Letter to welcome the Honourable Pablo Rodriguez

September 10, 2018

 

The Honourable Pablo Rodriguez
Minister of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6

RE: COMMUNITY MEDIA ADVOCACY CENTRE (CMAC)

Dear Minister Rodriguez,

The Community Media Advocacy Centre (CMAC) extends its congratulations and warmest wishes to you as Minister of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism. CMAC’s Board of Directors and consulting staff share our kindest regards as we take this opportunity to introduce CMAC’s mandate and areas of work.

CMAC is a non-profit organization formed in 2015 to offer advocacy and support for Indigenous and community organizations interested in licensing, funding, and launching non-profit broadcasting organizations. CMAC is uniquely comprised of academics, legal advisors, policy consultants and community media practitioners from across Canada, who prioritize the perspectives, voices and experiences of Indigenous, racialized and disAbled peoples. CMAC promotes community-access media by advocating for community-based, nonprofit and noncommercial broadcasting; Indigenous- and community-owned communications infrastructure; and media produced by volunteers and under-represented communities.

CMAC’s mandate is to support the self-determination of Indigenous, racialized, and disAbled peoples in the media through research, relationship-building, advocacy, and learning. To this end, CMAC:

  • Engages in CRTC proceedings affecting community and Indigenous media
  • Builds relationships with other non-profit organizations serving community and Indigenous media; and
  • Participates in research projects and conferences to advance practices, knowledge, and policy for Indigenous and community media in Canada and internationally.

This past year, CMAC was invited to share expertise by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa and the Federal Telecommunications Institute in Mexico.

CMAC has engaged in multiple CRTC proceedings over the past three years, submitting more than a dozen interventions and participating in four Commission hearings. Based on these experiences, as well as CMAC’s broader research and advocacy work, we have proposed several initiatives to foster a more equitable CRTC and broadcasting system. These proposals have been shared with the Chair of the CRTC, Mr. Ian Scott, and are outlined briefly below.

  1. Appointing Commissioners reflective of the diversity of Canada, including balanced representation of women, racialized peoples, Indigenous peoples, people with disabilities and those with experience in non-profit community media, is CMAC’s primary recommendation for fostering equity at the CRTC [1]. The Commission’s lack of diverse representation creates the perception of an echo-chamber, where only culturally dominant voices are reflected and amplified by decisions.
  2. In tandem with diversifying the Commission, we propose that the CRTC should adopt more inclusive and proactive public engagement strategies to connect with diverse communities. Accessible approaches might include community-based research, community media relations, online engagements and local consultations [2]. The expertise of community and Indigenous broadcasters and media scholars could also be engaged to inform CRTC deliberations and policy development. Increased communication and engagement would increase public awareness of and interest in CRTC proceedings, enhancing the vibrancy and accountability of this public service.
  3. Since 2016, CMAC has urged implementation of anti-racism education and training for CRTC commissioners and staff. The Commission has yet to formally respond to allegations of systemic and overt racism brought against it during judicial proceedings associated with the termination of Raj Shoan, one of only three racialized individuals ever appointed to the Commission [3]. A third-party process to investigate and address these and other allegations of racism at the Commission [4] would complement anti-racism training to ensure racialized peoples are equitably served by the CRTC. Such actions could also help to inform a much-needed review of the “Ethnic Broadcasting Policy” (CRTC 1999-117) and the upcoming review of the Cultural Diversity Policy [5].
  4. The CRTC has an opportunity to align its policies and practices with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP) [6] and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action [7]. A committee of Indigenous radio, television and telecommunications producers and advocates could determine how CRTC policies and practices can support reconciliation and protect the rights of Indigenous people [8]. This type of review and consultation could also inform a long-overdue review of the “Native Broadcasting Policy” (CRTC 1990-89).
  5. As with UNDRIP, the CRTC has an opportunity to align its regulatory efforts with Canada’s obligations under other international declarations and conventions, including the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions [9] and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities [10]. The alignment of policy with these declarations and conventions will enable Canada to unite with the values of sustainable development for communities, peoples and nations.
  6. Last but not least, there is an urgent need to reassert the vision and value of Canada as the “birthplace of community media” [11], recognizing the community sector as a complementary and essential pillar of the broadcasting system. To this end, the Commission could assess the impact of the “Policy Framework for Local and Community Television” (CRTC 2016-224) on the right to reflection within community media [12]; and of the “Campus and Community Radio Policy” (CRTC 2010-499) on the commercialization of non-profit radio station practices. Former Commissioner Morin’s dissenting opinion [13] on the latter policy predicted commercializing practices that have negatively impacted community access to community radio [14]. Guaranteeing an equitable place for nonprofit, noncommercial community, ethnic, Indigenous, and disAbility media will strengthen Canada’s media landscape and social fabric.

CMAC’s Board of Directors and consulting staff greatly value your consideration of this letter. We again share our warmest greetings and are optimistic that your stewardship of the Department of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism may create a unique opportunity to shape the future of a diverse and equitable CRTC. We look forward to your leadership on these matters and are readily available to discuss these issues further as desired.

Respectfully Yours,

Monique Manatch
President, CMAC

Kristiana Clemens
Vice-President, CMAC

FOOTNOTES

[1] Only once since 1968 has the CRTC Chairperson not been a white man: http://frpc.net/appointments-to-the-crtc/
[2] For example, in the 1970s “the CRTC established the Committee on Extension of Service to Northern and Remote Communities which included representatives from provincial governments and northern native associations. After holding extensive public hearings throughout the North and considering over 400 submissions, the Committee issued its report [know as the The Therrien Report] in July 1980” (emphasis added), quoted from: https://crtc.gc.ca/eng/archive/1984/PB84-310.htm
[3] https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/heritage-minister-asked-about-the-recent-dismissal-of-a-crtc-commissioner-and-racism-at-the-crtc-593134551.html
[4] CMAC letter re CRTC 2017-1: https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/action-must-be-taken-to-ensure-the-crtc-supports-racial-equity-and-the-sovereignty-of-indigenous-peoples-620350933.html
[5] See CRTC Three-Year Plan 2017-2020: https://crtc.gc.ca/eng/backgrnd/plan2017/plan2017.htm
[6] http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/documents/DRIPS_en.pdf
[7] http://www.trc.ca/websites/trcinstitution/File/2015/Findings/Calls_to_Action_English2.pdf
[8] For example, see the report prepared by the Truth and Reconciliation Committee of the Canadian Federation of Library Associations (CFLA-FCAB): https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/access-to-indigenous-knowledges-and-their-cultural-materials-depends-on-decolonizing-libraries–cultural-memory-institutions-and-their-services-report-620262853.html
[9] http://portal.unesco.org/en/ev.php-URL_ID=31038&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html
[10] https://www.un.org/development/desa/disabilities/convention-on-the-rights-of-persons-with-disabilities/ convention-on-the-rights-of-persons-with-disabilities-2.html
[11] https://crtc.gc.ca/eng/archive/2008/pb2008-4.htm
[12] The Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage also recommends this priority, see Recommendation 9 (p. 44): http://www.ourcommons.ca/Content/Committee/421/CHPC/Reports/RP9045583/chpcrp06/chpcrp06-e.pdf
[13] Former Commissioner Morin wrote in 2010, “My concern, based on submissions made during this proceeding, is that community radio may gradually become something more akin to a commercial venture.” See CRTC 2010-499 for full dissenting opinion: https://crtc.gc.ca/eng/archive/2010/2010-499.htm
[14] http://montrealgazette.com/news/local-news/montreal-community-radio-station-cibl-fm-lays-off-all-its-employees, http://montrealgazette.com/news/local-news/radio-centre-ville-at-centre-of-power-struggle, and https://nowtoronto.com/music/goodbye-chry/