NATIONAL ETHNIC PRESS AND MEDIA COUNCIL OF CANADA
Working to make Canada
true community of communities
by Thomas S. Saras And Mashadi Massood
and poets have always searched for the Canadian identity; almost instinctively,
Canadians have tended to say that they are French Canadians or English
Canadians or Ukrainian Canadians or whatever, or simply new Canadians.
But what is Canada itself? With the charter in place, we can now say that
Canada is a society where all people are equal and where they share some
fundamental values based upon freedom.”Pierre Elliott Trudeau
Classical democratic theory
always viewed democracy as a set of institutions, which both promoted and
depended upon the full rational development of the individual. For the
political observer of the Canadian society it is clear that we are a nation
of many nationalities, many races, many religions, bound together by a
single ideal, the ideal of freedom and equality.
An estimated forty percent
of Canada’s population, today, stems from a culture other than French or
British. Most of the new arrivals are fluent in only one language the language
of their country of origin.
They arrive daily in Canada,
some for better prospects of a new life and others to escape oppression
from the country of their origin, poorly equipped to take an equal place
in our society. They knowledge of Canada, in most cases, is non-existent.
Our way of life is totally strange to them, our cultural heritage, totally
different from their own. For many of them who made the journey in only
few hours, the transition and integration will take many, many years. To
some of them probably will take a full generation.
In order to overcome the
language barriers they face in this new country they turn to the Press
or mass Media of their own community in Canada, to seek important information
and valuable assistance.
In this context, the ethnic
press and media becomes the source of information to newcomers to this
Country and helps them adjust in the new society by bringing news about
current events to them and in return communicating their concerns to the
respective administrations in various levels of government.
It is therefore understood
that the ethnic press in Canada performs o unique function within the “mass
Generally, its purpose
is to inform its readers, in a language more readily understood than Canada’s
founding languages of French and English.
Furthermore, as we are
entering the new millennium, it is more important that the place of every
minority group in our democracy not be obscured by ignorance or prejudice.
It is also basic principal of the modern democracies and very important
for their function that members of every minority group have the ability
to discuss and consider together their special problems so that these problems
may find expression for the benefit of our broader society.
Furthermore, it is common
knowledge that people’s participation in the public affairs is the underpinning
of our political system. However, in order for a democracy to work effectively
and efficiently, it requires a knowledgeable population well informed about
the affairs of the nation.
It is, therefore, that
in a newspaper published in the language this citizens fully understand,
they can find answers to many of their questions.
The small, sometimes poorly
printed-paper that is delivered to his community each week attains significance
in his life that only few of us have experienced.
The ethnic newspaper must,
therefore, provide a service that is not expected of the English language
press. To a degree, it becomes a social textbook for the readers.
Every time government legislation
is enacted, it is translated and published in every publication; furthermore
the editor of the publication makes his comments and explain in detail
the provisions of the new legislation.
This work takes special
interest when we deal with immigration, pensions, welfare, housing, guaranty
income, labour and minimum wages, where a more comprehensive explanation
Frequently, readers bringing
their legal problems to the attention of the editor.
In some cases we have to
accommodate legal aid to them in order to take their causes to court and
in others we have to put them in touch with the proper authorities.
The biggest part of the
editorial content, of the ethnic press, is devoted to defining political
parties, their philosophy and the structure and the institution of the
government. The Canadian political culture, social customs, labour laws,
bargaining rights, health and hospital coverage.
This are only few of the
reasons which make important the role and the dual service the ethnic
press provides to this society, and which it is not appreciated by the
political establishment of the Country.
It is great the social
responsibility for the publisher and the editor of the ethnic publication
since his role comes in short of patient tutoring that frequently provides
the basic environment and places the cornerstone for the future citizenship.
This is the way that most
of the newcomers to our Country educated politically and they become god
It is this publication
the one which will undertake the task of helping in the creation of public
As a matter of fact, it
seems that the newspaper’s role in public opinion is to report the issues
and viewpoints, then try to guide the reader in the formulation of his
Mostly the reader is an
intelligent person, capable of arriving at a decision once he is in the
possession of the facts.
In the case of an ethnic
newspaper it may be said that the potential for influencing the readership
is greater than the English or French Press.
With your permission I
would like to state at this point that there is a number of publications
publishing and circulating in Canada and they try to manipulate the public
Canadian public opinion of their readership.
Among them are et least
four publications of Chinese origin. They are prepared and published outside
of our Country by they are republished in Canada caring the message of
the Country of origin to Canadian reader.
During the last one hundred
years, the ethnic press of Canada, has performed not only the task of helping
the integration of newcomers but has also been seriously interested in
the development of this Country in a spirit of unity of Canada’s population
Among the objectives of our organization
To unite, represent, serve
and negotiate on behalf of the interests of the members of the ethnic press
and electronic media of Canada.
To promote and integrate
the economic, social and cultural interests of the ethnic Press, as well
as of the multicultural communities of Canada into the mainstream Canadian
To encourage unity among
its members and the ethnic communities, to promote their social, cultural
and political involvement activities, and political participation in the
democratic process of Canada.
To promote excellence in
journalism among the members of the ethnic press and help them integrate
fully into the mainstream society.
To serve as forum for the
study and discussion of barriers faced by ethnic groups, the press and
the mainstream electronic media and help them integrate fully into the
To gather and disseminate
information which will lead to better understanding and cooperation among
the various ethnic groups in Canada and the mainstream society.
To promote the economic
and social status of the members of the ethnic press as well as the multicultural
communities of Canada.
To study and interpret
Canada’s role in international affairs and its position in relations to
all nations dedicated to upholding the ideals of freedom and democracy.
To defend, in a lawful
manner, the Charter of Rights and freedoms as part of the Canadian Constitution,
and to promote the basic principles of Human Rights as presented by the
International Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, by the United Nations.
To promote multiculturalism
and to defend the freedoms of all Canadians, the Constitution and the Unity
THE NEED FOR SURVIVAL
OF THE ETHNIC PRESS:
Over the last fifty years
many scholars, scholarly articles, monographs, M.A and Ph.D. and theses
have appeared on the subject of the Canadian ethnic press.
Fifty years later the Ethnic
Press of Canada still awaits a comprehensive, sober and objective, analytical
study covering historical, social, religious, cultural, demographic, linguistic,
literary and political aspects. The challenge would be tremendous, starting
with clear terms of reference and a concise definition of the ethnic press
and its role.
The Royal Commission on
Bilingualism and Biculturalism, in its Book IV of the report tried to define
the ethnic press as :
“The term ethnic press
includes all private (I.e. non governmental ) publications designed to
appeal to cultural groups other than British or French. These need implementation
of the multicultural policy in all its aspects, with particular stress
on sharing of the fruits of various ethnic cultures with all Canadians,
so that Canada may truly become a multicultural society.”
Even though the importance
of the ethnic press was recognized by Canadian politicians, those in power
as well as those in conflict of interests, seems that never accepted this
This is the reason that
the publishers and editors of the ethnic press feel that they have every
right to regard themselves, side by side with the English and French language
newspapers, as an important tool in forming public opinion.
Their record of always
responding most generously to the call when the necessity arises is the
best proof of the Loyalty and devotion of those men and women of the ethnic
press who have decided to offer their time and talent to help their compatriots
to become better Canadians, and so make Canada a better place to live in
for all of us.
How many ethnic publications are there
Our records indicate that
1999, there were 800 ethnic active publications all over the Country.Today
and due to new philosophy of the government of Canada, to the best of our
knowledge, there are 35 Publications in British Columbia, another 19 in
Alberta, The province of Nova Scotia has only 1 “Shalom Atlantic-Jewish
Council”, Saskatchewan has 2, (Faces and the Holos Institute-Polish), The
Province of Quebec has 60 and finally the Province of Ontario 220. Total
Last year this number was
600. Thanks to “sponsorship scandals” and the decision of the government
of Canada to “temporarily hold the Ads”, half of them came to the point
of stop publishing being unable to cope with the financial obligations
of the operation, without any financial support by the government of Canada.
Over the years and due
to limited access of the members of the Ethnic Press and Media of Canada
to Public Works and the agencies responsible for the distribution of the
Government ads, a number of “agencies” appeared in the industry.
There were running by individuals
and through they own contacts with members of the Civil Service of Canada
they were soliciting government ads from the department. For this “service”
they were charging a fee of 30 to 35 per cent of the total cost of the
ad, as a commission for their services. Eventually and over the years they
became the “godfathers” of the industry, as they managed through they own
contacts to get more ads for the “clients” they represented.
With your permission I
would like to bring to your attention that recently with the help of the
PMO, I had a meeting with the department of Public Works Canada for a discussion
of this situation. It proved that the last campaign of Health Canada was
given only to the members represented by these agencies.
According to official,
effective immediately, nobody has the right to get any amount from the
amount of the invoice. My information is that the agencies continue to
hold the amount of thirty per sent from any government ad.
This situation is even
worst with the distribution of the ads to electronic media, (radio and
Television), as the ads are directed to the owner of the station and not
to individual producers or directors of the ethnic programming and shows.
As a result, not even a
single cent going to help the financially oppressed producer who is asked
to run the ad for free.
In the fall of 2003, thanks
to help and understanding of the officials of the Canadian Heritage, Department
of Magazines publishing, we organized a “round table” conference in Toronto
with the participation of 60 publishers from all over Canada.
At the end of the conference
the participant decided and affirmed that:
“The necessity of the Ethnic
Press of the Country is a vital part for the success of the policies of
multiculturalism and the integration of the new Canadians in the Canadian
A group insurance should
be sought by the Council, to cover the needs of the members and their families;
A retirement fund should
be pursued and established in cooperation with the government, in order
to cover the needs of the publishers and editors of the Ethnic Press and
should be re-negotiated so that it would really help in establishing worthy
publications and put a stop to the usurpation by the various advertising
The Editorial Assistance
Program of the Canadian heritage for Canadian Magazines, should de extended
to include qualify ethnic publications, under new set of rules of the new
inclusive policies of the Department;
GST on Ethnic publications
should be eliminated, as it is with the Canadian periodicals;
Communications Canada should
be approached to raise the portion of the Government advertising budget
for the ethnic media to 15% from the current less than one per cent; (
From a budget of $ 120.000.000 the ethnic media received last year $ 1.200.000.
For the current fiscal year from a budget of $ 67.000.000 the ethnic media
received les than $ 400.000 dollars.)
Program should be eliminate the provision of 50% subscription of the total
circulation, in order an ethnic publication to qualify for the program;
Portion of 20% of the total
advertising budget of the Government of Canada’s contacts to private sector,
must be given to ethnic media, as is the case in the USA.
start forthwith with schools of Journalism in order to secure the best
education for our members.”
The ethnic Press and Electronic
Media faces the task of making the ethnic communities interested in the
Government’s goodwill and achieve their active participation. The role
of a guide, teacher and interpreter, of which the ethnic editors and producers
spoke over 50 years ago, remains unchanged. It should be applied to our
The ethnic press can be
one of the most efficient instruments in the implementation of multiculturalism
if the ethnic editors and producers fulfill their mission properly and
the Government will deem it expedient.
What always has characterized
the ethnic press in general is the high rate of mortality. Since early
beginnings on this continent the ethnic periodical has displayed a short
life span caused mostly by financial and other reasons which already mentioned.
Some papers appear and
disappear unnoticed by bibliographers interested in the ethnic press, and
the reason is the unique situation they are facing.
No matter who publishes
or edits ethnic newspapers, regardless of their ideology, size, frequency,
language, printing technique, graphic appearance, circulation or readership,
they all compete in the ethnic market. And this market, unfortunately,
is very limited, today more limited than 30 or 50 years ago.
They have to compete today
against the ethnic electronic media, radio, T.V, newspapers arriving daily
from the old homeland to Canadian markets and the CRTC is licensing national
channels to broadcast directly through satellite in Canada.
The Ethnic Press of Canada,
in spite of all those setbacks, is still an important factor in the development
of the ethno-cultural communities of our Country.
The ethnic press always
responded in a positive way to issues dealing with the further development
of Canada and no ethnic newspaper has ever considered that a racial or
linguistic background can be in the way of establishing a Canadian identity.
It can help considerably in forging Canadian unity. The past performance
of the ethnic press warrants this assurance and expectations.
Taking this opportunity
I would like to close my remarks Honourable Senators member of the Committee,
by appealing to you all for your understanding and help.
On behalf of all the members
of the National Ethnic Press and Media Council of Canada and the Publishers
and Editors and Producers of the Ethnic publications and programs, let
me thank you for this rare honour to have our voice heart by your committee.