BY: DELLIA RISMAY
CEMA, which stands for Canadian Ethnic Media Association, is an independent organization that is made up of a variety of media professionals. The association was started in 1978 by Sierhey Khmara (Marian) Ziniak, on a belief that reporters, as well as poetry, non-fiction, and fiction writers should have access to press associations. Before the formation of CEMA, ethnic press associations were only open to publishers of print media. CEMA holds events and meetings for members to network, exchange ideas, meet with politicians, and discuss pertinent issues—one of those issues being the fact that journalists from ethnic outlets are often faced with not having the same access to resources (like information and funding) that journalists from mainstream outlets do.
At the most recent CEMA meeting held on Thursday, December 7th, journalists from ethnic outlets gathered in a classroom at the Rogers Communications Centre at Ryerson University. Current CEMA Chair Madeline Ziniak called the meeting to allow members of the association to have access to Hon. Eleanor McMahon, MPP, Minister of Tourism, Culture, and Sport. The ministry provides funding to several sectors, including music, books, digital media, magazines, and film, but does not currently provide any for ethnic media. While CEMA did not begin as a lobbying group, funding was a prominent topic at last Thursday’s meeting. “We’re having this meeting, as you know, that ethnic media continues to be a strong voice in this country, in Ontario, and we continue to be somewhat frustrated with the fact that some of the integrated efforts across both the provincial and federal government are not there for ethnic media,” Ziniak said.
Hon. Eleanor McMahon was scheduled to address CEMA members at the meeting but was absent due to illness. Instead, Hon. Laura Albanese, MPP, Ontario Minister of Citizenship and Immigration and former broadcaster promised to bring back any questions raised during the meeting to Minister McMahon and shared her thoughts with the room full of communicators. “I am a voice that, in government, continues to always bring up how much we need to value our connection to the different communities that make up our city, our province, and our country,” said Hon. Albanese.
CEMA members had several questions they requested Hon. Albanese forward to Hon. McMahon, including ones asking why the government spends so much money on translation services for its communications pieces when there are members of CEMA who would be able to provide the same services at a fraction of the cost, and the money saved by the government could go towards supporting ethnic media outlets. In response, Hon. Albanese said, “it’s not something that we aren’t talking about […] unfortunately, sometimes I say we work at the speed of the government, which means we’re really slow.” Hon. Albanese went on to describe how agencies used for these translations go on to use sub-contractors, and then stated that “there is then no control of who they’re contacting or using. We’re trying to see how we can change that process.”
One CEMA member said that if things do not change for those working for ethnic publications, “we’re not going to survive”. When Hon. Albanese stated that the same thing was being said twenty years ago, the member replied that things cannot go on like this for another forty years, which is approximately the same amount of time CEMA has been in existence. She then went on to say she hears the municipal, provincial, and federal government say that they believe in equity and equality, “but at the same time, they don’t follow that with their actions.” She asked what CEMA members can do as media operators to try and get their voices heard because they’ve been to several meetings and still haven’t been provided with solutions. “If we don’t have Korean programming in our society, then the people that are coming to this country to live are not going to have access to OHIP information,” she said, citing the new OHIP Plus program scheduled to roll out next month that will provide youth aged twenty-four years or younger with free prescription drugs. She went on to say that while it’s great that there is funding for community events, ethnic media is in dire need of support. “This is a serious issue. Everyone here is here for the same reason. There are so many benefits to be had by funding multicultural media. It will better the quality of life of all immigrants.”
When asked what she would like to see in the future from the Ministry of Tourism, Culture, and Sport when it comes to supporting ethnic outlets, Madeline Ziniak said that there must be an awareness of just how important they are. “We want them to come up with tools and triggers that actually allow a funding mechanism for ethnic media […] you have to crack the code within the province, and that is a very difficult thing to do.”