Commentary by Natalya Chernova in Toronto
On Friday, Mar. 4, I attended the 18th National Metropolis Conference, hungry for new information and curious to find out whether my area of expertise – ethnic media – was covered.
The forum subtitled “Getting Results: Migration, Opportunities and Good Governance” welcomed researchers, policy makers, community and government representatives from all over Canada to exchange experience and ideas on the issues of immigration, settlement and integration.
Among diverse topics presented were recent statistics and migration trends, personal experiences and professional observations of the immigration policies, labour issues and programs, academic studies on family integration and even happiness levels among recent immigrants.
All these sessions painted a clear and colourful picture of Canada’s immigration future – steady, progressive growth of the number of new immigrants with diverse ethnic backgrounds and diverse personal and professional needs. Among those needs are information and a sense of community – key components of what the ethnic media provides.
A significant tool for outreach
Integration and inclusion, also part of the ethnic media’s role, were some of the most discussed issues that day, with Yolande James, former Minister of Immigration and Cultural Communities of the Government of Quebec, summarizing it with a statement that “governments must create an engaging environment where immigrants can reach their full potential”.
The common agreement among the presenters though was that governments have not yet done enough to establish the level of support that would allow immigrants feel fully accepted and integrate easily into Canadian society.
In addition, Canadian Refugee and Immigration Lawyer El-Farouk Khaki noted that the second and third generations of racialized immigrants generally tend to be closer to their ethnic groups than the first generation. “The more discrimination people face, the closer they feel to their ethnic groups.”
However, despite a common understanding of increasing immigration trends and the impact of ethnic communities on newcomers’ integration experience, surprisingly no presentations or workshops mentioned the role of the ethnic, multilingual media in new immigrants’ lives.
As part of a team of ethnic media consultants, I see stories on immigration, integration, education and legal issues, labour, health and safety, immigrant challenges and struggles every day, and yet ethnic media seems not to be on the radar of policy makers and service providers as one of the most valuable resources on immigration they can find.
Following the ethnic media would seem to be a significant part of the outreach equation of what Ryerson University professor April Lindgren calls “A Settlement Service in Disguise” in her pioneer case study on the City of Brampton’s municipal communication strategies and ethnic media (2015, Global Media Journal -- Canadian Edition Volume 8, Issue 2, pp. 49-71.)
The divide from mainstream media
When asked about it, government officials acknowledge the importance of ethnic media, but admit that it’s not being used to its full potential. There is still separation between mainstream media and ethnic media press conferences, message and language specifics.
But does there have to be? Shouldn’t ethnic media be an integral part of the communication mix, a two way channel for an open dialogue between governments, service providers and immigrant communities?
After all, with growing immigration and yet-to-be-improved integration processes, ethnic media will continue to grow and be a viable component of immigrant life in Canada. So why not make it a powerful tool in creating an engaging society where everyone can reach their full potential?
Metropolis 2016, while having presented lots of valuable information and opinions, left these questions unanswered for me right now.
Natalya Chernova is a MIREMS Ethnic Media Expert.
This article was first published on MIREMS. It has been re-published with permission.