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!