Ethnic Media Could Make the
Christmas Eve scaffold tragedy in Toronto drew attention again to the
position of foreign workers and new immigrants in Canada.
on statistics Ontario has a general problem of safety in construction
work, but the risks of a newly arrived foreign worker to get hurt is
immigrants, and many of them start here at the lowest entry levels of the
labor market. That is understandable.
requirements of English and French implemented in the immigration process,
many newcomers do not have much of a practical command of the local
languages. In that situation they may not be capable of defending their
problem is of little direct concern to emigrants from Fin-land, readers of
this newspaper. Major immigration from Finland ceased decades ago. Canada
-with its level of social services -is not, in most cases, even
competitive today as an alternative to life in Finland. Historically
though, Finnish emigrants were at the forefront of pursuing the rights of
immigrant workers, particularly in the early decades of the20th century.
of the three Finnish Canadian recipients of the Order of Canada, Paul
Siren, actually got the recognition for his achievements in promoting
organized labour here in Canada. (We should mention as well that another
recipient of the Order of Canada was the founding editor of this
newspaper, Reinhold Pehkonen, with us from 1931 until1967)
recent years the awareness of new immigrants of the assistance organized
labour can give to their life and well being appears to have declined.
Today, most immigrants arrive here from countries where the labour
movement is weak or nonexistent. The situation differs from the days of
Western Europe-an emigration to Canada. New-comers from Eastern Europe may
also be so disillusioned with the former Soviet style unions in their home
countries in the recent past that the contribution that a democratic union
can bring remains unnoticed. Of course, unlike in many European countries,
trade union agreements have no universal applicability here in Canada and
employees of small businesses may have hard time to accomplish anything,
even if they would beware of the situation.
Ontario government has now agreed to arrange a review of the systems that
protect workers in this province. Taken the composition of the work force,
the government should also consider using ethnic media more for the
promotion of work safety- and the awareness of the employees of their
course, ethnic media can act on its own, and has done so.
about organized labour and work safety should be made available in the
vernacular. Ethnic media must, of course, provide entertainment and some
escape from the hard times of the early years in Canada, but besides
commercial messages, light stories and devotional material, ethnic media
should act as ombudsmen for the newcomers and show them as well that
ethnic media is on their side. - The Finnish Canadian Reporter (www.vapaasana.com)