Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Transport and Communications

Issue 1 - Evidence - February 26, 2004

OTTAWA, Thursday, February 26, 2004

The Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications met this day at 10:48 a.m. to examine the current state of Canadian media industries; emerging trends and developments in these industries; the media's role, rights, and responsibilities in Canadian society; and current and appropriate future policies relating thereto.

Senator Joan Fraser (Chairman) in the Chair.


The Chairman: Honourable senators, I would like to welcome senators, witnesses, members of the public and members of the television audience as we resume our hearings in the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications' study of the news media.


The committee is resuming its study today and the issue, in essence, is the role that the government should play to help ensure that our news media remain healthy, independent and diverse, in light of the tremendous changes that have occurred in recent years, notably globalization, convergence and increased concentration of ownership.

Our first witnesses today are from the Council on American-Islamic Relations Canada. The Council is a non-profit organization with a grassroots membership. It works in a variety of areas, including media relations, with the goal of educating Canadians and empowering Canadian Muslims.


Today we welcome, from the Council on American-Islamic Relations Canada, Sheema Khan, chair of the council, and Riad Saloojee, executive director.

Thank you both for being here. I think you understand our format, which essentially asks that you deliver an opening statement of 10 or 15 minutes and then we ask you questions.

We begin by giving you the floor. Please proceed.

Mr. Riad Saloojee, Executive Director, Council on American-Islamic Relations Canada: Honourable senators, we hope that our testimony will be useful in providing you with an increased awareness of three issues: first, a snapshot of the Canadian Muslim community and its perceptions about the Canadian media; second, media themes relating to the Canadian Muslims — the good, the bad and the ugly; and third, confronting systemic barriers with education and empowerment initiatives.

All of the above will be narrated through the experience and work of the Council on American-Islamic Relations Canada, CAIR-CAN. We are an Ottawa-based, non-profit national organization with a grassroots membership. We serve the Muslim community and are the only Muslim advocacy organization with a full-time staff. Our mandate encompasses community education, media relations, anti-discrimination and public advocacy for the Canadian Muslim community. We were established slightly before September 11 and I can assure you that our development since has been a baptism by fire.

First, I would like to turn to the Muslim community. The 1991 census indicated that there were more than 250,000 Muslims in Canada, compared with 98,000 in 1981 and 33,000 in 1971. The latest census estimates a figure of about 579,000 Canadian Muslims. Most of us came to Canada to escape racial or ideological intolerance, to flee religious and political persecution, to escape famine and, above all, to seek a better life for ourselves and our families.

Muslims make up the largest non-Christian community in 10 of 25 metropolitan areas across Canada. We have settled everywhere, but the majority of us, about 85 per cent, live in six major cities. Today, there are more than 200 mosques in Canada and Canadian Muslims themselves comprise about 44 different ethnicities.

There is a widespread wariness in the Canadian Muslim community about dealing with the media. In this respect, the Muslim community is akin to many other faith communities. As a young and growing community, a premium has been placed on infrastructure like mosques, Islamic centres and Islamic schools. Little infrastructure has been devoted to service or advocacy organizations. The Muslim community is still emerging from its chrysalis of survival mode, and integration and cultural production are slowly beginning.

Regarding media portrayal, in a survey conducted shortly after 9/11, CAIR-CAN polled about 300 Canadian Muslims across Canada comprising South Asian Canadians, Arab Canadians, African Canadians and European Canadians. We asked about the Canadian media reporting on Islam post 9/11. About 55 per cent indicated that it got more biased, 13 per cent reported that it improved and 11 per cent reported that it remains the same. Those who were reporting in a fair manner were the CBC, The Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail and CTV. When we asked the open- ended question about which were the most biased, respondents named the National Post, Global, CanWest and the Ottawa Citizen — all, incidentally, members of the CanWest family. In our travels across the country, and in our discussions with community members, activists and leaders, we found that the survey does accurately reflect the sentiment of most Canadian Muslims.

In terms of the media themes, there has been a great deal of space given to Canadian Muslims after 9/11 to narrate how they felt about the events of September 11. Space was given also to allow Muslims to express their own lived reality of what it is like to be a Canadian Muslim and how they cope with anti-discrimination and racial profiling. Unfortunately, however, there are a number of problematic and recurring hostile themes in the media. I have gone on to list five of them which are particularly commonplace and are found most commonly in Southam newspaper editorials, not simply newspaper reports or columnists but straight-up editorials.

First, some media outlets denied that the backlash even occurred. They suggested that the Muslim community had fabricated the documentation of the hate backlash en masse. One editorial said that it was hard "to get worked up about the occasional slur directed against North American Muslims."

The second theme was the charge of complicit silence that was frequently levied against Canadian Muslims. In this theme, Muslims were held to a more rigorous standard than their compatriots and were found to come up short. Canadian Muslims, it was asserted, remained "conspicuously silent" and "aside from some obligatory condemnation of terrorism ... they said little." Of course, this does not reflect the media record. When you look at the media coast to coast, there was an unequivocal condemnation of the events of September 11 from Muslim communities across Canada and a tremendous amount of space given to that narrative. Haroon Siddiqui of The Toronto Star referred to this theme as a stiffer test of patriotism that Canadian Muslims were subjected to.

The third theme is the idea of a fifth column, that is, that Canadian Muslims were sleeper terrorists waiting to undermine Canadian society. Most of these representations displayed raw speculation and an extreme paucity of hard data. In one example, a writer warned: "Not all the terrorist caves are in Afghanistan; some are in Quebec and Ontario."

The fourth theme was one of racial profiling, which was explicitly endorsed by a number of media outlets, one of whom said that "it would be criminally negligent" not to engage in racial profiling.

The last theme was one of a clash of civilizations. Many outlets continue to propound the academically discredited thesis of a clash of civilizations, insisting that Muslims were a martial people and that their values were anathema to our values. With such commentary, no hope of symbiosis seems to be possible, only a self-fulfilling prophesy on civilizational conflict.

A case in point that only served to reinforce community concern was a national editorial published by the CanWest- owned Southam on April 2, 2002. The editorial appeared across Canada in various names. In the Saskatoon Star Phoenix, "Word Games Won't Do," is the title; in the Edmonton Journal, it was called "Apocalyptic Creed." The article strongly suggested — and I will leave it up to you to go over it — that Islam and Muslims condone violence, that Arabs and Muslims are a barbaric people, that Palestinian Arabs and Muslims send their children to their deaths for public relations coverage, that Palestinian Arabs and Muslims use the sanctity of relief work and ambulances to promote violence and that, as in the case of the Edmonton Journal, "Palestinian Arabs and Muslims have an Apocalyptic creed."

In terms of how the Muslim community has confronted these systemic barriers, it has essentially been with education and empowerment. In general, the Canadian Muslim community possesses a basic and simplistic understanding of the inner workings of the media, of time lines, of deadlines of little time for primary research, and a common but unfortunate reservoir of quick and easy stereotypes.

CAIR-CAN's activism has been varied but is essentially focused on education and engagement. For the Canadian Muslim community, we developed an intensive media workshop, Media Relations 101, which we delivered across Canada in almost every major Canadian city. I think we delivered over 25 workshops. The workshop was intended to provide a concise but thorough overview of the essential language and tools for media engagement. For journalists, we developed a publication called A Journalist's Guide to Islam which is a practical resource publication that provides a succinct overview of Islam in Canada, Islamic history, fundamental tenets of the faith, topics of misunderstanding and controversy, a glossary of Islamic terminology, media resources and practical suggestions for more nuanced coverage of Islam.

One of the most promising areas of media activism and one that has generated much optimism in the Muslim community has been our work in publishing opinion pieces. To date, we have published 39 opinion pieces, primarily in The Globe and Mail. Also, with varying degrees of success and difficulty we have published in other major print dailies. The pieces dealt with profiling, Maher Arar, multiculturalism, women in Islam, misinterpretation of the Koranic texts, Islam and democracy, the hijab controversy, Islamophobia, dismantling of obsessive strictures in society and anti- Semitism.

In conclusion, I would suggest that the media's production is not benign. Our organization has noted a startling similarity between media myths on Islam and Muslims such as those I mentioned earlier and the hate texts of many of the anti-Muslim incidents that we have documented. The media both mirrors and manufactures society. In its latter roll, namely, that of manufacturing consent in society, the media does have responsibilities. As Senator Davey noted in the famed Davey report, the media's freedom is limited by its social responsibility to respect the freedom of access to informed and diverse opinion.

Policy opinions are, of course, diverse and hotly debated. One critical initiative, though, and one true to both a libertarian and responsible view of the media is to ensure that aggrieved groups have adequate access to present their own counter narratives. Our marketplace of ideas would demand no less.

The Chairman: Could you provide A Journalist's Guide to Islam to our clerk?

Mr. Saloojee: I would be happy to do that.

Senator Phalen: Thank you for your presentation. I would be interested in knowing if your organization, or any other organization, is keeping statistics on the media representation of Islam.

Mr. Saloojee: There are a number of surveys on this. One was produced by the Canadian Council of Muslim Women, which was an overview of the media post 9/11, particularly as it related to Canadian Muslims and the representation of Muslim women. The other is a survey by the Canadian Islamic Congress. It is a yearly survey where they examine media in Canada. We have written a number of research and academic papers on this as well where we have looked at the media post 9/11 and culled examples of those themes that I discussed earlier.

Senator Phalen: Are there any differences between the American and Canadian media outlets?

Ms. Sheema Khan, Chair, Council on American-Islamic Relations Canada: Honourable senators, the American media is very wide. You have one end of the spectrum, with the Fox news network, all the way to the other end, for example, the New York Times.

In Canada, there seems to be much less ideology in certain classes of the news media. We have found, though, in our studies that CanWest outlets do present a view which is, at times, not thorough or not complete in terms of issues affecting Muslims in Canada and throughout the world.

Senator Phalen: In their testimony before this committee, Rogers Communications explained that there are two ethnic TV stations, OMNI-1 and OMNI-2, providing multicultural and multilingual programming to 40 different ethnic groups in 33 languages. Has your organization been able to take advantage of that gateway? If so, what benefits did you realize from it?

Mr. Saloojee: We have done a fair amount of media work with OMNI. Typically, they have come to us for commentary on the issues that we raise in the Canadian media scene. We have not, however, had any formal programming in terms of, let us say, a weekly or biweekly spot. We have not moved in that direction yet. That is primarily due to resources and resource constraints.

I believe that there are a number of Muslim organizations and individuals that do take advantage of this particular outlet, as well as other opportunities, most importantly local radio and TV opportunities. There is, for example, a program out of Toronto, I think called Radio Islam, and it is every week. There is also a very well recognized program run out of Montreal, a radio program by the name of Caravans, which has been nationally acclaimed as well. Those are the two that come to mind regarding the production of knowledge and work by the Canadian Muslim community.

Senator Graham: You seem to point the finger to the CanWest group generally as being unsympathetic to your cause. What steps have you taken to rectify that situation, if any?

Ms. Khan: I will mention a few, and perhaps Mr. Saloojee can complement that.

CanWest has now disbanded it, but they used to have a national editorial policy where they would have one editorial emanating, I think, from Winnipeg, to be spread throughout the land in all of the publications. We would respond with letters to the editor, and they would or would not be published. In the case of the editorial that is reproduced in this appendix that went nationwide, we issued a nationwide alert to our membership to have people write in their own words to the local papers where these editorials appeared explaining what they found so distasteful or inaccurate. That is one area.

We have, again, tried to show the other point of view in discussions and through writing, but we found that it has been hit or miss. In this regard, one of the most frustrating aspects, especially with regard to the National Post, is provincial press councils have been an effective way of dealing with disagreements, but those are dependent on the newspaper voluntarily becoming a member. When a newspaper is not part of a press council, it is very difficult to take it to a higher level. That is one of the frustrations we have found with the National Post. When there has been a disagreement, where we feel it has been unfair, there is no recourse, if you like, to a higher body.

Mr. Saloojee: Just to add to that, one of our approaches is that if there is anything negative printed in newspapers, we would respond either with a letter to the editor or, more important, with an opinion piece. If the piece is so egregious and so serious that it simply cannot be dealt with effectively in a small 200-word letter, then we approach the editor to write an opinion piece.

Generally, we have a very strong and professional body of opinion pieces. We have noted that sometimes, if the opinion piece is too well done, I would even suggest, and outside of the comfort zone of newspapers, it is simply not printed and discarded, which makes it very difficult to have an effective rebuttal. All we ask is that if there is something that we think is inaccurate or in some cases misinformation, that we have a fair opportunity to respond to it and put our idea, our narrative, into that marketplace of ideas.

Sometimes there has been a lot of resistance to printing opinion pieces. Sometimes, as in the case of the National Post, it really gets very unethical. One example that comes to mind is we submitted a letter to the editor, and the letter was substantively altered by the National Post. It was not simply edited for style; it was substantially altered. The essential argument of the letter that we presented was altered. When we protested against this, it was altered again. Finally, it was reproduced only with strong advocacy on our part and really the threat of legal action. That, to my mind, was a very powerful example of a very biased policy, one that would actually edit substantively the letter of a reader who submitted it.

In other cases, some newspapers have attacked us directly. One incident that comes to mind is a piece by Ms. Khan published in The Globe and Mail entitled "Canadians Still Nasty to Muslims." We do not have any control over the title, and that title was suggested by The Globe and Mail editor. The content of the piece was simply to look at incidents of Islamophobia in Canadian society, for example, Islamophobia by one of the political parties in Canada, a statement made by someone at a riding association and another made by a rector of a Canadian university. Essentially, the piece called for dealing with Islamophobia in order to recapture the spirit of Canadian tolerance. The piece was not a wholesale condemnation of Canadian society by any stretch of the imagination. The Globe and Mail titled it "Canadians Still Nasty to Muslims," and the Calgary Herald went on to write an editorial about that particular op ed, saying, in effect, Who are these Muslims to criticize Canada with its rule of law and its spirit of equality? Let them go and criticize the sordid state of affairs in the Muslim world. It was a misrepresentation of the intent and the letter of the article itself.

Senator Graham: Is that the op ed piece that appeared February 14?

Mr. Saloojee: I do not have the date, but I can find that for you.

Ms. Khan: This was an op ed piece that appeared in 2003.

Senator Graham: Let me go back to the piece that you said was extensively edited for the National Post. Was it shortened? Was the intent of the letter altered to the extent that the whole meaning of the letter was changed — the focus? Was it altered to the extent that the reader received a different message?

Mr. Saloojee: Yes, it was altered to the extent that our essential message was altered and changed. It was certainly edited for length, which is fine, because typically letters are edited for length. I do not recall if it was edited for style but that is also acceptable and within the prerogative of the newspaper. The essential message that we wished to convey was changed. We were very surprised at this. We certainly took it up with the editor and it was only after much back and forth that we were finally able to resolve on a version of the letter that was acceptable and that accurately conveyed our sentiment and our argument.

The Chairman: Would it be possible to have copies of these letters. It is not the usual practice of this committee to get individual in editing decisions. However, because there has been a lengthy and interesting discussion of this one, it would be helpful to see the material that you are talking about. Having been an editor and the victim of editors for many years, I know how contentious these matters can be and how widely opinions can vary on appropriate editing.

Mr. Saloojee: I can forward the correspondence.

Senator Graham: You asked the question I was going to ask, with the greatest respect to the chair. I think that you should provide us with the original letter and the final letter, as it appeared in the National Post.

The Chairman: Although I gather that the final letter was not as much their problem as the interim versions of the editing were their problems.

Mr. Saloojee: Yes.

Senator Graham: We are interested in what finally appeared in the paper as opposed to the original letter.

Ms. Khan: I just want to add that a legal letter was sent, which resulted in the final version appearing as it did.

Senator Graham: That would be an important part of the package that we would be looking for.

The Chairman: Indeed.

Senator Graham: — if there was a legal intervention. I have one more question related to the Web site of the Council on American-Islamic Relations Canada. It says that you share a close but presumably distinct relationship with a Washington, D.C.-based CAIR. What is the difference between the two groups? What is your experience in the U.S? You cited in Canada that CanWest is unsympathetic. Is there a specific group of newspapers in the U.S. that are unsympathetic or conversely very supportive?

Mr. Saloojee: CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations is based in Washington, D.C. and is our sister organization. We are a member of the CAIR family. We are the sister organization of CAIR in the United States but we are active in Canada. We are distinct in the sense that our board is comprised of Canadian scholars, activists and citizens. We have essential autonomy in terms of our activism in Canada.

The areas that we work in are similar. We both work in the areas of media relations, anti-discrimination and public advocacy. That is the relationship with CAIR. The relationship with CAIR in the United States is, of course, a much more difficult one. The American media is much more unsympathetic. The terrain in Canada is much more tolerant and open, and we have not found the obstacles and prejudices that CAIR has in the United States.

Certainly, one aspect of that is that September 11 happened in the United States and there is still a very raw and prejudicial climate against American Muslims. In Canada, because of our cultural differences and because of the fact that Canada is essentially different from the United States, our ethos and our norms tend to be much more tolerant and much more give-and-take. Our experience has been much more positive than the experience of CAIR in the United States.

Ms. Khan: With regard to publications and outlets in the United States, the Fox Network has shows such as The O'Reilly Factor and Hannady and Colms that have not been very sympathetic toward American Muslims. With the rise of the neo-conservative agenda in the United States, publications associated with that movement have also produced commentary that has been rather hurtful towards Muslims in the United States.

Senator Graham: Have you asked for, and if so, have you been granted, meetings with the editorial boards of major newspapers in Canada?

Ms. Khan: We have been pretty successful with The Globe and Mail, with whom we have quite an open relationship. I know that a few years ago we tried to develop one with the Ottawa Citizen locally but we were turned down. The National Post is not open to anyone, apparently. The Canadian Islamic Congress tried very hard to meet with them and they were refused. We have not followed up on that.

Mr. Saloojee: We have also met with the Edmonton Journal and that was a very cordial and successful meeting, as well.

Senator Merchant: You have told us quite a bit about the print media. Do you think it is the medium that shapes Canadian opinion? Is it the most important medium for shaping Canadian opinion vis-à-vis the Muslim community? What about the electronic media? What is your feeling about the way you have been portrayed on television?

Mr. Saloojee: I would suggest that the print media is important, but I think equally, if not more, important is television media. I say that because of the primacy of the image in television media, where the visual effect places a premium, as Neil Postman suggested, on change, violence and turbulence. Our engagement in terms of reporting what we thought to be inaccurate has involved the inappropriate placement of images and the juxtaposition of images. One example comes to mind. With the CBC, there was a report about violence and the sound of the Islamic call to prayer was broadcast in the background. As well, images presented as Islam have been violent. When the cataclysmic plates in the Muslim world start to shift and grate, that is when we typically start to cover the Muslim world.

In general, one of the structural problems or challenges with the coverage of Islam is that very few resources are devoted to studying the Muslim world in its diversity. There are few correspondents stationed out there for prolonged periods of time so that they may gain familiarity with the language, the culture and the dynamics. As a matter of fact, in general within Canada, the number of reporters devoted to religion is few. You could count them on one hand.

Consequently, there is not as much religious literacy as there needs to be in reporting, be that in the print media but also in the television media. Typically, Islam is seen through a lens of crisis. Whenever there is a crisis abroad — political, economic or otherwise — the reporting begins. The Muslim world is seen through this lens of crisis. What is normative about Islam as a faith — its values, ethos and principles — is not as well known as the normative of other faiths. That is a particular challenge that we face. How do we make the journalistic community more literate about religion and more sensitive to the nuances of culture, politics, economics and social factors when they cover religion?

Too often we find a very reductionist approach applied to the reporting of Islam. Anything that happens in the Muslim world is usually taken to be synonymous with Islam the faith. If it is a political act, it is reduced to a religious cause. If it is an economic or social issue, it is reduced to a religious cause. Unfairly, Islam is not presented in the context it needs to be. It is not presented in a nuanced way. Everything good or bad — and it is mostly bad — is usually reduced to a religious motive or cause, and that tends to be inaccurate.

Senator Merchant: What can you do to improve the way that the religion and the Muslim community are portrayed on television, and how do you get the Canadian audience to watch it?

Ms. Khan: We have found human interest stories are perhaps one of the most effective ways of conveying human values that I think most Canadians would find universal.

On the flip side, the Haj pilgrimage has received extensive coverage, for example; Canadians going and preparing for the trip. There is always coverage about the month of Ramadan and the values associated with the spirit of self- sacrifice, of helping the needy.

In that sense, perhaps the international events, as Mr. Saloojee has indicated, do give one side, which, we believe, is not, unfortunately, an accurate portrayal.

In Canada, the Muslim community and individuals are starting to take it upon themselves to educate, at the grass roots level, community organizations, schools and the media about such things as fasting, prayer and pilgrimage. That is the area we will focus on.

Senator Merchant: How do members of the Muslim community get their news? Do they get it through print? Do they like to read stories about everything, for example, Canada? I am interested in what kind of media they prefer, particularly, the young people. Are they using the Internet? How do they get their information?

Ms. Khan: It depends on the crowd. If you look to the immigrant community, it is usually through the satellite dish. People like to follow events back home. There are also community newspapers in various languages relating events from the home country.

The younger generation, as you point out, is more Internet savvy. The Internet has provided a window of diverse media outlets. Many people do watch the CBC to get a picture of what is happening.

Senator Jaffer: I want to thank the two witnesses for being here and for conveying their issues so articulately. It really helps.

I have a few short questions. First, in regard to the Edmonton Journal, you said you were received well there. This is where the Muslim community was first founded, in Edmonton, and there is a large Muslim community in Edmonton; is that correct?

Mr. Saloojee: Yes.

Senator Jaffer: When was the last time you tried to meet with the Ottawa Citizen editorial board?

Ms. Khan: We met following a complaint with the Ontario Press Council, when the term "the Islamic bomb," was used, referring to the nuclear capability of Pakistan. At that time, Russell Mills was still the publisher. He was very good at trying to get us more involved. That might have been three years ago.

Senator Jaffer: You said you were the only advocacy group with the media. Did I understand that correctly?

Mr. Saloojee: We are the only full-time advocacy group. One of our aims has been not to subsist on volunteerism. We do have four employees, two full-time and two part-time.

Senator Jaffer: You have covered this in some of the questions you have answered, that is, the misinformation about Islam. Do you have full-time scholars working with you — not on a volunteer basis — but full time to explain Islam?

Mr. Saloojee: One of the gentleman on our board is Jamal Badawi, a professor of both religion and management at St. Mary's, in Halifax. He is generally understood to be perhaps one of the best North American Islamic scholars, if not the premier. There are also a number of capable scholars in North America as well that we do draw on from time to time and as need be. Ingrid Mattson, who is a pioneer on issues of women in Islam, is Canadian, although she is based in the United States. There is also Imam Faisal Kutty who lives in Toronto who is a comparative scholar and has been very committed and dedicated to interfaith and intercommunity dialogue.

There are a number of resources in Canada that we draw from with regard to Islamic scholars and scholarship.

Senator Jaffer: Ms. Khan, I have a question regarding the issues of women in Islam. I commend you on the articles you write. Can you tell us if there are further challenges than what Mr. Saloojee has mentioned to portray women in Islam?

Ms. Khan: The most recent piece that we published on women in Islam was on February 14. We tried to present a more realistic situation than the ideal versus the other end, which generalizes that all Muslim women are oppressed. That is what we would like to tackle: first, to acknowledge the injustices that do occur within our community, like any other community; and, second, to categorically state that these actions are many times contrary to the principles of the faith and then also to point out what the community is trying to do to correct these injustices. This operation or the way that the community is dealing with its problems is repeated amongst many different types of communities throughout Canada.

In that sense, we hope to educate the Canadian public that our humanity is not different, in that sense. We go through the same problems. We perhaps discuss our problems and our solutions within a different paradigm.

Senator Gustafson: I have a few questions about your organization as such. You state you are a non-profit organization. Do you receive non-profit status from Revenue Canada?

Mr. Saloojee: We are not charitable, but we are non-profit. We do have non-profit status. We are not a charity, so we do not issue tax receipts. We live through the donations of individual members.

Senator Gustafson: How large is your publication? Is it a weekly or monthly publication?

Mr. Saloojee: We have a number of ways to do that. We have a national e-mail list across Canada. We typically post our press releases, our action alerts. We also cull twice a week, I think, issues of relevance to Canadian Muslims published in the Canadian media. We bring that together as a form of a media watch, and we present that.

The second area of our publications is a number of guides to Islam and Islamic practices for journalists, educators, employers, and health providers. Those are generally created for the service sector to educate Canadians about Islam and Islamic practices and, for employers and educators, issues about religious accommodation that Canadian Muslims might need.

We also have a minority rights pocket guide, which we developed after September 11, which has been very much in high demand. Essentially, that aims at making Canadian Muslims more legally literate about their rights in Canada. Many Canadian Muslims came to Canada precisely because of its very strong, proud and entrenched legal tradition, but many of us do not know about our legal rights. If I did not go to law school, I would not have learned about them as well. The publication is meant to encapsulate your legal rights under the human rights code, under the Constitution, what to do if you are racially profiled or if the RCMP or CSIS visits you. These have been chronic problems post- September 11 and this guide was a way to ameliorate those.

Senator Gustafson: You gave us numbers and I did not get the dates. There were 250,000 Muslims in Canada, I think, and now 579,000. What were the dates of the 250,000 and the 579,000?

Mr. Saloojee: The 250,000 figure was from the 1991 census, and the 579,000 figure was from the latest census, which was 2001.


Senator Corbin: The witnesses talked about the editorial aspect in Canadian media. Could they share with us their views on the way in which the French-language media, including Radio-Canada, are dealing with the problems of Islam?


Ms. Khan: You are asking about the French media, I presume primarily in Quebec. Unfortunately, if there has been one weakness with regards to our organization it has been in the French media, and engagement and contribution. Our staff is primarily English speaking and therefore we have not spent the time that we should with regard to the situation in Quebec.

We do, however, receive much feedback from Muslims in Quebec about media coverage in that province. I cannot comment on that at the moment because I am not up to date on it regarding the present situation. I only have information from about five years ago.


Senator Corbin: The programs I have been able to catch on the French CBC network seem to me to be quite objective with regard to Islam. I for example listened to a half-hour program on Ramadan, that explained in great detail the customs, practices and family gatherings. I believe that the program had a very positive impact.

Given the influence of the CBC, through its numerous networks throughout the country, its programming should interest you. The reports broadcast over the CBC airwaves are overall quite objective it seems.


Are you basically a lay organization?

Mr. Saloojee: A lay organization in what sense?

Senator Corbin: Are you cleric driven or is this whole initiative basically a layperson's initiative? I know in Islam you do not normally make this kind of distinction, but I think it would be informative for us to know who is behind this whole effort. Is it the clerics or is it the run-of-the-mill Islamic person?

Mr. Saloojee: To answer the question, the members of our board are Canadian citizens. We have professors, doctors, teachers and lawyers. Those are the people who are primarily involved in running the organization, and our constituency is really Canadian Muslims at large. The Canadian Muslim community from coast to coast are the people who we serve and their issues are the ones we address. Those issues have been diverse and varied. They have been issues of multiculturalism, which is a patently Canadian issue, issues of racial profiling and the rule of law, which is certainly a Canadian issue, issues of the erosion of civil rights, again a Canadian issue, issues of the anti-terrorism bill and the gutting of certain rights and freedoms, and the challenges that it poses to the Constitution architecture in this country, which is a Canadian issue.

The issues that we have are certainly Canadian. In terms of some of the suggestions of this idea between religious versus secular, our position is that there is no necessary contradiction between an Islamic identity and a Canadian identity. Many Canadian Muslims came to Canada precisely because Canada offers a powerful entrenchment of fundamental human rights that are not found elsewhere, a very regularized and strong rule of law, and for many Canadian Muslims this is their home. Also, this is the place where they have achieved the fullest actualization of their creative religious potential and their potential as human beings.

To give you an example, I was born in South Africa and most of my religious education was in South Africa for eight years. It was a very intensive religious education. I was not particularly — if you like the word — "religious" or "spiritually inclined" when I was in South Africa. When I came to Canada, in university I met a bewildering array of individuals; Muslim Canadians and others from different parts of the world, from Asia, from Europe, from Africa, from the Middle East, from North America, and I believe this is the case with many other Canadian Muslims. They see in Canada this tremendous amount of potential in allowing them to actualize their identity as Muslims and also Canadians, therefore I do not see any necessary contradiction between the two identities is what I would suggest.

Senator Corbin: I accept your answer and you answered very well.

Senator Gustafson: What country is most of the immigration of Muslims coming from to Canada?

Mr. Saloojee: I do not know the exact statistics, but there is a very large South Asian segment of Canadian Muslims, and in certain cities like Ottawa and Toronto, a very large community of African Canadians. I am thinking specifically about Somali Muslim Canadians and also a very large and growing contingent of Arab Canadians as well.

Ms. Khan: In Quebec you will find they are predominantly from North Africa and Lebanon.

The Chairman: Mr. Saloojee, when you were responding to Senator Graham you used what was to me a very interesting phrase. You said that sometimes you have trouble if you submit opinion pieces to newspapers that are outside the newspaper's comfort zone. What did you mean by that?

Mr. Saloojee: By that I meant that our response — and this is something that we have some expertise in now, gradually — is that if there is anything negative then we would like to respond to it, and that is the best and most effective way to do it. We are living in an open media. We do not want to elbow out any other opinion, but we would like to get our informed opinion out there. The tool of choice for us has been opinion pieces. We have a very diverse and eclectic group of people on our consultative board.

The Chairman: I know that, but what did you think the newspaper's comfort zone is?

Mr. Saloojee: The comfort zone is that sometimes if you present an issue that is not the policy of the newspaper, or not the ostensible policy of the newspaper, or if you present a counter-narrative that is strongly argued, it will not be accepted. Sometimes if you present a gentler, more watered-down written opposition or argument, that might be accepted. For example, when we were pitching to newspapers after Maher Arar was released to Canada, there were issues such as the possible complicity of the RCMP and of CSIS and the problems that generates for the Muslim community. The case of Maher Arar is emblematic of the more general concerns of the Muslim communities, such as systemic profiling and the abuse of RCMP and CSIS powers. We found that the opinion piece was not published, even though we were invited to submit it. We were told that if we submitted, the piece would go across Canada. Actually, this is an example that I cite because the only reason was because it was very difficult after Maher Arar was released and did his first press conference. It was a very busy time.

We agreed to write the opinion piece, with the guarantee that it would go to a number of media outlets across Canada and be published. It was published very marginally in Cape Breton and in another rural community. I was certainly expecting that in terms of publication in some of the major cities in Canada. However, it was not published there. My sense of why it was not is that, perhaps, it was a little bit too argumentative and presented a view of what was happening to Canadian Muslims that was outside the comfort zone of certain media outlets.

Ms. Khan: I will give another example. This was shortly after the second Intifada broke out in the Middle East. The National Post wrote an editorial endorsing Ariel Sharon's visit to the mosque. The day after the Intifada started, I wrote a letter to the editor opposing the endorsement of Ariel Sharon's visit. They published everything except for one section that they took out. In that section, I equated the Palestinians with David and the Israelis with Goliath, given the asymmetry in military power. They took that section out. In their editorial, they equated the Israelis with David and Palestinians with Goliath.

I have both. It was astounding. We have gone through this many times, though.

Mr. Saloojee: There is another example that comes to mind. Recently, there was a very hateful article published in B.C. by a community paper, which was clearly anti-Semitic and hate inciting. We have spoken to the issue of anti- Semitism many times. Ms. Khan has written a national opinion piece about anti-Semitism in the Muslim world. We are generally very critical and we have the flexibility to be that because we work in the Muslim community and we share the same language and same discourse sometimes. We can be very critical about problems occurring in the Muslim community. We can get away with it.

We immediately issued a condemnation of this article. It was not picked up as widely as some of the other issues we speak to in the media.

There was also another issue as well.

Ms. Khan: We condemned this article in the B.C. newspaper outright. Our condemnation was not picked up until a few days later; and it was reported here and there.

What was interesting is that a few weeks later there was, if you like, the reverse incident that happened at the University of Western Ontario where the Israeli Action Committee had some literature which was clearly offensive, equating 9/11 and showing the burning tours with Muslims and Muslim civilization. We protested and sent out a press release saying that this type of literature is unacceptable. It was picked up by absolutely no one. A few days later, the Ottawa Citizen printed a letter by someone saying the Muslim community is silent when it comes to anti-Semitism.

We feel as though we are running uphill. We act on our principles of condemning unacceptable behaviour and terminology. We are essentially at the whim of the media if they choose to publicize it or not.

The Chairman: There has been some controversy in this country over whether al-Jazeera should be allowed to broadcast here. Did you take a position on that?

Mr. Saloojee: We did. We submitted a legal brief to the CRTC in support of that application. The legal brief is posted on our Web site.

It was our position that all al-Jazeera will expand debate in this country. It presents a very different view of events in the Middle East than are currently presented. That is good for the marketplace of ideas and for a diverse and informed opinion.

We also noted that if there were any abuses in al-Jazeera in its programming, that can and should be taken up by our very robust Canadian law. We should not prejudge the issue, but we should deal with any possible or potential violations under Canadian law. In general, the broadcast of al-Jazeera was a positive development and we should welcome it as Canadians.

Many of the other publications that are generally critical of these issues also took that position as well.

Senator Spivak: I do not really disagree with you about the need to have broad debate. I do not understand how Canadian law would deal with al-Jazeera because it is documented that, very often, they have violently anti-Semitic people on their programs, and there is a slant there. That has been documented. How would you deal with that? Would you be willing to censor it? I think it would be very difficult to have to deal with that, given your stand, of course, which I appreciate, about the whole issue of anti-Semitism.

Are not the Arab peoples also Semites?

Ms. Khan: You are right, they are.

Senator Spivak: I do not understand this whole issue of anti-Semitism.

Ms. Khan: With regard to al-Jazeera, the documented incidents have occurred primarily on call-in shows, if I am not mistaken.

Senator Spivak: There have been many, many —

Ms. Khan: I do not know to the full extent. I agree with Mr. Saloojee in the sense that if it does violate Canadian law it should be dealt with appropriately.

Senator Spivak: I understand that, but how? If you have violently anti-Semitic broadcasts coming from an agency in another country, how do you deal with that?

Mr. Saloojee: I am not that conversant with CRTC procedures. However, my understanding is that the CRTC is granting a licence for the broadcast of al-Jazeera on a particular band or digital network. That licence could be revoked, if programming was in fact anti-Semitic and it did, in principle, violate Canada's hate laws, or any other of Canada's laws.

My understanding is that there is a fairly robust debate about anti-Semitic statements that have been made, but in what context? Has it been by programmers or primarily by guests? One view was expounded by the Canadian Jewish Congress in an editorial. An alternative one was propounded by the Arab community. Both looked at the data and had a very different factual version of what happened.

One side talked about virulent anti-Semitism in al-Jazeera. The other side said, yes, there had been those incidents but they were incidents of guests on call-in shows and it is not a systemic feature of the programming of al-Jazeera. I would like to throw that out.

I have not studied thoroughly the record on both sides. Nevertheless, it is important to indicate that there are those two positions. Clearly, if there was anti-Semitic material in any way that would be unacceptable in Canada. I think the appropriate way to deal with it would be to revoke the licence.

Senator Johnson: Of course, there is significant internal debate about the nature of Islam, its beliefs and the behaviours it dictates, which is true of any religion. I am still not clear, though, after all that has been said today on how you determine the accurate understanding of Islam which, according to your Web site, is what your organization was founded on and what it promotes. This is reflected in all the things you have said, including how you feel about CanWest and their publications and other publications in the country.

Mr. Saloojee: It is a fairly involved topic, but I will be as brief as possible.

Senator Johnson: It is essential to understanding the many issues you presented today and I do not think we have clarified it.

Mr. Saloojee: I will also try to be specific and give an example.

Islam, of course, is a monotheistic faith. There is a very rich tradition of scholarship in Islam that propounds what Islam is — its values, norms, rules, et cetera. One criticism we have regarding certain portrayals of Islam is that many of the conclusions about what Islam is are reached through very insincere, superficial and unscholarly research.

There is a great body of evidence about how Islamic law was derived. There are certain rules and methodologies to understand the Koran. Traditional or classical Islamic scholarship has developed those. They are very systematic and rigorous.

A practical, concrete example is the subject of jihad. There are some Muslims who use and equate jihad with violence against civilians. There is no doubt about that. There are some Muslims who take that position; whereas the contrary is really true. In Islam and Islamic law, the vast majority of scholars, scholarly opinion and body of knowledge says that jihad is a purely defensive tool. It is a defensive protection of your rights, your life and your property. It is not something that has been legislated to harm people or to kill civilians, or to pursue illegitimate political goals.

This is the majority opinion. Scholars reach this conclusion by a certain methodology of looking at Islamic texts. They look at them all together, holistically. They do not pick and choose and they are not selective in their interpretation of one verse or another verse. They also look at the intent of the text, the context of the text and the language of the text; and then they arrive at a certain conclusion.

Therefore, jihad was legislated for self-defence and not to attack innocent civilians. It also has very defined rules. Within the state of self-defence one is not allowed to, for example, cause ecological damage or to fight civilians. One is supposed to respond to just peace initiatives, and so on.

I give jihad as an example where one side will say, "This is what Islam is." It may even be a minority of Muslims. The reality is that the majority of scholarship says otherwise.

In reporting on Islam, I think there must be a number of perspectives taken into account. If, for example, the media reports on what someone says, they need to balance that with what other Muslims say as well. They need to take a diversity of opinion in order to weed out what is minor or marginal versus what tends to be mainstream.

Senator Merchant: There was a journalist who reported on the Palestinian issue on CBC television. About a year ago he was recalled because it was felt that he was a little too pro-Palestinian in his reporting. Obviously, there must have been some pressure from someone to do that.

If you see someone you feel is very anti-Muslim, do you feel that your organization or your community in Canada has the power to bring such pressure on a television outlet so as to recall journalists? Do you have that power?

Mr. Saloojee: The Canadian community is very young. We have never asked for a journalist to be dismissed. We usually ask for sensitization training or for an apology. Most of the issues we deal with are domestic issues. We reached the conclusion that, of course, we are a Canadian Muslim organization, and we only speak to international events where there is a clear Canadian nexus. We spoke to the Iraq issue because of Canada's possible involvement in Iraq. We do not speak to discrete international issues because we are based in Canada and are here for Canadians.

That poses a bit of challenge because, as Ms. Khan said, you are dammed if you do and damned if you don't. If something happens internationally that is perpetrated by Muslims, then for some reason we are naturally called to account for that, as though it is guilt by association: "Why did not you condemn it?" Our answer is that we cannot condemn everything that happens everywhere in the world. We are a Canadian organization. Unless there is a clear Canadian link, we generally will not speak to that issue.

Senator Graham: When you talk about al-Jazeera enjoying the freedom of Canadian airspace or airwaves, are you talking about the possibility of an originating station here picking up a satellite or a feed, or just having the privilege of enjoying al-Jazeera as an alternative, as we might flick a switch and watch NBC, CNN, CBS, ABC or whatever?

Mr. Saloojee: I was speaking specifically about the initiative or the application by certain parties to broadcast al- Jazeera on their digital network. That is before the CRTC. Our legal brief was directed toward that. Al-Jazeera would be picked up and people who wish to have it would subscribe to that service.

The Chairman: Ms. Khan, Mr. Saloojee, thank you very much. You can see how interesting we have found your testimony. We are very grateful to you for taking the time to be with us today.


Our next witness it Mr. Clifford Lincoln, the member of Parliament for Lac-Saint-Louis, in Quebec. Before being elected to the Commons in 1993, Mr. Lincoln was a member of the National Assembly of Quebec, were he served as Minister of the Environment. In the House of Commons, he served as Parliamentary Secretary to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Environment. From 1996 until last year — and this is why he is here — he was Chair of the Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.


We will all recall that last year the Commons Heritage Committee completed a massive study of the Canadian broadcasting system. When I say massive, I mean huge; it is bigger than the telephone book. It covered an enormous range.

We have not circulated the entire report to senators to refresh your minds, but we have circulated the recommendations from it. However, in light of our work, we thought that it would be very helpful to have Mr. Clifford Lincoln appear and tell us what his committee found that would be pertinent for our purposes, given that we are looking at the news media.

Your committee did not look at print but did look at the whole array of broadcasting, including entertainment and things that are not coming within the ambit of our study.

Mr. Lincoln, if you would like to make a statement, that would be terrific and we could ask you questions.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln, M.P. for Lac-Saint-Louis (as an individual): Thank you for inviting me. I am especially pleased to be here because, of course, many colleagues and friends and you, Senator Fraser, have been well known for your defence of freedom of the press over many years. I feel it a privilege to be here to testify.

When we reviewed the mandate we had given ourselves to look at the broadcasting issue, we first debated whether we should look at media in general. We felt that broadcasting was such a large issue in itself, especially given the technological revolution in new media, that we should concentrate on broadcasting. The last study on broadcasting goes back almost 20 years almost. It goes back to the late 1980s. It led to the Broadcast Act as we have now, which dates back to 1991. The Broadcast Act is 13 years old. It has never been looked at since.

Given the huge technological change that has taken place, we felt that it would be pertinent to look at the act and see whether it needed to be changed and how drastically.

What we found, first, is that the act itself — that is, its objectives — occupy three pages of legislation. It is a marvellous piece of legislation. Its objectives and principles today could stand the test of time today and for a long time to come. At the same time, we found out that the mechanisms and processes that underlie the act must really be looked at again.

How do you tackle something like this? We decided to tackle it from the point of view of the average Canadian, the average member of the public, the average person at large in Canada. How do they look at broadcasting and how do they see the broadcasting system today answering their needs?

Travelling across the country, we found out that there is a tremendous love of Canadians for their broadcasting system, which is a mix of public and private systems, plus a pretty vibrant public broadcasting community.

We also found out that — and, perhaps, this was a dominant theme of what we heard — people in the regions and the furthest away from the big city centres feel totally lost and totally abandoned by the big media, especially the broadcast media. The smaller the place, the further it is from the big city centres, the more people feel abandoned. This came out very loud and clear. It came out in the francophone areas of Saskatchewan and Alberta, as it did in the outreaches of Newfoundland or the Atlantic provinces or British Columbia, for that matter. It was overwhelmingly present.

We decided to set out a few large premises. First, the Canadian broadcasting system, as it is, is a mix of public and private enterprises and should stay the way it is. It works and it works well. The place of the CBC and Radio-Canada should have a prominent place within it. We need a public broadcaster more than ever before. At the same time, we are asking the CBC to do almost everything by itself, without giving it the sustained stable funding that it needs to carry out its mandate. How can we reproach the CBC for abandoning the regions and the local communities at the same time that it does not know from year to year how much funding it will receive? Some people say it receives a huge amount of funding, close to $1 billion. At the same time, we must equate this to what its mandate is. We have said: Give the CBC adequate funds to carry out its mandate, especially its reach to the regions and local communities. If the broadcasting dies in local communities, it will die nationally.

We also said that every Canadian has a right to feel that his or her views, his or her stories, are heard. We say: Give it stable and reliable funding over the years. At the same time, make the CBC accountable. Let it produce a strategy for a business plan. Bring it before Parliament once a year and tell us what you will do, CBC, about local and regional broadcasts that you have had to abandon, and what they will do about transfer to new media, to the new digital age. We made certain suggestions about the private broadcasters as well and I will be pleased to discuss that.

We recommended a broadcast monitor for Canada, based on the experience we have had in certain other areas. For example, I was involved several years ago in the installation of an Environment and Sustainable Development Commissioner within the office of the Auditor General. It cost about $2 million a year. The work that the commissioner has done to highlight sustainable development problems within the government to push the government forward has been remarkable for a small amount of money. We recommended a broadcast monitor to monitor the application of the Broadcast Act in Canada based within the office of the Governor General.

Two of the very large issues that you are interested in particularly that we touched on, which occupied a lot of our time, a lot of debate and a lot of hearings, were the issues of ownership and cross-media concentration.

As you know, in Canada broadcasting is subject to restrictions on foreign ownership. Basically, a foreign corporation can own up to 46.7 per cent of any broadcast corporation. We recommended that this limit should stay. There has been a tremendous push from the distributors of signals — that is, the cable companies, the satellite companies, and so forth — to lift the ownership limits on the basis that we should leave it on the content side but lift it on the distribution side. After examining this carefully, we decided that you could not divorce one from the other. The two are closely intertwined and integrated and ownership limits must stay as they are.

At the same time as we were doing the final stages of our report, the industry committee did a much briefer report where they recommended that we lift our foreign ownership limits both on the distribution part of the system as well as on the content. This issue is now before the government. I understand the government will make a decision between now and the spring. I do not know the date. They talk a lot about it, but I know that some experts have been put together on contract to the Government of Canada to make recommendations to the government.

One huge issue we looked at was cross-media concentration. The Senate was very involved in this issue through the report of Senator Davey in the 1970s. Then there was the Kent commission in 1981. Kent was supposed to study the print media, but went on to look at concentration of media in conglomerations and suggested that there was a great danger of over-concentration of media and, therefore, a loss of freedom of opinion and expression through it. There was an Order in Council in June 1982 that gave an order to the CRTC not to give licences to any broadcasting institution that was presented by the same corporation that already owned media in this particular area. The idea was to follow the recommendations of the Kent report. However, when a new government came into place in 1984, they lifted this Order in Council and reversed it in 1985. The Order in Council was cancelled.

Today, we do not have any restrictions as to the ownership of media as between the printed media and the broadcast media and you can see what there is in front of us.

Our report called for a response by the government according to our rules. The government responded in time, namely, in 150 days. This came at the worst possible time. There was a transition from one administration to another. The government in place at the time — the previous one — felt compelled to issue a report that was almost a non- report. They could not say very much, not knowing what the succeeding administration would say or do. Whatever concrete recommendations we made were addressed in loose form.

For example, on the concentration of media, we had suggested that Canada was one of the few countries that had no policy on it at all. We suggested that the Minister of Canadian Heritage be mandated to issue a policy on cross- media ownership by June 2004. They had a year to do it. This is what the government said in regard to our recommendation on cross-media ownership, and I think it is worth noting: The government will give further consideration to issues involved in cross-media ownership, including practices in other countries, and notes that the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications is in the midst of a study of the Canadian news media. Obviously they avoided the issue all together.

In regard to foreign ownership, they said: The Government of Canada undertakes to immediately launch an analysis of the foreign ownership question. This review will be completed quickly, and by the spring 2004 the Government of Canada will be in a position to examine possible solutions.

We have asked the new Minister of Canadian Heritage to appear before our committee. She will appear imminently. One suggestion to you would be that it might be interesting to have the new Minister of Canadian Heritage appear before you to testify as to what the government sees in regard to issues of ownership, of cross media ownership and so forth. This is one suggestion I put forward.

It is interesting that the whole issue of freedom of opinion and freedom of the press has been addressed by the Europeans, as you no doubt know. It is an interesting slant that the Europeans have taken because they have used the European Convention on Human Rights to be their anchor. Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, as I say in this brief, is of crucial importance on the question of media diversity. It makes respect for human rights and freedom of opinion, binding on all member states of the Council of Europe, which are some 45 states. Article 10(1) first and foremost guarantees the individual right to freedom of expression. Freedom of broadcasting and of the press as part of an active and passive freedom of opinion is arrived at by an interpretation of the second sentence of article 10(1). It is viewed as "purpose serving freedom with fractional basic right."

This approach is based on the assumption that freedom of broadcasting, like other media freedoms, is aimed at ensuring freedom of information and must, therefore, afford the public access to free and comprehensive information in the interest of democracy. Freedom of the media accordingly implies that the public has access to a free media system that provides balanced, full and varied information. It follows that this concept of freedom of the media also guarantees media diversity. The state is, moreover, obliged to take positive regulatory measures ensuring the widest possible range of balanced private media if for practical reasons such variety is not, in fact, achieved.

Several cases back up article 10 of the Convention of Human Rights. They stress the special democratic role of the press as the public watchdog and say that article 10 of the convention accordingly not only enshrines an individual right to media freedom, but it also entails a duty to guarantee pluralism of opinion and cultural diversity in the interests of a functioning democracy and a freedom of information for all. Pluralism is thus a basic general rule of European media policy. Nevertheless, a number of countries have introduced special regulations to secure the pluralistic impact of the media.

I will just leave this with you. I was at the Council of Europe about two weeks ago to address the question of public service broadcasting, because the Committee of Culture and Science of the Council of Europe was presenting a resolution on public service broadcasting which goes very much towards the trends that we have seen ourselves. In other words, we found out that the problems we have met are common to so many countries. I would suggest, again, that perhaps it might be very interesting to have the members of this special committee of the Council of Europe appear here because they are discovering many interesting avenues.

I addressed the question before them of one Canadian initiative that is taking a tremendous amount of space worldwide now and started as a fledgling initiative by the previous Minister of Canadian Heritage. The idea is to protect cultural institutions and cultural media, including broadcasting, press and whatever in relation to culture from trade. In other words, certain countries, such as the United States predominantly, view cultural media as a commodity rather than as cultural institutions. The Americans, especially, but not only them, would want culture and media to be seen as a commodity and therefore under the aegis of the World Trade Organization.

The previous Minister of Canadian Heritage started what she called a cultural diversity instrument to try to convince countries around the world to adopt the cultural diversity instrument whose reason-to-be would be to obstruct cultural instruments from the World Trade Organization orbit. Now I believe there are some 40 countries or more that have signed on. It has now been classed as a possible convention and adopted by UNESCO as one of its planks. This is one other important issue that we should push forward as strongly as we can.

I will be very happy to answer any questions.

The Chairman: Thank you very much. It is obvious how much you know, so I am sure the questions will delve even deeper.

Senator Phalen: I have asked this question on two or three occasions already, but I will ask it of you now because of recommendation 11.2, that the CRTC put in place a mechanism to ensure the editorial independence of broadcast operations and a report to Parliament should be made by an appropriate authority on an annual basis.

My question is: In testimony before this committee, it has been suggested that there is a need for some kind of a national media ombudsman, an independent commissioner responsible only to Parliament. Could you give us your opinion on this suggestion and tell us whether or not such an ombudsman might be an appropriate person to ensure such editorial independence?

Mr. Lincoln: I would agree with the premise of the honourable senator completely. This is why we devoted a significant amount of debate and thought to having some faction within government responsible and accountable to Parliament to be an ombudsman monitor. We chose the term "monitor." We discussed whether it would be a monitor, ombudsman or commissioner. Eventually, we took the title of "monitor" because we felt that "ombudsman" might send the message that it would be somebody who would spend their time answering complaints in the traditional way of an ombudsman. We chose the term "monitor" but it could be "ombudsman." We seek exactly the same objective. This officer would be responsible to Parliament, would monitor the objectives of the Broadcast Act and the media in general, and would report annually to Parliament. The monitor would issue reports in much the same way as the Auditor General or the Commissioner for the Environment and Sustainable Development or the Commissioner of Official Languages.

If we could achieve only this in our report, it would be one big step forward because we feel it will make a huge difference.

Senator Graham: Certainly, Mr. Lincoln has demonstrated both in print and in this report and in his presentation today his eminent qualifications to appear before this committee. There is a rumour, Mr. Lincoln, that you may not be re-offering in Lac-Saint-Louis. If it is true, I hope that you will be available for further consultation in areas in which you have demonstrated so much expertise, both in Canada and in the province of Quebec.

As a follow up, in a way, to what Senator Phalen was talking about, your first recommendation about ownership is that the CRTC be directed to strengthen its policies on the separation of newsroom activities and cross-media ownership situations to ensure that editorial independence is upheld.

Then, recommendation 11.4(a) states that the CRTC be directed to postpone all decisions concerning the awarding of new broadcast licences in cases where cross-media ownership is involved. There is then a reference to the policy that the government must adopt on cross-media ownership and its report by June 2004. Do you have any recommendations on what that policy should or might be or should it be as it is in the paper that you put before us today?

Mr. Lincoln: The premise of the recommendation regarding the CRTC being asked to carefully look at the issue of editorial independence was motivated by various cases that have been brought before us by witnesses. The tendency when various media systems fuse into one big block, such as Vidéotron Quebecor Media or CanWest Global or Bell Globemedia, is to have reporters that are common to all. Eventually, there is no editorial independence. We questioned Bell Globemedia in Toronto about its ownership of The Globe and Mail and whether their editorial staff has total independence. We asked whether the editorial writers of the Journal de Montréal have total independence vis-à-vis Vidéotron, their boss. The tendency is for the boss to have the same reporters for both entities/functions. We were hoping that the CRTC would look at this very closely before they issue renewals of licences.

The second issue is cross-media, for which we recommended a policy to the government. Canada is one of the few countries that have left this issue loose so that events have been transparent. If the government were to decide tomorrow morning to lift the foreign ownership limits on broadcast media, you would see huge American conglomerates arriving in some fashion. What would happen then? Would our conglomerates, small in comparison to the American's, become all the more powerful? Would five become two or three? Our report will show statistics in places like British Columbia where one corporation and system owns 100 per cent of the print media and 70 per cent of the broadcast media. How could this lead to editorial independence of opinion and expression and access to information?

We think that the government should issue a policy and look at Senator Davey's report and at the Kent Royal Commission report on the previous reasons why the government decided to issue an Order in Council to give directives to the CRTC that it was to be far more prudent when issuing licences in cases of cross-media ownership. We have to have benchmarks, which we do not now have, to allow for more flexibility in editorial opinion.

There has been a case, as honourable senators are aware, wherein one chain now has one common editorial policy once per month. What would happen should they decide to have it once per week or once per day?

We definitely have to have benchmarks. It seems to me that the government has been passing the buck, in a way, by not having a policy. We had a policy in 1982 and we withdrew it in 1985. It is convenient to leave it loose so that you do not have to act one way or the other; you just pass the buck and the CRTC can do it by itself. There must be some kind of edict or law or regulation. I can see from what I have read of the European convention on this that they almost have an obligation to do it there.

Senator Graham: In another section, one of your recommendations is to the effect that the CRTC study the feasibility of imposing a requirement that Canadian broadcasters show a certain percentage of Canadian-made advertisements. Was that as a result of recommendations made to you by Canadian advertisers? Is there something that your committee included on its own?

Mr. Lincoln: It was certainly as a result of what we heard. In other words, the more advertising is concentrated, the more there would be examples of large corporations that are offshoots of large U.S. corporations. Examples are purely generic at this stage. To give you an example, take one corporation. The tendency would be for all of the generic advertising to be done out of Detroit or out of Cornell, U.S.A. or wherever the company is based. The entire Canadian advertising industry would be bypassed. We have a tremendous amount of skill in the advertising business and those people — the graphic artists, the printing people, et cetera — would suffer because eventually they would be bypassed. That was one of the reasons for this.

Senator Spivak: Mr. Lincoln, it is sad that you have decided to retire, not the least of the reasons being because of the corporate memory that will not be with us in the parliamentary forum. I hope that you will change your mind.

Senator Graham: Some people are forced to retire and others do so voluntarily.

Senator Spivak: There is corporate memory there, too. My question has to do with the CBC. I am frustrated that so many Canadians think that everyone wants to watch American TV so why are we persisting in having our own little domain here?

Here is the thing. In terms of the CBC, there are two questions. First, what do you think about the CBC having reinvented itself with wonderful dramas? Is it fulfilling the mandate in the Canadian Broadcasting Act now? I see a note of scepticism on my colleague's face, but they do have some wonderful things, including sitcoms and so forth, including one that originates in Saskatoon that I thought was wonderful. Is that in fulfilment of the fact, in the Broadcasting Act, that Canadians should see themselves and be able to tell their own stories, or is it a sort of departure in terms of competition?

Second, in terms of numbers, it is often said that no one watches the CBC. I do not think that is true. How does the CBC compare to the specialty channels? They do not have big numbers either, but they have a particular audience. It is that whole question of numbers and mandate that I want you to address, please.

Mr. Lincoln: In regard to mandate, we must decide whether we need or do not need a public national broadcaster from coast to coast. The best way I could answer that is to ask, what would we do if the CBC and Radio Canada were not there, if they were absent from the scene? Who would give us those documentaries or dramas that may not pay their way by themselves or may not be profit-making but, at the same time, are essential for the fabric of our country, to keep our identity, to keep people linked to one another.

For me, the answer is obvious. The more I have heard from people across the land, the more I know that the CBC is intrinsic to our system and our values. We were in Saskatchewan in a small francophone area that is totally divorced from the main systems. Their link to the French language is Radio-Canada, radio and TV. Otherwise they would have no link to their language on a day-to-day basis through the media.

This story is the same, we heard, in Newfoundland and P.E.I., the minute the CBC started to withdraw from there. It was just a tremendous upheaval for them because profit-making radio or TV does not go into these areas because they cannot make profit there. There is an idea of public service that the CBC represents. It is demonstrated especially in radio quality that is almost unmatched.

The mandates given in the Broadcast Act are huge. If we uphold them, we must find the money to match the mandates. We have not done that. The CBC, some people say, costs too much at $1 billion. However, you can compare the CBC budget to the BBC annual endowment of multi-billions of dollars per year. The CBC needs stable funding based on a plan of at least five years. At the same time, it must be accountable. It must bring a plan, a strategy, before Parliament and it must report back to Parliament once per year on a much more accountable basis than is the case today.

The CBC recognizes that there must be a trade-off. It must work both ways. At the same time, with proper funding, it must go back to the regions and the local communities.

Regarding viewing numbers, they have been falling pretty consistently for CBC TV. In the French sector, of course, the numbers are much larger. In the English sector, they are falling into very small digits. At the same time, we have to look at why they are falling. There has been a tremendous evolution in broadcasting with the specialty channels, as you mentioned. Today, there are specialty channels on almost everything — history, the arts, different types of sports and so forth. Somehow, the CRTC decided the CBC does not deserve specialty channels. Some of the problems started there. CBC has to compete not only with large media organizations, for example, CTV, but also with all the specialty channels without having any of their own.

To give an example, CBC wanted an arts channel in Radio-Canada in French. They were refused that channel, but they were told if they joined in with other groups, it might be approved. They joined with seven other groups. I have talked to the people involved and it is almost a monster operation to coordinate seven groups agreeing on what show to put on.

So CBC is not in the specialty channels; it has been shut off from there. It must do almost every possible thing within the big operation. The numbers have fallen. At the same time, I do not know that any public broadcaster will ever be able to compete for numbers with private broadcasters. It is almost impossible. We have to agree that this is not the objective of it. Whether we are prepared to back it up with funds is a political and national question.

Senator Spivak: Is not Newsworld the news show most watched by Canadians?

Mr. Lincoln: I do not think so. Newsworld has good ratings but I think the most-watched news system, if my memory serves me right, is CTV.

The Chairman: We do have those numbers, Senator Spivak. We can get them to you.

Senator Spivak: Thank you very much.

Senator Eyton: Thank you for appearing here today. Your committee continues. Have you done any follow-up work since you tabled your very large report? Is there anything that has occurred since then, in terms of discussion or implementation, anything that you can refer to?

Mr. Lincoln: How we wish, senator. It has been the vagaries of political life. When we issued our report, the government was almost in transition from one to another and we fell into this terrible vacuum. We received hardly any publicity out of the report, very little media coverage. By the time it got to the Minister of Canadian Heritage for a response, everyone had already decided that the administration was changing so they were extremely cautious. The response of the government was almost a non-response. We have, since then, been trying to push to lift the report from obscurity, so to speak.

Several universities have now adopted the report as a course subject. Several broadcast organizations of various types are using it extensively and publicizing it. In the grassroots, it is moving along quite well, but nothing will happen unless we get a lift-off by the government itself, through the Minister of Canadian Heritage, especially. We have been trying to reach out to as many groups as possible. We asked the minister to appear before us so we can say, "The response was a non-response. What is your response? What will you do?" Our recommendations touch upon the CRTC, the CBC, the government and its regulations, so the response must go through the government. We are pushing very hard and this really helps.

Senator Eyton: I have run through your recommendations and there are many.

Mr. Lincoln: Yes, there are 91 recommendations.

Senator Eyton: I have a bent of mind that suggests that 91 recommendations means no recommendations; that there is so much there that it is very hard to be successful with the three or four key ones.

I believe very strongly in priorities. This is for our guidance as much as anything in the work we are doing. Of the 91, are there two or three that you think are particularly critically important that you would recommend to us?

Mr. Lincoln: The point is well taken, senator, because we wrestled with this idea. We have done three studies during my chairmanship of the committee. We did one on federal cultural institutions, with 43 recommendations, and most of them are now in the system and going forward.

We did one on the book industry, which was in crisis, and there were 23 or 25 recommendations. I think all of them except one have been put into place.

We were wondering about the 91, but it is such a vast subject, there was no way of avoiding any of those that we touched. At the same time, if you were to ask what the two or three main ones are, I would say that they would be these few. I would say the whole question of the national broadcast of CBC must be touched on and made accountable with a plan of action from the CBC.

The whole business of local and regional broadcasting is a huge issue.

I would say that cross-media ownership and foreign ownership are two really crucial issues, as well as the installation of a broadcast monitor. If you have to pick and choose, these are the few I would choose.

Senator Eyton: In your studies, and I say this somewhat facetiously, while we are all concerned about American media and its impact here in Canada, did you also consider the countervailing force where we have Canadians taking prominent roles in American media, whether it be Mike Myers, Céline Dion, Shania Twain — I could go on and on. I thought we should get some credit there for Canadians who have in fact gone over there and are representing a Canadian force within the American media.

Mr. Lincoln: There are two separate issues. The Céline Dions, the Shania Twains and the Norman Jewisons go to the United States as individuals because the centre of the entertainment industry happens to be the United States. If you do not deal with Sony to cut a record, then you have a very small market.

The question of ownership is a different one. The Americans themselves through the Federal Communications Commission, FCC, have very strict ownership regulations in regard to their media. Recently, the FCC tried to broaden the requirements and Congress was very reticent. In fact, I believe they rejected the plan of the FCC.

The Americans themselves have become much more restrictive in their own media control. I feel that we are in a very different position. Our individuals go there to earn a living and they have to show almost super-excellence, and they do, because the centre of entertainment happens to be there, for their purposes.

In regard to our corporations, if tomorrow we open the corporations to Americans, it is very different from an American wanting to come here as an individual and thrive. There would not be enough market for them, and they do not do it. If they wanted to do it, all the more power to them.

I have often thought to myself, AOL or Disney or one of the giants could come in and swallow up CanWest or Vidéotron. They could do it, as it would just be peanuts for them. Suddenly you would have a huge giant that would take all our best brains. We have perhaps the leading brains in cartoon technology and animation, for example, and all these people would just be gone tomorrow morning. It would be a tremendous brain drain, quite aside from the fact that the control and independence of our expressions of opinion would be lost to us.

I think we have to live with the reality that we are sitting next door to a giant with huge powers of corporate behaviour that we cannot match. We have to be far more protective perhaps than other countries might be, as we are in a special situation, in my view.

Senator Johnson: Thank you, Mr. Lincoln, for your exhaustive work over the years in this very important area, in which I am very interested and have been for many years.

Senator Eyton asked one of my questions, which was prioritization. I am concerned as both a viewer and as someone involved in producing a film festival and looking for Canadian films and works all the time for my programming. Your first recommendation talks about strong emphasis on measures and incentives to ensure that Canadian audiences view Canadian programming. Then in the recommendation itself, 5(1), you say that the appropriate department develop this.

Can you explain that further for me? How do we get Canadians to watch? From all the witnesses you heard and from your vast experience, with the percentage of people watching Canadian programming now not as high as I would like it to be, how do we do this? It says we should do it, but how do we do it and which department were you referring to? Is it Heritage?

Mr. Lincoln: I think you have to look at more than those specific recommendations and look at others as well that fit into the mix. Perhaps the basic issue there is what we call Canadian content. There are many rules today for Canadian content. Before 1999, there was a tremendous accent on Canadian drama and Canadian films, so that Canadian talent was encouraged to come forward — producers, creators and investors — to put money into Canadian shows, which were watched because they were there.

In 1999, at the request of many corporations that felt that this was too restrictive, the CRTC broadened the definition of Canadian content to allow for documentaries and various subsidiary programs, so that the definition was loosened to such a degree that what became Canadian content was a very broad mix of shows. As a result, we lost the capacity and the talent to make the kind of shows that would be watched in large numbers by Canadians. It is almost a vicious circle. Once you start with this, you lose your creators, investors and producers because there is no market for them any more.

Perhaps one of the most strident voices we heard during our hearings was the voices of the people who said to us, "You have to go back to pre-1999 so that we have the shows that will attract people, so that we can get Canadian audiences back there."

The CRTC itself has realized this. Mr. Charles Dalfen, the present chair, is very conscious of it. He has asked for a review of the 1999 decision that is at the core of it all. We hope that with this in place, it might trigger the kind of Canadian shows that people will want to watch and the creators will come here because there will be hope for them.

Senator Johnson: In this other work I do with film and television, we have noticed when trying to get programming and films that we get a tremendous amount from Quebec. Is there something that they are doing in Quebec that we are not doing, especially on the film side?

Mr. Lincoln: Perhaps this really proves what I was saying before. Because of the nature of Quebec and its cultural market, being French, it does not get the competition from the United States. As a result, it must grow its own artists and creators. It has grown a market that is extremely powerful, where it has been a seed farm of huge home-grown talent, because there is no option. If you do not produce it in Quebec, you get it maybe from France and it is very expensive and difficult to bring into the province. The American shows translated do not mean very much in Quebec. As a result, they have grown their own shows. This is more difficult to do in the rest of Canada because of the competition from United States shows. The challenge is much greater, but if you do not start by trying to protect our film industry and our creators by having Canadian content rules that will be much stricter, so that you force this talent and give incentives for the talent to stay, then you will never reach anywhere near in relative terms what Quebec does.

Senator Johnson: I just wanted to be record that they are doing excellent work and we are using it in our film festival.

Senator Day: Mr. Lincoln, one of the areas that is of concern to us is the CRTC's decision to not jump into and regulate the Internet. I read with interest your chapter 12 and the various recommendations titled, The Digital Transition. We just see day after day more and more convergence with telephony and broadcasting over the Internet. You do skirt around this issue in the talk about CRTC regulations and you suggest that the federal government departments and agencies develop a comprehensive plan for digital transition, but did you actually deal with this issue of CRTC? Do you have a recommendation somewhere where the CRTC should get in and start regulating with respect to the Internet?

Mr. Lincoln: Very much so. First, when the CRTC decided not to regulate the Internet, if my memory serves me right, it was an interim decision and it said that it had to review it. Perhaps Mr. Jackson, who is the sort of authority on our committee, could answer that. I am glad to see him sitting here because he is a formidable force and will tell us whether this has started now in the review of the Internet decision regulations of the CRTC. Can you tell us, Mr. Jackson?

Mr. Joseph Jackson, Research Officer, Library of Parliament: To my knowledge, it has to come up in 2004. There was a five-year window whereby the CRTC had issued the decree about Internet regulation. They need to come back to this particular issue in 2004 and review it, but I do not believe it has started yet.

Senator Day: That is my understanding as well, namely, that nothing is happening. In the meantime, there are all kinds of changes in technology and the courts are slowly using old regulations and old laws to define this, and try to put some order into it, rather than Parliament doing what Parliament should be doing through one of its agencies.

Mr. Lincoln: I cannot recall these recommendations just offhand. I would have to look at it myself, but my memory was that we said that the committee believes that any recommendations made now with respect to new media broadcasting would be premature in light of the plan for a specific review in one year's time. This was done last year. We certainly believe very strongly — and, it is all in the text that you have — that this issue cannot be avoided. The CRTC, which is looking at it and is forced to review it, must address the fact as to whether or not we need regulations and, if we decide that some segments must be regulated, how? There are many models.

The Europeans have been looking closely at this. I have heard from, for example, people in both the French and the German government that, in their case, they have decided to regulate certain sectors of the Internet. You take one example, anti-Semitic or hate literature or hate material, or pornography. Some countries are now regulating these issues by putting the onus on the channel rather than on the person who is reading it or doing it or using it. We are saying that the CRTC, having decided not to regulate the Internet, must prove, when it does a review, that the Internet cannot be regulated at all or, if it can be regulated in certain key sectors where others have taken measures, should look at other models and arrive at a conclusion this year on regulating the Internet. You cannot just say, "Well, the Internet is such an internationalized instrument that you cannot touch it at all." Some countries have done so — not overall, but in certain segments that they feel they can regulate.

The Chairman: Mr. Lincoln, and senators, I wish so much that we could go on. Unfortunately, we are out of time. Thank you very much for being with us. It is a bit unusual for a member of the other place to come to this place and vice versa, but that makes it all the more special and beneficial to us. We really do thank you very much.

The committee adjourned.

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