Metropolis Conference: Doing Immigration Differently

As a riding that is about 80% Caucasian and 10% Aboriginal with no major concentration of any other ethnic group, Nanaimo-Ladysmith does not typically capture the imagination of the ethnic media in Canada. Its recent by-election got barely a handful of mentions in the run-up to the event. However, the surprise win of Green Party Candidate Paul Manly was widely covered, followed by reports that the Green Party is trying to recruit MPs Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott.

Amid sessions on immigration strategies, immigration and hockey, municipal government’s fight for more control at the 2019 Metropolis Immigration conference in Halifax, was an underlying intent to do things differently—and do them right. However, the complicated cobwebs of immigration and multiculturalism in Canada were also exposed. It’s a mammoth task that has landed on the desks of community organizers, municipal staff, newcomers, language teachers and more.

A regular struggle voiced at the conference was a need for real, effective settlement strategies, alongside cries of difficulty in shifting perspectives and mechanisms for measurement.

Madeline Ziniak, Chair of Canadian Ethnic Media Association and multicultural media expert spoke to the plenary audience about ethnic media. In front of an audience of immigration and settlement experts, she spoke to the struggle being voiced looking for mechanisms of measurement and meaningful integration communications.

Ziniak says ethnic media informs the cohesive bond of ethnocultural multilingual contributors to the feeling of belonging, acts as a lens for the interpretation of cultural values and is a barometer of portrayal for mainstream policy and ideas in multicultural communities. Noting the importance of comfort that comes from a mother tongue.

The expressions and reflections of Canada’s diversity are part of the settlement and integration process. For seniors, who generally tend to revert to their mother tongue as they age, ethnic media helps them to remain connected. Voices silenced in immigrant countries of origin can find a voice in Canadian ethnic media and thus perhaps influencing events in those countries.

Following Ziniak’s words at Metropolis, Andrew Griffith and MIREMS presented diversityvotes.ca, a project that works to connect with many of the questions and challenges raised over the course of the conference. The project hopes to answer these questions: What role do ethnic media play in connecting census data and the state of public opinion to community integration? and how does this data affect ethnic media makers and consumers?

By creating a tool where census-level data about Canada’s diverse communities exists alongside the media being published by those communities, diversityvotes.ca gives unprecedented access to these diverse voices and makes the case for including them in the mainstream discourse.

A main point of discussion after the presentation was the complexity of newcomer communities. The importance of remembering that newcomers is not a blanket term for Canada’s “others.” In 41 federal ridings, “minorities” are the majority. diversityvotes.ca highlights this fact, inviting users into these communities to understand the complexities and differences within Canada’s diverse citizens.

The need for effective and innovative settlement strategies, on municipal, provincial and federal scales, showed us demand for this kind of on-the-ground connection to the communities being served.

Trying to share a message, gauge response to initiatives it’s important to take all the available information into account—even information traditionally trapped behind language barriers and complicated data sheets.

At Metropolis, we saw great enthusiasm from hard-working Canadians who care about doing immigration differently. We also saw how things get stalled, switched and shifted. Immigration policy has real-life, on-the-ground effects on newcomers and their communities, and you can be sure they are talking about these effects in their local, mother tongue multilingual and multicultural media.