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.