Intercultural dialogue trending in ethnic media

BCIT graduate Muyuki Furusawa says she feels welcomed by the local ethnic media. Photo courtesy of Miyuki Furusawa

BCIT graduate Muyuki Furusawa says she feels welcomed by the local ethnic media. Photo courtesy of Miyuki Furusawa

It is time to look beyond the boundaries of multiculturalism and explore more intercultural dialogue in ethnic media says a Vancouver researcher.

Sherry Yu, a research fellow at Simon Fraser University (SFU), will be speaking on the role of ethnic media in facilitating citizenship at the 15th Annual Metropolis Conference in Ottawa from March 14-17.

“It is important to find a venue to consolidate and circulate multiple narratives for the proper exercise of citizenship and informed decision-making for citizens in multicultural societies,” says Yu.

Yu will be following up on a report from 2007, which she co-authored along with Catherine Murray and Daniel Ahadi.

According to Yu, the sector is growing and receiving much more attention from other sectors. Ethnic media monitoring reports are now often seen in the mainstream.

Nonetheless, lack of clear infrastructure – industry and regulatory – prevents many from understanding the full effect of ethnic media on community engagement.

“The sector needs further academic attention, specifically in the area of media and citizenship,” says Yu, who identifies herself as a “1.5” generation Canadian. Born in South Korea, Yu immigrated to Canada at a young age and received her schooling locally.

Tokyo-born Miyuki Furusawa is a temporary migrant who hopes to eventually obtain her residency. The recent graduate of British Columbia Institute of Technology’s (BCIT) Financial Management program feels welcomed by local ethnic media.

“It is more comfortable for me to read in Japanese,” says Furusawa, who has been in Vancouver since 2008.

Nonetheless, Furusawa has no desire to limit her interactions.

“I do not want to just meet Japanese people,” says Furusawa, who initially came to Canada to get international work experience.

In her research, Yu has explored the effect of ethnic media on their own communities. During the 2008 election, ethnic media were observed to be more encouraging of civic participation through the provision of detailed guides and information to community members unfamiliar with Canada’s political system, while the mainstream contained little or no information on ethnic voters or candidates.

However, the actual impact on the community – ethnic and otherwise – remains to be validated.
Florence Wong, co-host for the Vancouver-based Overseas Chinese Voice Radio CHMB AM1320, expresses her own sentiments on the role of ethnic media.

“I try to present my own views based on the topic. It includes a Chinese point of view because I am Chinese, but I try to include a greater Canadian point of view as well because we are also Canadian,” says Wong.

In her PhD thesis defense last April, Yu identified a number of issues that continue to limit the reach of diasporic media beyond specific communities. These include language barriers, lack of industry and/or policy support, limited resources and unreliable ethnic audience data. As a result, the benefit of ethnic media has yet to reach a broader audience.

Wong reflects on the benefit of ethnic media.

“I think programs such as ours are important. Listeners hear people speaking in their own voice and that gives them access to unfamiliar points of view,” says Wong.


15th Annual Metropolis
Conference in Ottawa
March 14–17:

SFU’s 2007 study of the
ethnic media sector in BC