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CBC Livewire at ConU

by Archives January 7, 2004

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) and Concordia University are teaming up to offer the public an opportunity to voice their opinions about the refugee situation in Canada.

“We have gotten some very compelling stories from members of the Concordia community,” said Hugh Brodie, CBC Montreal manager.

A CBC Livewire unit has been set up in the McConnel Building atrium. It is equipped with microphone, recorder and a webcam to collect people’s comments. Until Jan. 9, Concordia students can send their comments directly to CBC by typing or recording their answers to the following question: “Do you think it is too hard to get into Canada?”

Due to the university’s diverse student body, Concordia was chosen to be the first institution in Montreal to house a Livewire terminal. “We knew the input we got would reflect the most diversity that we could get,” said Brodie.

There are about a dozen Concordians that have already taken advantage of the Livewire to express themselves. The comments can be heard and read at www.montreal.cbc.ca/humancargo/ and some of them may be used on CBC radio or television.

“It’s a more interactive way of gauging public opinion,” said Jason Manchester, a Concordia political science student. He made his views on refugees public last month as his Livewire comment was posted on the Internet. “It’s a good idea if you want to get a better idea of what’s going on out there,” he said.

The public’s contributions are part of a CBC effort to look into the world of refugees, alongside a miniseries entitled Human Cargo, which aired Sunday through Tuesday.

Human Cargo told the story of six people, including a refugee lawyer, a conservative and arguably racist member of the refugee board, an Afghan refugee and a schoolteacher fleeing Burundi’s civil war.

According to Janet Dench, president of the Canadian Council for refugees, the miniseries raised a number of important issues, such as: problems with political appointment at the immigration and refugee board and difficulties for refugees to get a fair hearing in Canada.

“Deciding who is and who isn’t a refugee isn’t necessarily straightforward,'” said Dench. She said that Human Cargo also dealt with the Canadian business industry sometimes taking part in the “human rights abuses that cause people to flee in the first place.”

However, Dench said the drama miniseries was at times “exaggerated and over dramatized.” In order to appeal to the public, some events were portrayed to take place much faster and more violently than they do in reality.

Dench also said that since Sept. 11, 2001, the environment for refugees in Canada has gotten worse. Canada did not implement the possibility of appeal for refugees that it had put in place before 9/11. Canada may also be negotiating “a safer country agreement” with the United States.

“Canada is turning its back on refugees that need protection,” said Dench.

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