JOURNALISM IN CANADA: STUCK IN A HOLDING PATTERN ON A CROSS-CULTURAL DIVIDE.
As a bilingual, bicultural native English-speaking Québecer of mixed ancestry, who’s lived or travelled in every Canadian province and one territory, I’m often befuddled, even saddened by just how entrenched our regional differences seem to be in this country.
Everywhere I’ve been in my travels or where I’ve lived in this great country of ours, the one uniting influence or common thread holding us together as a country, seems to be our regionalized disunity. As Québecers we think we’ve got a monopoly on the whole ‘regional or national specificity’ thing. Not so. Everywhere I went during my travels, especially in 2009 and 2010, when I went across the whole country by car, (except to the Northwest Territories and Nunavut), I heard the same old story straight across the country from people I’d encounter at coffee shops, in the street, at tourist sites, downtown, etc. It goes something like this:
‘What we’re going through in our part of Canada is unique and particular to us. The others in the provinces next door don’t understand us; in fact they don’t respect us, and are contemptuous of us. And gosh darn it all, those politicians in Ottawa are so far away, they don’t understand us at all, and we feel so alienated from them it’s not even funny!’
Well, what do you know; everybody in Canada is united by their common sense of regional discontent and disunity and regional specificity and navel-gazing. So what’s new? The worst part of it, is that most people in each part of the country aren’t even aware of the next guy’s regionalism, and that it is eerily similar to their own, they’re too busy griping about their little regionalist, sectional concerns, that nobody sees the big picture: Canada, a country A Mari Usque ad Mare, from sea to sea to sea.
This form of regionalism is only reinforced even more by the regional nature of our media. The CBC covers English Canada, whereas Radio-Canada covers French Canada. Videotron has the cable monopoly in Québec, whereas Shaw has it in the west, and Rogers in Ontario and the Maritimes. Can West Global sold off its print media arm to a company led by National Post CEO Paul Godfrey in English Canada, and its broadcasting arm to Shaw Media, and Bell Media now owns CTV and a bunch of specialty channels, as well as phone and internet service. Most private broadcast media in Québec is owned by Quebecor, such as TVA and the LCN 24 hr news channel, as well as owning a lot of print media, such as Journal de Montréal/Québec, Le Devoir, TV Hebdo, Archambault Music, and the Réseau Contact dating website. The rest of the print media is owned by companies mostly linked to Paul Desmarais, such as Gesca, which owns, among other papers, La Presse, in Montréal, Le Soleil in Québec city, and Le Droit in Gatineau.
So journalists are just as ghettoized as the media outlets that they work for, and seem to like perpetuating regional differences and cleavages for the sake of pumping up the sales of their products, including the information that they’re selling in the stories themselves, since we all know that controversy makes for good news, as well as keeping folks glued to their media outlets so as to continue selling advertizing so as to make money, which seems to be what it’s all about.
For once, I’d like to see those media conglomerates do something in the national interest. Everybody keeps talking about giving the private sector more reign to do things its own way. Well what about having Shaw, Bell, Rogers, and Quebecor all team up and fund a bursary program for print, broadcast, and electronic journalists to do a one year job placement, either during their studies, or while employed, in a French-speaking part of the country for English-language journalists, and vice-versa for French-speaking journalists?
I think this would go a long way towards helping to break down barriers of language, culture, and prejudice amongst journalists in our country, and would help to create lifelong bonds of friendship and professional affiliation amongst journalists across our country. I’ve always believed that once you know somebody, and have developed something of a personal bond of friendship and/or professional respect for that person, you no longer have the luxury of being able to indulge in saying disparaging things about them and people like them, seeing that you no longer are ignorant of them and who they are and what they really stand for as individuals and as a group.
This, I feel would help to build more understanding and cross-cultural and linguistic unity in our country. If the journalists who’re covering the issues know each other quite well on both sides of the ethno-linguistic divide, then I think that they’ll hesitate that much more when it comes to falling back on old and tired regionalist forms of discourse and stereotypes, the likes we’ve seen recently from people such as the Prime Minister’s top aide who recently worked at the PMO, and had no working knowledge of French, and had a long track record of publishing very virulent anti-French and anti-Québec articles in newspapers in Toronto.
Now that I’ve finished my gallivanting across Canada for the time being, I can only hope that the media moguls of this country will hear my appeal and do something positive for the country which has been so good to them. Canada, the big village. Sometimes we get so lost in it we don’t realize we’re all in it together!