THE ROLE OF THE ETHNIC PRESS
IN CANADIAN LIFE
The press in the various ethnic communities of Canada has fulfilled its role, which goes beyond the immigrant communities' internal needs. For more than seven decades the ethnic newspapers have been meeting the challenges of assistance, guidance and integration of millions of newcomers who have immigrated to Canada from many lands. It performed this role in full awareness of a great responsibility towards a country which has been developed by many cultural and linguistic groups.
With the influx of immigrants after the Second World War, both the duties and the influence of the ethnic press in Canada have multiplied. The ethnic newspapers serve now over three million Canadians who are neither Anglophone nor Francophone. This, in addition to all those who have been here for a generation or more but still retain the habit of reading papers in their own heritage language.
In addition to educating those who have come here to make Canada their home about settlement issues and available assistance, the ethnic press also helped them to be introduced to the democratic institutions and the new way of living. These citizens who, at one time or another, have found themselves behind language barriers in a country whose laws, traditions, and customs were different from their own, the ethnic press has begun to act as a guide, an interpreter, a teacher, and an intimate and trusted friend. Its role has been to introduce immigrant to their own environment as efficiently and as painlessly for themselves and their community as possible, in order for them to become full-fledged citizens of this new country, willing and able to contribute their talents and abilities for the benefit of all Canadians.
Conversely, it also tried to inform newcomers about the existence of negative influences and ideological conflicts counter-productive to democracy and Canadian traditions. All this is done in the spirit of helping them to become better Canadians. In this enhanced role, the ethnic press became an important tool in influencing new Canadians who arrive daily to the hospitable ports of this great Country. This has been well recognized by many politicians and all levels of government in Canada.
With the increasing number of newcomers and substantial changes in the demographics in Canada - mother tongue of more than half of the Toronto population is not English - the scope and importance of foreign language press in Canada has been enlarged. There is a qualitative change in its operation. It is no more merely an information disseminating medium but rather a powerful vehicle operating at the grassroots level. In the past, it had taken serious and active interest in fostering Canadian unity and territorial integrity; and as pro-Canadian, it will pursue this goal vigorously in the future.
While ethnic media and ethnic communities continue to participate fully in nation-building processes, it is important to recognize that their aspirations, dreams and concerns cannot be indifferent than those of mainstream society. The members of the ethnic press of Canada do not look for special status or treatment by the mainstream media; they would feel hurt if they were treated as second class citizens and negligible entity.
Today, the social structure and the educational level of the ethnic communities are compatible to those of the members of the founding people of the nation. This is easily seen as more and more members of the ethnic communities in Canada are seeking elective offices at all levels at each election. Furthermore, they are make very productive and effective contributions in all walks of life in Canada. Therefore, the ethnic press expects that both the ethnic press and the ethnic communities should receive equal treatment and be accepted as equal partners in the nation-building process.
Finally, it must be recognized that as long as immigration to this Country continues, the importance and influence of the ethnic press will be more pronounced. Canada, today, is in a period of socio-economic changes in a world that is becoming smaller and smaller daily, looking for new markets and searching for new partnerships. In this connection, the ethnic press and the ethnic communities they serve could prove to be an important participant in the Canadian economic growth because of their ability to speak all the languages of the world, their global contacts and their global knowledge. This strength of the ethnic communities and their media has not be fully recognized by the Canadian society. In view of its internal importance due to demographic changes and external influence on Canadian economy through international trade and investments, the ethnic press has a multidimensional role to play. Hence, the council is trying to find the right place in the social, cultural, political and economic life of Canada.