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The media needs to confront racism in Canada – The Globe and Mail

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Avvy Go is the clinic director at the Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic. Gary Yee is director of the Chinese Canadian National Council for Social Justice.

Demonstrators march down a main street during an anti-racism event in Red Deer, Alta., Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020.

Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press

Many Canadians have experienced intense emotions watching the election unfold in our neighbour to the south. Those of us fighting for social justice have feared the possibility of four more years of Donald Trump and the continuing destructive impact on society, well beyond the U.S. borders. We experience something visceral and deeply personal when we see the dehumanization of those who belong to communities with less power and privilege. Speaking as Chinese-Canadians, the increased anti-Asian racism this year has increased our sense of being the “other” – being the perpetual foreigner. All our institutions, including the powerful media, must do better to ensure our social cohesion and cherish our collective humanity.

Chinese-Canadians continue to be treated as foreigners, despite our over 150 years of history in this nation. Nov. 7, 2020, marked the 135th anniversary of the Last Spike ceremony for finishing the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1885. During its construction, Chinese labourers were paid less than other workers and did the most dangerous jobs; hundreds died and were often buried in unmarked graves. Our community’s contribution to this nation-building was repaid with 67 years of legislated racism, first with the exorbitant Chinese Head Tax in 1885 to restrict Chinese immigration, followed by the Chinese Exclusion Act that banned Chinese immigration outright in 1923 until 1947.

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Despite our long history in Canada, today Chinese-Canadians are still seen as outsiders who bring in diseases or drive up the housing market. With the rising tensions between Canada and China – a country which is not even the birthplace of many Chinese-Canadians – our loyalty to Canada is increasingly being questioned.

The pandemic has exposed how deep-seated anti-Chinese racism is in Canada. Across the country, social media has been flooded with heart-wrenching reports of verbal and physical attacks on Chinese-Canadians and other Asian-Canadians.

With Black Lives Matter, and other anti-racism movements across North America, more Canadians are becoming aware of the existence of structural racism in our own backyard. Still, far too many Canadians either regard this as an issue that exists only south of the border, or that racism is just a matter of “a few bad apples.”

Sensationalism in the media gives lots of attention to explicitly racist incidents, without shining enough light on the everyday lived experiences of racialized people who face systemic barriers in the workplace, health care, justice system, and elsewhere. Nor have the media done enough of a deep dive into Canada’s history of colonization of Indigenous peoples and the transatlantic slave trade, as well as the continuing impact of such atrocities.

As the Far Right movement has taken to social media to spread hate and misinformation, the role of traditional media as a source of trusted information has become ever more important The media hold tremendous power as the disseminator of information to the general public. But with that power, media also have an obligation to ensure that they do not become part of the problem.

To help move our society from one where racialized folks are being “othered” as lesser humans to one where all people belong as equal participants, influential media outlets have the power and opportunity to step up and support inclusion and belonging for all.

Media outlets need to become more inclusive and involve all racialized communities in issues of interests to all Canadians, and not just stories that are perceived as affecting them only. For instance, don’t interview Chinese-Canadians only when the media are doing a story on China and Hong Kong, or on the real estate market in Vancouver, but talk to us also about the Canadian economy, or climate change. We share very similar interests, experiences and expertise with all Canadians.

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It’s important for media outlets to adopt an anti-racist approach to their work, including systemic policies and practices. They must be mindful of the impact of choices for stories, headlines and content, to avoid worsening racism or reinforcing the stereotype of Chinese-Canadians and others as perpetual foreigners.

Journalists and media leaders need to appreciate and understand every racialized community as a diverse one and stop treating us as a monolithic entity. No person of colour or Indigenous person should be expected to speak for their entire community before their perspective is rendered worthy of publication.

The past several years of turmoil both in the United States and in Canada have taught us that our democracy is fragile, and that structural racism, if left unchecked, poses a serious risk to social cohesion. There’s so much damage to be undone when those with power and privilege try to dehumanize others. Each of us experiences racism and forms of “othering” in different and deeply personal ways. By working as a bridge, media can amplify the true reality of our entire society, and use its incredible power to transform how we see ourselves and each other. We need to start reclaiming some of our humanity and rebuilding our society based on principles of justice and equality.

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Media availability following Council meeting – ottawa.ca

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Mayor Jim Watson, Councillor Keith Egli, Chair, Ottawa Board of Health, Steve Kanellakos, City Manager, Anthony Di Monte, General Manager, Emergency and Protective Services, and Dr. Vera Etches, Medical Officer of Health, will respond to media questions after today’s Council Meeting.

Residents will be able to watch the media availability on the City’s YouTube channel, rogerstv.com or RogersTV Cable 22.

When: Wednesday, September 22

Time: 15 minutes after Council adjourns

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Canada denies Chinese state media report that sailor was stopped in Northwest Passage – Nunatsiaq News

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Zhai Mo is attempting to circumnavigate Arctic Ocean


A view from the sailboat of Zhai Mo, who is trying to sail around the Arctic. Transport Canada recently warned the Chinese sailor that foreign boats are prohibited from travelling through the Northwest Passage for pleasure or recreational purposes, due to COVID-19 concerns. (Screenshot courtesy of China Global Television Network)

By

David Lochead

Chinese state media is reporting the Canadian government stopped a Chinese sailor attempting to circumnavigate the Arctic Ocean last week, but Transport Canada says no such thing happened.

“Captain Zhai Mo has not entered Canadian Arctic waters,” Transport Canada stated in an email to Nunatsiaq News on Sept. 17.

Chinese media claim Mo was stopped at Lancaster Sound, in the Northwest Passage.

Mo, along with two crew members, is sailing a 25-metre boat that is fully solar powered and sponsored by Chinese telecom corporation China Mobile.

He is well known in China for his quest to sail non-stop around the Arctic Ocean and his travels are being closely covered by Chinese state media. Mo claims his journey, which he is video-blogging, will be the first of its kind.

Transport Canada told Nunatsiaq News it emailed Mo to relay that foreign boats going through the country’s waters for recreation or pleasure are temporarily prohibited due to COVID-19.

Transport Canada added it had seen reports that Mo now plans to avoid Canadian waters and the department “is monitoring the situation.”

According to Chinese state media, Mo is scheduled to return to China by the end of the year.

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Gabby Petito’s Disappearance And Clues Debated On Social Media – Forbes

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On Monday, a body thought to be that of missing Gabrielle “Gabby” Petito was discovered, while authorities are still searching for her fiancé Brian Laundrie. The 22-year-old was reported missing on Sept. 11 after she failed to return from a months-long cross-country trip with Laundrie, who as of Tuesday afternoon – when he was named a person of interest – remains missing.

The case has remained in the spotlight on cable news over the past week while there have been nightly segments on the national evening news. “Gabby Petito” has also been trending on social media this week, but some users have even questioned why her disappearance has garnered so much media scrutiny while other cases fail to gain any attention.

Missing White Woman Syndrome

While Petito’s disappearance and possible death should not be taken lightly, many on the social platforms have noted that the media attention is an example of what has been labeled “Missing White Woman Syndrome.” The term is used by social scientists and media commentators to refer to the alleged disproportionate media coverage, especially on TV, of a missing person case that involves a young, white, upper-middle-class woman compared to the relative lack attention towards missing women who are not white and women of lower social classes, as well as missing men or boys.

Jennifer Bendery (@jbendery) of the Huffington Post tweeted, “In the same area that Gabby Petito disappeared, 710 indigenous people— mostly girls—disappeared between the years of 2011 and 2020 but their stories didn’t lead news cycles.” via @MollyJongFast”

Some on social media have also used Gabby Petito’s disappearance to highlight other missing person’s cases. The grass roots organization Occupy Democrats (@OccupyDemocrats) posted, “BREAKING NEWS: While the media obsesses over the Gabby Petito story, Jelani Day, a Black aspiring doctor and Illinois medical school student is also missing, but his disappearance is barely being covered. His abandoned car was found in the woods. Please RT to make this go viral.”

“I’m very sad and angry. Gabby could have been saved. Some are highlighting the media responses. It doesn’t diminish Gabby’s case. It’s an attempt to make sure we search for them all. Still, so many women missing. Use the same outrage to find them all,” added social media user @tbkeith.

Even with those calls to find every missing woman, this case certainly highlights yet another divide in our nation, and it further puts social media in the spotlight for its ability to get people arguing about nearly everything.

“Social media continues to have that potential to be polarizing,” said Saif Shahin, assistant professor in the school of communication at the American University.

“We see this all the time in the political space between liberals and conservatives, but it is evident on social media in different contexts such as this one,” Shahin added.

It also seems that this case has taken social media by storm unlike others, and that could potentially help break the case.

“When you combine that with America’s fascination with true crime – Serial Podcast, Don’t F**k With Cats and the latest Kristin Smart case – this is a perfect storm for the story to go viral,” said Matt Zuvella, VP of marketing at talent management services company FamePick.

“In the case of Gabby, her social media profiles might actually help solve the case, mainly because her fans became accustomed to her style of posting,” noted Zuvella. “So when there is something off or different, her fans immediately took notice and started asking questions.”

Spread Of Misinformation During Investigations

At issue too is where there is a potential for the spread of misinformation that could impact cases such as this one. How much harm it can do is a matter of debate, but past cases have shown that wild theories can stir up individuals and even put some people in harm’s way.

“Over the last few years, we have seen the dark side of social media with the spread of Covid-19 misinformation and political/election agendas,” added Zuvella. “However, in Gabby’s case we can see social media’s positive impact since her fans and fellow influencers jumped to her ‘aide’ and tried to help in any way they could.”

However, in past cases, social media has caused more harm than good, and amateur sleuths ‘debating’ potential suspects during an ongoing investigation could present serious problems.

“This happened after the Boston bombing,” explained Shahin. “There was the sharing of information on Reddit and Twitter, and other platforms. Users on social media were actively trying to figure out who were the Boston bombers.”

And they did so without the knowledge the police and FBI had access to, and as Shahin added, that was a problem as there was a zealous audience seeking information and sharing details without context. Many didn’t have investigative training either.

“They were pointing fingers everywhere,” said Shahin. “That certainly targeted people of color, and some on social media pointed fingers at a young man from India who had gone missing.”

Sunil Tripathi was wrongly accused of being a Boston Bombing suspect on Reddit, as he had been missing for a month prior to the April 15, 2013 bombing. His family had even turned to social media to assist in their search for Tripathi. That included setting up a Facebook page and sharing a video on YouTube.

Instead of helping find Tripathi, the information posted online resulted in his being misidentified as a suspect by users on social media. Thousands of individuals actually jumped on the bandwagon, and his name and details were even shared on Reddit. A BuzzFeed reporter then named the young man, who was born to Indian immigrants, as being a primary suspect.

“That led to threats against his family, while some mainstream media outlets even picked up on the story,” said Shahin. “The family was already in a lot of pain and it exacerbated it.”

In the end, Tripathi had nothing to do with the bombing, and he had killed himself by drowning.

“There is such a potential for the spread of bad information, and that could even distract the police during an investigation,” warned Shahin. “This isn’t new, but the presence of social media brings in such new dynamics.”

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