PRIME MINISTER Stephen Harper presents Catholine Butler of The Celtic Connection with the National Ethnic Press and Media Council of Canada for Best Editorial and Visual Presentation at Seneca College in Toronto in November.
THOMAS SARAS, president of the NEPMCC with Catholine Butler of The Celtic Connection and Asha Rajak, vice-president and event co-ordinator of NEPMCC.
By CATHOLINE BUTLER
On November 20-22, I attended the National Ethnic Press and Media Council of Canada (NEPMCC) professional development and training in journalism and business seminar held at Seneca College in Toronto.
The NEPMCC is a non-profit media organization consisting of 170 journalists representing editors and publishers of diverse cultural media across Canada.
The seminar provided a unique opportunity to meet journalists from all over Canada, in a setting that would never have been possible without the hard work and dedication of NEPMCC president, Thomas Saras.
I had an opportunity to speak with journalists from Toronto, Winnipeg, Edmonton and Vancouver representing ethnic groups from around the world.
Professors and keynote speakers at the weekend long seminar were extremely interesting and informative, taking careful time to answer our many questions.
Saras informed participants that Prime Minister Stephen Harper would be at the gala dinner on Saturday evening to hand out the awards beforehand. He said that those selected would be notified from the stage before the PM arrived.
Security was very tight before the banquet with RCMP everywhere. All guests had to be in the room prior to 5 PM and could not leave until after the PM departed.
When Saras went to the podium to announce the award winners, everyone waited with baited breath to hear who would be called.
When I heard The Celtic Connection newspaper from Vancouver had won for Best Editorial and Visual Presentation, I was absolutely overjoyed.
When I was called to the podium to receive the award, I found the PM to be genuinely friendly and down to earth, despite previous mainstream media reports that he was rather stiff and formal.
Following the presentations, Thomas Saras announced breaking news that Dalton McGuinty, the Premier of Ontario, has just announced that he had exempted the ethnic media from the new harmonized sales tax (HST).
A huge cheer went up, and those of us from out of province wondered if our premiers would do the same. The HST will put extreme pressure on the cultural media who are already struggling to survive.
Speaking about the growth of ethnic media in Canada, Saras said that 51 percent of people now living in Toronto and Vancouver are not English or French speaking but are made up of various other cultural groups.
While many will read mainstream newspapers, when they want to know what is happening in their country of origin or in their own communities, they rely on their own press because the ethnic media know their communities intimately.
“Ethnic journalism is a passion and a love of your community,” Saras said, “you will never become a millionaire in this business.
“It’s a daily struggle for many of the ethnic papers to survive and to receive the advertising that they so richly deserve from both the governments and the communities that they serve. The ethnic papers cover news from their communities that the daily papers do not.”
During this talk, I was sitting beside an editor of one of the Toronto ethnic newspapers and he told me that he didn’t know how he was going to pay this month’s printing costs. I just took his hand because I fully understand the anguish that he was going through.
The keynote speakers certainly piqued our interest and challenged our curiosity. Having seen many of these speakers on television or in newspapers, it was very interesting to see them up close and personal.
Keynote speaker, Margaret R. Best, the Minister of Health Promotion Ontario, stressed, “Your health is your wealth.”
She spoke about health challenges for Canadians, particularly smoking related deaths and that with the ‘Smoke Free Ontario,’ program, they have noticed a substantial reduction in new smokers, with others opting to quit all together. However, she said type two diabetes is escalating at an alarming rate in Canada.
Bob Rae, the Member of Parliament for Toronto Centre and the Liberal opposition’s foreign affairs critic spoke about prevention and resolution of conflict.
“The United Nations needs new rules,” he said. “It used to be conflicts between countries now it is conflict within countries. Each conflict produces refugees and Canada has always played a role and we must continue to be engaged in conflict. The things that we stand for at home as Canadians are what we stand for in the world.”
Jason Kenny, the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism in Canada, spoke about his own Irish background and how his grandparents had emigrated to Canada from County Donegal, Ireland.
Other keynote speakers were Scott Shortcliffe, director of policy and program for the Canada Magazine Fund with the Department of Canadian Heritage; and Louise de Jourdan, the director of advertising coordination and partnerships with Public Works and Government Services Canada.
But the keynote speaker who received rock star treatment and adulation, particularly by the female journalists at the seminar, was Justin Trudeau, the Member of Parliament for Papineau, Quebec.
A very charismatic and passionate speaker, he spoke about his late father, former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau who opened the doors in the Seventies for the multicultural people to come to Canada.
Speaking about the role of the ethnic media, Trudeau said, “Strength through diversity is the path to the Twenty-First Century.”
The NEPMCC business seminar at Seneca College in Toronto was one of the best seminars that I have ever attended. The meeting and interaction with other cultural journalists, the professors teaching the seminar, and the keynote speakers all made for a priceless experience.
Many thanks to NEPMCC president Thomas Saras, a tireless, passionate,. and fierce advocate for the rights and respect of the ethnic media in Canada. Also special thanks to Asha Rajak, the vice president and coordinator of the event. Your hard work on our behalf is deeply appreciated.
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