On May 22, 2012, Media Action Média President Amanda Parriag spoke at an event in Ottawa celebrating Asian Heritage Month.
Sponsored by the Vietnamese Canadian Federation and the Vietnamese Canadian Centre, the discussion, entitled “Off the Beaten Track: Asian Canadians in the Creative Fields,” presented several Asian artists talking about their struggles and successes in the Canadian cultural industries. Asian Canadians are underrepresented in the arts, despite comprising 11% of the total population of Canada.
Amanda presented findings from MAM’s recent research study, “Representations of Diversity in Canadian Television Entertainment Programming” . Amanda specifically highlighted the role the mass media play in defining how social issues are framed. Canadian television has historically been an important source of information for Canadian citizens to gain knowledge about themselves and their nation.
Earlier research has found that in the 1980s and 1990s, the underrepresentation of ethnic minorities in Canadian mass media was thought to be at least partly traceable to the cultural makeup of media workers and those in the cultural industries. Media Action Média’s current study describes how there is still a dearth of cultural diversity in Canadian entertainment television shows, despite Canadian media policies that specifically mandate this diversity.
Certainly, there have been recent attempts to focus on South Asians and East Indians in shows like Little Mosque on the Prairie, where most characters are Indian and Muslim. The Report revealed, however, that despite this progress, Canadian entertainment television still has a long way to go in accurately representing Canada’s diverse and multicultural population, still often relying on stereotypes.
Noting that the 2001 Census showed there were 131,000 artists in Canada, and that visible minority artists are growing at a rate more than twice that of all artists, Amanda joined her fellow panelists in encouraging artists to pursue their creative endeavors. She acknowledged the difficulties, both structurally and culturally, for Asian Canadians and other visible minorities to enter the cultural industries, but stressed that more visible minorities are needed in entertainment television.
If visible minorities write the scripts and produce and direct the television shows, then it is very possible to have an authentic visible minority perspective represented. Amanda urged those in attendance to use any and all opportunities to increase the visibility of Asian Canadians by using their creative powers to produce such images and representations themselves.