Ethnic Media Could Make the Difference 

The Christmas Eve scaffold tragedy in Toronto drew attention again to the position of foreign workers and new immigrants in Canada.

 Based 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 obviously tangible.  

Canada needs immigrants, and many of them start here at the lowest entry levels of the labor market. That is understandable.  

Despite the 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 rights either.

 The 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.

 One 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)

 In 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.

 The 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 rights.

 Of course, ethnic media can act on its own, and has done so.  

Information 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 (