Andrew Griffith and MIREMS looked at over 300 news, opinion, editorial and commentary stories from Canada’s ethnic media during Canada’s February by-election campaigns. These stories provided media coverage that would have otherwise been trapped behind language barriers and bring unique stories and perspectives from Canada’s diverse communities.
The highest volumes of stories came from Indo-Canadian media (predominantly Punjabi but also South Asian English, Hindi and Urdu) and Chinese Canadian media (Chinese, Mandarin, Cantonese).
Ridings and communities with larger visible minority groups have a larger and more active multicultural and multilingual media. Their audiences are more engaged, and their coverage is more extensive, their writers and reporters often live and work in these communities. It’s local news with an often more-dedicated audience than traditional local news.
There’s a direct connection between ridings with higher visible minorities and higher volume of stories from the ethnic media. The small number of visible minorities in York Simcoe meant very little coverage of the riding political dynamics. In Burnaby South—a visible minority majority riding—had the most coverage. But Outremont, with close to 30 percent visible minorities, had relatively little coverage.
Not only were Burnaby South’s population demographics responsible for the higher coverage volumes, but the political atmosphere kicked up by “ethnic politics” in the area played a part. Liberal candidate Karen Wang’s WeChat comments made national headlines, but the vibrant Chinese and Indo-Canadian sources in BC and across the country made sure their voices were a part of the conversation, too.
Burnaby South also saw increased coverage because of its high-profile NDP candidate, Jagmeet Singh. The NDP leader was often discussed with respect to the overall NDP prospects as well as his Canadian Sikh identity. Specifically, we saw a lot of coverage from Punjabi media sources.
Reporting on the campaigns featured candidate profiles, discussion of “ethnic politics” and “the ethnic vote,” the appeal of the People’s Party of Canada in more conservative communities, and what the by-elections can tell us about the upcoming elections.
The trend of increased coverage in majority-minority Burnaby South, compared to minimal coverage in largely non-visible minority York Simcoe will continue as the federal election campaigns heat up.
Highlighted stories from the campaign coverage show the ways ethnic media can inform and influence multicultural communities—and why a larger audience would benefit from paying closer attention. Sources reported on ethnic politics, the role of their community’s ethnicity in the political process and left us with predictions for October 2019.
Punjabi: "The bankruptcy of ethnic vote banks"
Tarek Fateh writes in Khabarnama Punjabi Weekly:
Much has been written about the crass ethno-racial baiting employed by Karen Wang, the now dismissed Liberal Party candidate for the Burnaby South byelection where she was facing NDP leader Jagmeet Singh. All hell broke loose among the political elite of the country. It was as if Wang had committed an act of racism and had violated the foundations of Canada's supposed non-racial, non-ethnic election process where ideas and platforms count, not the ethnicity or race of the candidate. The fact is Wang was honest enough to put her words where her mouth was. If Wang was guilty of relying on 'her' Chinese vote-bank, wasn't Jagmeet Singh also running in the riding because it had a large Sikh or Indo-Canadian community? Both Wang and Singh played ethnic vote-bank politics, except one got caught and the other remained mum, hoping no one would notice his abandoning Brampton voters just to get inside parliament. It is not just in Burnaby South where Canada is being subject to ghetto politics. This is happening across urban Canada. One example is the Conservative Party's nomination fight for the Ontario riding of Mississauga-Erindale in November 2018. In the contest, a prominent former MP from the riding Bob Dechert was soundly defeated because he did not have a tribe to rely on. The solution is simple: Every member of a political party should have renewed their membership at least once in two consecutive years to have the right to vote in nomination battles. Otherwise, Canada's democracy is for sale to tribalism. (01/02/2019)
Punjabi: "Cheap minority politics and drama of Canadian values!"
An editorial in Vancouver's Indo-Canadian Times by Balraj Deol:
This editorial is about the cheap minority politics which is widely spreading across Canada and can be seen among almost all federal political parties. This minority politics is not only limited to civic politics but has substantially grown in to provincial and federal politics. Wherever the minority politics fits to benefit the political parties it is played with full strength but whenever there is a danger of loss then there is huge cry about Canadian values. PM Trudeau intentionally announced three by-elections, including Burnaby South in which NDP leader Jagmeet Singh is contesting. Experts are of the view that PM Trudeau intentionally delayed the announcement of the by-elections so that there will be no time left for the NDP to change its leadership before the general elections if Jagmeet Singh losses the election in Burnaby South. But if he wins it will still be beneficial for the Liberals since under the leadership of Jagmeet Singh many sitting NDP MPs have already indicated they will not seek re-election and also the NDP is trailing far behind in raising funds. Another dramatic turn was seen when the Liberal candidate from Burnaby, Karen Wang announced her withdrawal from the race over a social media post. It can be a part of a bigger game design of Liberals to ensure victory for Jagmeet Singh. Has Karen Wang done something wrong? Even PM Trudeau had boasted in US media that there are more Sikh ministers in his cabinet than in Indian PM Modi's cabinet. The Liberals played the minority politics card fearlessly and gave preference to more than a dozen Sikh candidates. Even when Jagmeet Singh won the NDP leadership race he played the Sikh card. The cheap minority politics and the cry for Canadian values have become a drama these days. ( 24/01/2019).
Punjabi: "Asking for votes based on ethnic background in Canada"
Daily Punjabi radio talk show Radio Khabarsar in Toronto reports:
The Burnaby South by-election where NDP leader Jagmeet Singh is running for a seat in the House is hotly contested and was dominating the news because of racist comments by former Liberal candidate Karen Wang. Wang asked for the support of the Chinese community in Burnaby South based on her ethnic background. This kind of politics is not new in Canada. The host said other candidates, even from the Indian community do ask for their community's support to win the elections. So Wang's asking for Chinese support was not a big deal, he said. Host Jagdish Grewal said he knows at least one candidate from Brampton South who is urging the Christian community to vote for him and help send a Christian representative to the government. (21/01/2019)
Filipino: "Impact of political scandal, religious symbols debate felt in Outremont byelection"
The Philippine Canadian Inquirer reports:
Julia Sanchez, the NDP’s candidate in Monday’s Outremont byelection, says people in the riding talk to her about climate change, wealth inequality – and sometimes what the leader of her party wears on his head. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is Sikh and wears a turban, making him conspicuously religious in front of a heavily secular province. His French is also weaker than the two previous party leaders, complicating the job of appealing to Quebec voters. “Some people are concerned about (the turban),” Sanchez said during a recent interview following a candidate debate in the riding. Kathryn Furlong, 43, who attended the debate, said she voted for Sanchez, an economist with experience in humanitarian work and climate activism, at an advance poll. She has voted Liberal in the past “but never by conviction. Sometimes to keep the out the Conservatives.” (25/02/2019)
Korean: "Dream to be the first MP of Korean descent"
Canadian Korean Times Weekly in Toronto reports:
Toronto's Conservative candidate Jay Shin held a fundraising event as he is taking a challenge to be a the first Member of Parliament being of Korean descent. Shin is new to politics — until recently he worked as a lawyer. He is focusing on a door-knocking-campaign due to having a lower chance of getting into papers, compared to his renowned competitors. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and Liberal candidate Richard T. Lee are seeking a seat in the Burnaby South by-election as well. (20/02/2019).
Korean: "Singh 'I will make the minority voice heard'"
Vancouver's Korean Chosun Ilbo reports:
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, a candidate in the Burnaby South by-election, visited Northroad Korean town to encourage the voters’ support. Singh said: “My political career started from a wish for minority communities to be a member of Canadian society, I will represent immigrants’ rights.” Conservative candidate Jay Shin held a fund-raising event and said: “It is a challenge for a rookie, but I’ll fight for the economic stability and better quality of life of Burnaby residents.” (08/02/2019).
Chinese: "Should Chinese people vote for Chinese people?"
Karen Wang was forced to withdraw her candidacy because of her remarks on WeChat. She deliberately emphasized to Chinese people that her main rival in the by-election is Indian. Perhaps this doesn't mean much to Wang, but in the western political society, especially in the eyes of "politically correct" Prime Minister Little Du (Trudeau), this crosses the line. The person who told a mainstream media outlet that Wang had made the inappropriate remarks in her campaign happens to be a Chinese person. For this reason, some people in the Chinese community thought this was unfair to Wang. An internet user thinks Wang is a Chinese victim as a result of the political correctness of left leaning politics. After Wang withdrew her candidacy, a poll found that among 400 internet users, only 14% of them support Chinese people voting for Chinese people, while 73% say Chinese people don't have to vote for Chinese people. This means that if someone continues to play the race card in Canadian politics, and insists that Chinese people vote for Chinese people, then Chinese people's political participation won't go far and would only get narrower. Another article was also about Karen Wang. Who is the real racist? Karen Wang or Trudeau? The writer talks about why the real racist should be exposed and urged the Liberals not to have double standards - Chinese people aren't blind, deaf or stupid. (17/01/2019)
Federal Election Predictions:
Chinese: "Status of the main political parties based on outcomes of federal by-elections"
Chinese Canadian Voice from Cambridge reports:
In this article, the author summarizes and discusses the outcomes of the three federal by-elections that took place on February 25. The author points out that the situation of the NDP and the rise of the People's Party of Canada may affect the chance of the Conservatives winning the federal election. Although the approval rating of Justin Trudeau has dropped, the approval ratings of Andrew Scheer and Jagmeet Singh have not gone up much. In addition, Scheer has not yet come up with a clear campaign platform. It is not known whether this is because Scheer wants to follow in the footsteps of Ontario Premier Doug Ford, but the author is confident that voters will not fall for it again. (27/02/2019)
Chinese: "Liberals are the overall winners of the federal by-elections"
Dawa Business News in Vancouver reports:
This article discusses the outcomes of the three federal by-elections and provides an outlook on the federal election in October. The author points out that the Quebecois hold very different views from the voters in Western Canada, and such views and differences will continue to show in the federal election in October. The author then specifically talks about NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh's win, which has milestone significance in Canadian politics as he is the first visible minority leader of a major political party in Canada. The author also points out that the performance of Laura Lynn [sic] Thompson also has milestone significance to the People's Party of Canada given that Burnaby South is a multicultural constituency. (27/02/2019).
Chinese: "Outlook on the 2019 federal election"
Chinese Canadian Voice from Cambridge, Ontario reports:
The author discusses the performance of the leaders of the three main federal political parties and provides an analysis of the potential outcome of the 2019 federal election in October. In particular, the author says that although the performance of Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has not been ideal, the Opposition Party leaders are not any better. The author says that the only advantage of Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is perhaps his age. His only accomplishment since he became head of the party may be the fact he made his internal opponent Maxime Bernier quit the Conservative Party. It would be difficult for the Chinese community to support Scheer given his attitude towards Canada's free trade negotiations with China and towards the Chinese company Huawei. (04/02/2019).
This reporting brings unique and valuable voices to Canada’s political discourse, and though it may not tip the scale on which party wins where, it certainly has an impact on voter awareness and engagement. Speaking to a listener or reader in their first language makes the issue or story more immediate and important. And immediate and important issues get greater responses.
As the country gears up for the federal election this fall, it’s certain that Canada’s ethnic media will be active and vocal, and that their audiences will be too. There’s 41 ridings in Canada where minority groups are the majority and paying attention to their ethnic media will be as important as listening to the mainstream.
We’ll see more visible minority candidates in ridings with larger visible minority populations, and national and local issues will continue to get coverage from all languages in the ethnic media.
Ethnic media monitoring improves the accountability of political parties and candidates in terms of their messaging, whether inclusive or exclusive, whether narrow or broad, as the example of former Liberal candidate Wang illustrates.
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