BEN VICCARI: Ex-CEMA President, Ethnic Media Icon and Champion of Multiculturalism Passes Away at 92 in Toronto

January 26, 2015

Born Benedetto Viccari on July 2, 1918, he was the son of an Italian barber who immigrated to England with his wife. Ben was educated at the Clapham Xaverian College in London, England, but kept his knowledge of Italian, a talent that would serve him well during the Second World War, when he fought with the Allied forces, first as an artilleryman and later as a member of the Military Mission to the Italian Army. In 1946 and 47, he worked as a story analyst with Rank Organization (films). He arrived in Canada in 1947, acquired citizenship in 1953, worked in public relations and then as managing editor of an Italian language weekly, television commentator, and with In Sync Productions, where he was the co-producer and co-writer of documentary films, one of which, The M Word, won a Canadian Association of Broadcasters Gold Ribbon for OMNI-TV in 2008. For 15 years, he was managing editor of the now defunct Canadian Scene, a multilingual, free news service for ethnic media, and Webmaster of Canscene – Canada’s Multicultural Scene and Losode; President, CEMA 1989-2008. Ben won the first Sierhey Khmara Ziniak Award in 1995 which is given by CEMA for excellence in ethnic journalism. Ben was active in ethnic media and communications until the very end, and was all set to dial in to the CEMA Board of Directors meeting today.  Until the fall of 2009, he continued recording his bi-weekly commentaries for OMNI-TV, lambasting errant politicians and religious leaders alike, fighting any kind of censorship, reviewing books on politics, literature and ethnicity, lending the full force of his English accented voice to anti-racism struggles and proclaiming Canada as the beacon of successful Multiculturalism that was an example to a conflict-ridden world. He leaves his wife Anne, son Paul (Susi), daughter Brenda (Josh), step-daughters Beverleigh (Sandy) and Cheryl (John), brother John (Betty) of England. Beloved poppa of Aaron, Claire, Camille, Jayson and Tara, predeceased by Tracey and Sean.

Beloved poppi of Avery, Elena, Mia, Devon, Kayla, Jennifer, McKenzie, Noah, Tyler and Marcus.

After his death, tributes poured in from all quarters, praising Ben’s single-minded devotion to the cause of Multiculturalism and the Ethnic Media. Here are some of them (more will be added as they come in towards the end of this post. Pleases also see comments that people have been leaving, at the end of the post.):

Lenny Lombardi, President the multicultural CHIN Radio said in his tribute: “I will always remember Ben as a charming, sophisticated and thoroughly lovable man that was a leading voice for multiculturalism. I will miss his enthusiasm for CEMA and our multicultural reality, I’ll miss his visits to CHIN RADIO and to the CHIN Picnic, which he always attended. I’ll miss his gentle spirit. Thank you Ben for your leadership and\ commitment to building, promoting and supporting the development of ethnic media in Canada. Your path has shown the way for so many to follow. God Bless.”

Madeline Ziniak, National Vice-President of OMNI-TV and Chair of CEMA’s Board, and a close friend of Ben’s for many years, said: “Ben Viccari” was a  trailblazer  and champion  of ethnic media .His zeal and passion for multilingual media to have a deserved and rightful  place in Canadian society was inspirational. He leaves a legacy of determination, positive thinking and feistiness.”

Dat Nguyen, Publisher of the Thoi Bao Newspaper and Acting President of CEMA: “Ben had been a tower of strength in the Ethnic Media.  He has been a pioneer, a leader, a mentor in the Multicultural Media field in Canada. He has inspired many of us during our journey in the journalism and media profession. Thank you Ben and may you rest in peace. My sincere condolences to Ann and the family.”

Yvonne Bogorya-Buczkowski CEMA Member and Director of the Canadian Ethnocultural Council: “It is with great sadness that I’ve just found out that Ben Viccari has passed away. I was away from Toronto attending 3-day conference in Windsor, Ont. Upon my return I’ve found out and missed the celebration of his life ceremony. He was such a tireless advocate of multiculturalism, a man who had many contacts and was in the centre of ethnic press networks/ politics and social media. He was a great asset for CEMA – we shall really miss his smile and his great energy and passion. I’ve known him for many , many years since the time I joined CEMA. My condolences to all CEMA executives and members.”

Renato Zane, Vice President / General Manager for Citytv Vancouver and OMNI B.C., another close friend and colleague, wrote from British Columbia: “Ben was a man of infinite integrity and dignity who made a tremendous impact in the lives of untold numbers of people.  His elegance, wit and wisdom will be missed greatly.”

Irene Chu, CEMA Treasurer and TV Producer and Publisher, had this to say: “I’m deeply, deeply saddened by Ben’s passing. He was one of those rare leaders who was tireless in his efforts and gave all he could for the causes he championed. Those of us who have known him for many years always marvel at his energy, his vigour and his total dedication. His legacies will always live on among us.”

Here is an encapsulated bio of Ben Viccari – A lifetime devoted to communications, language, multiculturalism and the ethnic media

Born, July 2, 1918, London, England

Educated: Clapham Xaverian College London.

France, Northern Ireland, England, Italy (1939-46) Wartime service with Royal Artillery and Military Mission to Italian Army (1939-46).

Work History

England (1946-47) Story Analyst, Production Facilities, Films, a department of J. Arthur Rank Organization

Canada (1947 -79) Various management and consulting positions in communications industry. (General Foods, Turnbull Elevator Limited, Ontario Lottery Corporation. Olympic Coin Program, 1976, Government of Region of Campania, Italy, Canada’s Wonderland)

Canada (1980) Publisher and Managing Editor, Oggi Canada, Italian language weekly.

Canada (1981-85) Communications consultant, mainly to York Division , Canada Post Corporation.

Canada (1986-2000) Managing Editor, Canadian Scene a multilingual news and information service for Canada’s ethnic media, publishing in 13 languages

Canada (1996-2009 ) Commentator, OMNI TV’s Commentary.

Canada – 2005 – 2008, Writer, host and co-producer of OMNI-funded documentaries The Third Element and The ‘M’ Word

Freelance writer, Toronto Star, Performing Arts in Canada, Mayfair Magazine and other media.

Author three unproduced screenplays

Volunteer Service:

Founding editor, PR in Canada, national organ of Canadian Public Relations Society (1957 -59)

President, Canadian Public Relations Society Toronto (Inc) 1960-61

Founder-director, Toronto Outdoor Exhibition, (1961-64).

Publicity chair, Villa Colombo, Toronto (1974-1980)

President, Toronto Press Club (1981-82)

President, Canadian Ethnic Journalists’ and Writers’ Club (1998 – 2008)

Member, Celebrate Canada Committee for Ontario (1998 –06)

Publisher, Canscene — Canada’s Multicultural Scene (2001 –) an internet magazine also carrying Canadian Ethnic Journalists’ and Writers’ Club newsletter.

(Compiled and Written by Zuhair [Kash] Kashmeri, Webmaster)


We lost an important person for multiculturalism in his loving personality, passion and sincere. Please let me know about your meeting [to celebrate his life]. I will be there.

Dae-Tong Huh President, Variety Crossing Press, Toronto

When I put up Manila Media Monitor after coming to Canada, it was Ben Viccari’s writings in Canadian Scene that inspired me to write also on what was happening in other communities, thus, giving my readers the whole multicultural picture of the society in which Filipinos move about. To me, Ben was not only a father of the ethnic delivers outgoing speech as president media, but served as a father-figure to me, too, having lost mine at the age of 16.

Ace Alvarez, publisher Manila Media Monitor (Ace Alvarez served for eight years as secretary to Ben’s 10-year tenure as CEMA president, and succeeded him to the presidency after his retirement)

Ben taught me that the relevance and importance of Diversity and Multiculturalism resides on each one of us and on our constant reminder not to keep quiet when faced with racism, discrimination and lack of consciousness. It was an honour to work with Ben for several years in the production of the CEMA Awards show, as this was a yearly testament and recognition of the values for which Ben stood up, wrote about and defended. Thanks Ben, we’ll miss you! Erick Nettel Senior Producer Diversity Programming OMNI Television

Ben’s passing is a great loss. So many of us have benefited from his wisdom, guidance and generosity. I am thankful for having known him. Farewell Ben!

Jules Elder, Assoc. Producer and Headline Editor, OMNI-TV

Very sad news. My deepest sympathies and condolences to Anne and all family members upon the passing of Ben. He was both the head and the spiritual leader of CEMA, and always will be an inspiration to all who knew him.

Elena Zolotko CEMA Board Member, Columnist for the Russian Courier

Ben started his first web site, Canscene when he was nearly 80 years old. He was a fellow Mac (intosh) fan, a good friend and an inspiration.

Bill Andersen (A Ben fan who helped him take Canscene online, a CEMA friend, and a major supporter and helper of our website)

Canada and the ethnic media scene has lost a gentle giant! I remember Ben fondly as he got me in as a member and later presented me with a cherished award. Gone but not forgotten. Rest in Peace Ben.

Naeem (Nick) Noorani, Founder/Publisher The Canadian Immigrant Magazine and a CEMA Board member

Ben hosted me and my wife when I visited Toronto in 1997 to accept my first award, and he was very gracious. He was the one, with his Canscene, who inspired me to start a multicultural newspaper in Alberta, and he invited me to serve on the board of CEMA. I will miss him. Arnim Joop, editor/publisher ALBERTANER and a CEMA board member