Oct. 21 Vote: A Failure of Journalism and Democracy - New Canadian Media
Writer Ayse Acar argues that multiculturalism is essential to the healthy function of a democracy.

Oct. 21 Vote: A Failure of Journalism and Democracy

The ones who're born into a democracy may take the value of democracy as a given! They might not know about the governments who live in palaces, who sit on thrones

I’m sure you already know that the Liberal Party, led by Justin Trudeau, gained 157 seats in Parliament and now holds a minority government. What was the role of the immigrants and the media in these elections?

In my opinion, everyone in this country is an immigrant, except for the First Nations. But the ones who’ve lived here for two generations, see themselves as pure Canadians. I asked a friend, who was born in Vancouver, where his parents were from, he replied “Canada.” When I asked where his grandparents were from, going back to the early 1900s, he said “One from Norway, the other from Ireland. “It’s a fact that 22 per cent of the 37.59 million people that make up Canada’s population are immigrants. This means that one out of every five Canadians born outside of Canada.

Canada and Immigration

Last month, I participated in a workshop called “Fake vs Fact“, organized by New Canadian Media. To begin the workshop, a professor from Simon Fraser University, Dr. Daniel Savas, gave a presentation he called “Strengthening Canadian Democracy.” According to his survey, one-in-three Canadians believe that citizens born in Canada should have a greater say in what the government does than those born elsewhere.

The first thing that passes through my mind is, “Dude! You were living in England, in Mexico or in China just two generations ago! Did you forget?!” Then I think, “Ok. You think you should have more influence but some of you don’t even bother to vote!” Voter turnout for this past federal election was only 65.95 per cent according to Elections Canada. I’m shocked by the idea that people think they belong to another country after just two generations. The possibility of my grandchildren not knowing their Turkish origin gives me goosebumps all over my arms. But then I shake myself up and try to focus on the presentation.

Can’t Get Canadian Enough

I’ve lived in Canada for two years so I am not a citizen but I am deeply interested in Canadian politics and democracy. We moved here hoping that our kids will grow up in a more democratic country. I watched the elections unfold like a political pro and I must acknowledge that the Liberals did well, kinda. Sure they lost seats but they did better than I — and I’m guessing many others — expected. I shared my opinions with Turkish-Canadian friends through a Whatsapp group chat and they told me “Oh god! Ayse, you are once again, Not Canadian Enough! Believe us, Canadians are not interested in the results of elections like you!” They are right, right?

The ones who’re born into a democracy may take the value of democracy as a given! They might not know about the governments who live in palaces, who sit on thrones. Governments that appreciate democracy when they win and cancel the elections when they lose and try to rule the country with a dictatorship regime. The ones who’ve experienced it, know it. Things can change overnight. From this perspective, I think it’s normal that immigrants are more optimistic about democracy and are getting involved in politics more than ever. I believe that Canadian politics will rise and shine in the hands of a population full of immigrants.

Fake news; diminishing media trust

Before the elections, voters are repeatedly warned about the dangers of false or misleading stories, especially on social media. Savas’ survey revealed that 79 per cent of people feel online disinformation is a problem for democracy and 53 per cent think that misinformation is impacting Canadians’ confidence in government institutions. Research from the Democratic Engagement Exchange shows that 90 per cent of respondents claim they’ve been misled by fake news online. People’s trust is also diminishing towards major corporations like CBC, Globe and Mail, CTV, and National Post as well. When it comes to social media, there are an estimated 48 million bots on Twitter, more than 10 cer pent of all accounts.

Later in the workshop, Agence France-Presse reporter Louis Baudoin-Laarman presented detailed information about how to fact check and how to identify fake social media accounts. Before even the elections, we understood the vital importance of the media in our lives. But confidence in journalism and journalists is diminishing, not only in Canada and Turkey but around the whole world.

Is the only real journalism left for the movies?

Made in 1976, All the President’s Men is a political movie about two reporters who wouldn’t give up on the Watergate story and brought down the 37th president of the United States, Richard Nixon. The 2017 film, The Post, was about investigative journalists who worked at Washington Post and published the classified Pentagon Papers which detailed the States’ 20-year involvement in the Vietnam War. The Spotlight won two Oscar’s in 2016, one for “Best Original Screenplay” and one for “Best Picture.” In the film, we watch the Globe editor Marty Baron and columnist Eileen McNamara investigate lawsuits pertaining to a Catholic priest accused of sexual abuse.

The point is that there are a lot of great journalism movies. These three movies, all based on a true story, could be part of a lesson in a university course on media ethics, freedom of the press or the fundamental principles of journalism.  Let’s hope that journalism can do for us than provide interesting plots for movies.

It’s sad that so many Canadians have been misguided by media on the internet and have lost faith in all media of all kinds. Citizens are losing faith in democracy, so much so that 35 per cent of the population don’t bother to vote. It is our right to get properly informed and we need it more than ever.

The original version of this article first appeared in Turkey’s independent news portal, T24, on 30th October 2019.

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Ayşe is an author, journalist and volunteer Communications Coordinator for the Vancouver Turkish Film Festival. She moved to Vancouver from Turkey with her dog and two children in 2017. Ayşe is the author of Anneee! Anne Oluyorum! (*Mooom! I’m becoming a Mom!) and Kanadalılaştıramadıklarımızdan mısınız? (*Not Canadian Enough?). Ayse also writes weekly articles for the independent internet newspaper T24.

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