New UNA program seeks to link diverse newcomers to media organizations
By a Staff Reporter
A roundtable was hosted in Halifax on March 22 at the Wooden Monkey restaurant by program officers of Multimedia & Multiculturalism (M&M) – a national program that links people of diverse cultures with media organizations in Canada.
M&M—an initiative of the United Nations Association in Canada (UNA-Canada) brings out the spectrum of voices and opinions of ethno-cultural youth through a series of regional and national work that promotes diversity in mainstream media.
The Halifax roundtable comprised representatives from ISIS, (Immigrant Settlement and Integration Services), MANS (Multicultural Association of Nova Scotia) YMCA, Mount Saint Vincent University (MSVU) and Touch BASE.
Simmi Dixit, a program officer who opened the roundtable said UNA-Canada’s M&M reflects a commitment to social cohesion in Canada by examining the role media plays in contributing to this inclusive representation of all Canadians.
“M&M addresses these realities and challenges by fostering inclusive media,” she said. “By representing the broadest possible spectrum of voices and opinions, inclusive media provides an authentic account of the world around us.”
She said, M&M will work with a broad spectrum of stakeholders to promote and create inclusive Canadian media on a variety of levels and to create a sense of belonging among ethno-cultural underserved youth.”
Roundtable delegates took the view that the mainstream media in Halifax is not inclusive because if they were, their news stories would reflect some of the challenges newcomers confront.
Nabiha Atallah of ISIS said that when the Egypt and Libya crisis developed, her office was getting a call from the media about twice a month. Otherwise, those calls were less frequent.
Izak Mbaziira, a student at Saint Mary’s University said youth today were turning to social media for news. But the capacity for social media to integrate societies was questioned.
Ifti Illyas of MANS said the Chronicle Herald had in the past brought the race issue to the fore in a series of stories, making the point that the media has been somewhat conscious of issues affecting newcomers. But he said, the media effort was not well received by the mainstream.
Touch BASE editor, Robin Arthur said diversity in the media must be proportionate to the diversity in the province’s population.
“If we have reporters of diverse cultures in the newsrooms, then news stories would be inclusive of our society as a whole,” he said.
Within that context, the roundtable posed the question about what kind of nationalism would Canada like for itself. Paula Barry Mercer, Manager, International Student Centre at MSVU said: “The melting pot idea does not work. We want our nationalism to be multiculturalism.”
Sarah Kambites, Director, Education and Community Initiatives of UNA-Canada told delegates that the organization was a grassroots NGO movement for the United nations.
She said there were about 105 UNA’s around the world set up in every country to galvanize its people to support UN programs and promote them through school boards, anti-racism drives and so on.
As part of their work, Kambites said, UNA-Canada sends young Canadians as interns across the world and that 90 per cent of them either find employment within the UN or with the foreign affairs offices in their country.