrictions on product packaging, it would only help black market operators take over the market’’. Commentator Xiong Ya Li Wang You on 51.ca said the [proposed] legal age for marijuana use is even younger than the legal age to drink alcohol! ‘Potato's Liberal Party’ is planning to get Canadians high, by then who's going to remember the deficit, electricity, carbon tax, etc’’. Similarly, the question of proper labeling was explored by four stories in the Chinese print.
Sing Tao Vancouver noted the potential gap between the expected tax revenues from the legislation and the social costs incurred by the legislation, citing the U.S. State of Colorado, where the income generated by marijuana has been much lower than anticipated. La Presse Chinoise in Montreal noted that ‘’it will be illegal to drive within two hours of having an illegal level of drugs in the bloodstream, with penalties ranging from a $1,000 fine to life imprisonment depending on the level of drugs and whether someone was injured or killed as a result of the impairment.’’
Pablo A. Ortiz, from Noticias Montreal, echoes to a large extends the dominant feeling in Canada when he defines the bill as an ambiguous document leaving many unanswered questions. Lankaone, a Tamil-language media based in Toronto, wrote that Ontario was now facing a serious challenge as a result of the federal government’s decision to distribute the legislative responsibility to the provinces. A major issue to settle will be whether Ontario, where the legal drinking age is 19, will use the federal marijuana age limit of 18’’. BCbay similarily captured the Province of Quebec’s disappointment over the virtual shift of responsibility to the provinces, quoting Quebec’s Public Safety Minister who said Ottawa was ‘’tossing aside all the problems besides money to the provinces’’.
Social costs and impacts
Increased health problems resulting from the bill are a concern for Russian and Chinese media alike. Russian-Canadian outlet Torontovka wrote Canadian youth had not changed their habits regarding the drug’s use, while Psychiatric Association President Dr. Renuka Prasad said in a statement that early and regular cannabis use can affect memory, attention, intelligence, and the ability to process thoughts. Liao Zheng Ren from Sing Tao Vancouver noted that the federal government had stressed the importance of protecting teenagers in the bill. Dushi.ca wrote of a social worker who was told by young people smoking pot to simply leave them alone.
Toronto’s Vestnik and Torontovka, both Russian language print outlets, emphasized the healthcare aspect of the bill, noting the health issues related to continuous smoking. Vestnik in particular stressed the fact that the prison sentence for the sales of drugs to minors will be shortened to a maximum of one year. Stories from Urdu, Pashto and Tamil language sources picked up by MIREMS remained descriptive and showed little discussion over these issues. Salam Toronto (a Farsi-language newspaper) wrote that cannabis was a dangerous drug, quoting leadership hopeful Kellie Leitch, who promised to undo the bill if elected.
If there is one consensus emerging from the ethnic media, it is that in many regards the new bill lacks protective measures for youth. This is especially the case for Russian and Chinese media. Both communities picked up on the potential drawback of the bill on the drug’s attractiveness to teenagers. The Chinese community in Toronto was reported by 51.ca to question Bill Blair on the way the legislation would protect children and teenagers. Similarly, members of the Chinese community interviewed by 51.ca expressed the fear that this legislation might send the wrong message to young adults.
Chinese-Canadian media paid special attention to the question of a criminal record. One CFC article referred specifically to the fact that Justin Trudeau wanted teenagers to avoid criminal prosecution. A dominant question, however, was how current law would fill the gap for minors and drug dealers.
Amnesty was also a recurring theme in the Chinese language discussion. Will drug dealers and recurring users be offered a term reduction or an appeal as a result of the law? A good example is Prince of Pot Marc Emery, former owner of the Cannabis Culture dispensaries and Cannabis Culture magazine, who faces charges for possession and trafficking. He and his wife were arrested at the Pearson Airport and now await separate hearings. They are amongst those less supportive of the bill. As Marc Emery told CBC, the new bill includes neither a moratorium on raiding dispensaries nor pardons in drug conviction cases.
The Pakistan Times, Chinese Dushi, and the Cantonese program on CIRV FM 88.9 all echoed Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale’s unequivocal stance against an amnesty. Goodale said there’s no specific ‘’consideration of difficulties in obtaining pardons for marijuana convictions’’ (Pakistan Times).
These are the first off the cuff editorial opinion stories. MIREMS will continue to monitor this issue, because cultural attitudes towards cannabis will play a role in the practical implementation of the proposed legislation and the challenges it presents to all concerned parties.
In general, the initial ethnic media spin on cannabis legalization has been between cautious and virulent opposition, coupled with luke-warm comments, if any, on how legalization might benefit the fight against drug trafficking related crime, or even on the medical benefits of the product. Concerns regarding safe use from both a health and a public safety perspective related to mental impairment and safe driving are also on the list.
Stay tuned for more on this subject. There is a long year of public debate ahead.
MIREMS Media Analysis Team