The following are responses to COVID-19 Letters of Concern sent to Government Leaders and Health Officials to CEMA chair, Madeline Ziniak and board members Pauline Tong and Averill Maroun. We’ll update this list as we receive responses to this campaign.
Letter from Jill Andrew, MPP, Toronto-St. Paul’s to Honourable Minister Lisa MacLeod
Honourable Minister Lisa MacLeod
Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries
438 University Avenue, 6th Floor
Toronto, ON M5G 2K8
May 09, 2020
Greetings Honourable Minister MacLeod,
I continue to hope you, your family and your community are managing to keep as safe and healthy as possible during this unprecedented pandemic.
COVID-19 has left an indelible mark on our collective consciousness. It has wreaked havoc on the physical, social, mental and economic lives of Ontarians either through their direct experiences with the virus or through its vicarious trauma. It has also impacted the production and dissemination of culturally-relevant pandemic information.
In my last correspondence, I articulated many of the struggles of community members and stakeholders within our culture sector. I provided several remedies including the creation of a stabilization fund to help culture creators with their advertising and marketing needs.
Today, I continue to hear from ethnic, community and multilingual news media producers and member associations that they are experiencing the drying up of advertising revenue. Many have had to shutter due to COVID-19. They are calling for direct support from their provincial government and I am in full support of this call.
We, the Ontario NDP Official Opposition have proposed an Ethnic & Community Media Stabilization Fund with allocated advertising dollars for ethnic and community outlets. This provincial stabilization fund is crucial for Ontario’s diverse communities to receive true, accurate and timely information at all times not to mention during a pandemic. This is particularly essential for non-English and French-speaking Ontarians who are depending on life-saving health information via print, radio, television and online that they can understand and put into practice.
Ethnic, local and multilingual media producers represent an integral part of who we are as Ontarians. They tell our diverse stories and keep some of our most vulnerable community members such as our senior citizens connected to current news here and also abroad. Direct p provincial support to this sector during COVID-19 and in its recovery is how we ensure these diverse media outlets are sustained and amplified.
I trust that you are invested in supporting our ethnic, local, multilingual media producers and cultural workers and that you will respond affirmatively to our sector’s call.
Dr. Jill Andrew, PhD
Ontario NDP Culture Critic
Women’s Issues Critic
Cc: Premier Doug Ford, Ontario
A Letter from the office of Dr. Eileen de Villa, Medical Officer of Health for the City of Toronto
Dear Ms. Maroun and Ms. Ziniak,
Thank you for your email of concern advocating to ensure that diverse communities receive equitable access to important public health information in their language of comfort.
To support the City of Toronto’s COVID-19 response, Toronto Public Health has taken the following actions to provide both culturally inclusive and accessible multilingual resources for the public:
- Use of graphics to reinforce the content (e.g. infographics).
- Writing in short sentences, using clear language that is easy to translate.
- Using HTML text on our website, which enables Google Translate at the bottom of the web page, into 51 languages.
- Enlisting community partners as interpreters, and for communicating messaging to their clients in their language, in a culturally appropriate manner.
- Use of repetition. Repeating information in different ways. People often need to hear something more than once to understand and remember it.
- Embracing diversity in our workforce.
- Having translators in multiple languages available to answer questions from the general public on our COVID-19 Hotline (416-338-7600).
An information sheet about COVID-19 is also available on our website in English, French,Cantonese, Farsi, Italian, Korean, Mandarin, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Tamil and Urdu.
Additionally, the Province of Ontario has translated their COVID-19 fact sheet into many languages, available here: https://www.ontario.ca/page/covid-19-stop-spread#section-5.
Please visit the Toronto COVID-19 website regularly to learn about the current health situation, affected City services and economic support.
Ulla Wise, RN MN
COVID-19 Liaison Team
Manager, Vulnerable Adults & Seniors
Toronto Public Health
Letter from the office of Dr. Theresa Tam, Chief Public Health Officer of Canada
Thank you for your correspondence.
The Government of Canada understands that individuals like yourself are concerned about their health and safety and are seeking reliable information about the current COVID-19 pandemic.
We recognize the significant strain that COVID-19 has placed on individuals and families across the country. We wanted you to be aware that Wellness Together Canada provides free online resources, tools, apps and connections to trained volunteers and qualified mental health professionals when needed.
We are reviewing all messages that we receive through this channel, and will respond as quickly as we are able. In the meantime, we wanted you to be aware of where you can find the latest information and resources on COVID-19 by the Government of Canada, such as:
- Regular televised briefings by the Prime Minister, Cabinet Ministers, and the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada;
- Our main website, which includes commonly requested information such as (FAQs, Guidance documents, Awareness resources including factsheets and videos, as well as information on prevention and risks, travel restrictions and exemptions and screening for symptoms);
- A Virtual Assistant that aims to help you find information quickly and effectively;
- A service that sends updates directly to your email regarding important health and safety information related to COVID-19 from the Government of Canada;
- A new COVID-19 app that you are able to download for the most up-to-date information, recommendations, and resources; and
- Following the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada on Twitter and visiting us on Facebook.
Canadians are also encouraged to visit the websites of their respective province or territory for the most up-to-date information and latest guidance specific to their own province or territory. Links can be found here.
If you have questions that are not answered using the resources above, you may wish to call us at 1-833-784-4397 (interpretation services are available in multiple languages). We will do our best to answer your question on the phone, and if we are not able, we will call you back as soon as possible with further information.
We hope that this information is helpful in addressing your concerns and thank you for writing.
Letter from the office of Andrea Horwath, Leader of the Ontario NDP Party, and Official Leader of the Opposition.
Dear Madeline and Averill,
Thank you very much for being in touch with the Office of Andrea Horwath, Leader of the Official Opposition New Democrats.
We share CEMA’s concerns with the lack of funding and outreach from the current governments to ethno-cultural communities. We are particularly concerned by the lack of ad placement in ethnic and community media – papers, radio and TV. Andrea shared those concerns last week and we plan to continue to push this issue with the provincial government.
We believe that the provincial government should designate ad dollars to ethnic and community media and create a stabilization fund for these outlets to help them weather the COVID-19 pandemic. For many outlets, their main sources of revenue have dried up and in order for them to continue to be able to disseminate crucial information to their communities, will need some support.
I’d be happy to discuss ways that Andrea can connect with CEMA on this issue and help amplify your concerns. Would you be available to discuss by phone?
Please let me know what works.
Jennifer Yin Barrett
Director, Community Engagement
416-325-5710 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Office of Andrea Horwath, Leader of the Official Opposition
Ontario’s New Democrats | Nouveau Parti démocratique
Letter from the office of Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti
thank you for your email to Mayor Scarpitti. Please accept this response as confirmation of receipt. We will review the letter internally.
thank you and all members of CEMA for the important work you’re doing educating the public through communications mediums of the public health emergency. I am confident that by working together, we will get through this.
I am very glad to hear that you’re a Markham resident. Our community is blessed to have wonderfully engaged and civic minded leaders such as yourself.
I wish you and your family all the very best. stay safe,
Chief of Staff to the Mayor
Letter from Shaun Chen, MP for Scarborough North
Dear Ms. Tong,
Thank you for your e-mail and sharing the letter from the Canadian Ethnic Media Association (CEMA) to the Prime Minister regarding the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on diverse communities, and particularly the need to support ethnic media and multilingual producers.
I know that this public health crisis has affected each and every Canadian, business, faith group, non-profit, charity, and organization including the CEMA. Indeed, the CEMA has long supported diverse broadcasters across the country in serving a vital function, which is to inform, enlighten, and entertain Canada’s ethnocultural communities. In light of the unprecedented public health crisis we are faced with, the role of CEMA and its members is even more important. Supporting its broadcasters is a role that the CEMA has so ably performed. I fully agree with you that diverse broadcasters deserve support during this pandemic.
In your letter, you note in particular that ethnic media has largely felt excluded from the $30 million awareness advertising campaign announced earlier this month. Your feedback is invaluable, and I am taking the liberty of bringing your letter and your concerns to the attention of the Prime Minister’s Office and the office of the Minister of Canadian Heritage for their immediate review and consideration. Please know that our government is continuing to develop its response, and is working on additional measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nonetheless, our government recently announced the Emergency Support Fund for Cultural, Heritage and Sport Organizations. This new $500 million in 2020-21 is allocated to help address the complex financial needs of organizations that do not qualify for the existing Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS), because of the lumpy or irregular nature of their revenues, as well as to cover contract workers. The Fund will also provide advances on future grants and contributions to help maintain liquidity as well as small subsidies to cover some fixed costs. I can speak from my own experience, that as an MP I shared this valuable opportunity with diverse organizations within my riding, and I know that my fellow colleagues have done the same in their communities.
We must all continue working during these unprecedented times, not only to defeat COVID-19, but also to support organizations like the CEMA and its membership of local, independent, ethnic media, who are doing such critical work in communicating valuable, timely, accurate and important information to Canada’s diverse communities. Please know that you have my full support.
Thank you again for your tireless advocacy on behalf of our ethnic media and diverse communities. If I can be of any further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me.
CEMA’s letter to the office of Honourable Marco Mendicino
As Chair of the Canadian Ethnic Media Association ,I would like to share with you an open letter that was sent to Prime Minister Trudeau and other political leadership on behalf of CEMA board and membership, outlining our concerns in regards to lack of support and outreach to Canada’s ethnic media.
We have witnessed an alarming level of pandemic ignorance amongst ethnocultural communities whose news sources are anything but mainstream . Critical instructions and messages are not being delivered to these vulnerable diverse communities in the fight against COVID-19.
In view of Canada’s diverse ethnocultural population , why have these audiences not been given an equitable opportunity to receive important , life or death factual information in their language of comfort ?
At this critical economic time when ethnic independent producers are struggling to survive why has there not been consideration given to giving access to funding for the pandemic public awareness campaign?
It is extremely important to harness these trusted voices of Canada for key messages to be delivered as directly and effectively as possible to underserved multilingual audiences.
We are hopeful that this will stimulate immediate action and solid recommendations in support of ethnic media having a level playing field to both funding and direct access to critical information as we fight COVID-19.
As stated in the attached letter to Prime Minister Trudeau below,”The Canadian Ethnic Media Association is prepared and willing to help reach ethnic media entities and enable them to be part of the solution.”
I would be happy to answer any further questions.
Madeline Ziniak ,C.M. ,O.Ont.
Canadian Ethnic Media Association
To read CEMA’s open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, click here.
Response from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office
Dear Ms. Ziniak:
On behalf of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, I would like to acknowledge receipt of your correspondence of April 7, 2020. I regret the delay in replying.
Thank you for taking the time to write to the Prime Minister. You may be assured that your comments, offered on behalf of the Canadian Ethnic Media Association, have been carefully reviewed.
I note that you have sent a copy of your correspondence to the Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Canadian Heritage. While the Prime Minister appreciates being made aware of your concerns, he will leave the matter you raise to be considered by Minister Guilbeault.
Once again, thank you for your correspondence.
Executive Correspondence Officer
for the Prime Minister’s Office
Agent de correspondance
de la haute direction
pour le Cabinet du Premier ministre