What if the CBC struck being distinctly Canadian from its mandate?

We should re-examine how the CBC defines Canada’s national identity.

The CBC exists to “be predominantly and distinctly Canadian”, according to the Broadcasting Act. This presents a dilemma when millions of Canadians do not feel represented by the CBC.

Conservative Party leader Pierre Poilievre’s pitch to defund the CBC has resonated strongest with his base, but also with the wider public. According to a 2023 study by Spark Advocacy, only 55 per cent of Canadians value the CBC and want it to be maintained.

Poilievre wants to get even with the CBC because he believes the broadcaster is partisan, biased and out of touch. I disagree. However, this begs an interesting question: can the CBC claim to be “distinctly Canadian” when millions of Canadians don’t mind shutting it down to save money? I contend that the CBC should rethink the role of nationalism in its journalism and entertainment programming. 

How does the CBC define Canada? My family is Portuguese and Canadian, and I grew up in Portugal. Comparing the CBC to its equivalent Portuguese public broadcaster RTP may shed some light on this nebulous subject. RTP is a generalist channel—it hosts O Preço Certo (The Price is Right), telenovelas, but also a theatre and concert archive, and a tool for teaching Ukrainian refugees Portuguese. 

RTP follows what Portuguese audiences want. Meanwhile, the CBC had previously made peculiar choices such as eschewing American television for reruns of Coronation Street. In my experience, the CBC “narrowcasts,” while RTP broadcasts. Maybe there’s even a missed opportunity for the CBC to broadcast for American audiences, who don’t have the good fortune of a strong public broadcaster.

I grew up watching the CBC by osmosis from my Canadian mother’s side of the family, and as someone with progressive politics and settler-Canadian origins, I am close to the imagined audience for CBC programming. Yet, I realise that the CBC spoke to me in a way that fit my pre-existing ideas of what Canada is: a nation with a common identity, united by things like language, values, shared references. In many ways, a nation like Portugal; but Canada is different. 

The CBC’s national identity mandate has colonial origins. As Canada practiced—and continues to practice—settler colonialism, television and radio create a national culture synonymous with European, settler Canada. In a talk entitled “News” given at Columbia University, journalism researcher and sociologist Michael Shudson reflected on how journalists are often “handmaidens to the powerful.” Therefore, the CBC is a handmaiden to colonial society. As a result, the CBC has been criticised for using extractivist methodologies in its reporting on Indigenous communities—taking Indigenous stories, and then re-packaging them for settler audiences.

Public broadcasters in other countries including RTP also have nationalist mandates, but the context is different. Laws like Portuguese music quotas are in part a defensive act to protect home-grown industries from foreign competition, and these policies become even more pressing in a journalistic culture where there was censorship until 1974. Portugal doesn’t have two solitudes, it has the oldest borders in Europe. The European national broadcaster model doesn’t work in Canada.

Canadians are diverse, and many belong to diasporas and have strong ties with other countries, including myself. The preference for “distinctively Canadian” journalism ignores that Canadians are connected to foreign lands, and is often rooted in a “founding nations” colonial definition of Canada. Things being as dire as they are, maybe what the CBC needs is a radical reinvention in line with what makes Canada distinct.


CBC’s “The Porter” will zone in on the lives and successes of Little Burgundy’s Black train porters

The show’s co-creators and members of the cast discuss the process of filming during COVID-19, what they hope viewers will take away from this show, and more

“The Porter,” a new CBC drama set to air on Feb. 21, will focus on the lives of the Black train porters, nurses, entertainers, and other individuals who occupied Montreal’s St. Antoine neighbourhood (now known as Little Burgundy) during the 1920s. These porters would often assist travellers at the train stations, were in charge of loading and unloading luggage, and more. The show will especially zone in on how these Black train porters came to form North America’s largest Black labour union. The Concordian spoke with co-creators Arnold Pinnock (who also plays the character Glenford), Marsha Greene, Annmarie Morais, as well as actress Oluniké Adeliyi, who plays the character Queenie, about this new drama. 

TC: Can you begin by walking me through the process of bringing together this incredible show?

AP: So I’m an immigrant, my parents are from Jamaica via England to Canada, and one of the things that I loved to do was just to find out as much information as I could to learn about […] Black Canadians. I was having a hard time in school learning about [them], other than some samples of The Underground Railroad. So any book that I could find I would start reading [to learn] about the Black Canadian experience. One of the common denominators that kept on showing up for me was porters. I found it really interesting because I found out that these men and women were from not only the Southern states, but also from the Caribbean, and that they came to this country and literally had the ability to change policy. It blew my mind that these people were able to form the biggest Black union, not just in Canada, but across North America. That just really empowered me to go down that road and then eventually, I hooked up with my writing partner, Bruce Ramsay, and we went down this rabbit hole together.

One of the things that we encountered was the Negro Community Centre (NCC) in Little Burgundy. It was boarded up and there were murals of Oscar Peterson, Oliver Jones, and Oscar Peterson’s sister. When we learned what the NCC was all about … taking care of the Black community [starting in 1927] and to help against the racism that the community was dealing with, we thought, “Hey, you know what? If we could create a series, maybe we could garnish enough money to help restore this building.” Unfortunately, three years later the building was demolished. Instead of us feeling like the passion behind it was over, it actually empowered us and we went on the journey to get this show done.

TC: What challenges, if any, did you encounter along the way? 

MG: During the course of filming there were the challenges of filming during COVID and things like that. We would remind each other about the porters, the communities, and the families, and how they fought through what they were going through. It was the thing that kept us going during those hard times. We knew that this story needed to be told and that really kept us going through all of the hard times over the years it took to bring it to life.

OA: I think, for me, the biggest challenge was making my character Queenie as human as possible so that she wasn’t this one-dimensional, gangster character, and that there was a purpose for her being who she is. It was an enjoyable experience no matter what happened. I would say my other biggest challenge was learning to play piano. It was wonderful to be able to challenge myself to learn the songs that I had to play. It was beautiful. When I started to get things, I was like, “There’s nothing I can’t do now.” There are beautiful challenges, and then there are terrible challenges. This was definitely a beautiful challenge. 

TC: Club Stardust occupies an important space in this narrative. Can you briefly walk me through how this environment was brought to life, and could you also elaborate a bit on the role that music and dance play in the show?

MG: I think music and dance are so much a part of how we connect to each other and what brings us together. I think we all felt, in the Black community, there was a sound and a rhythm that kind of felt like ours and what we wanted to explore. When we got to the post-production and editing, we started to just bring in more music. Sometimes it was contemporary […] and then we also kind of wanted to have Afro sounds and Caribbean sounds, just to kind of bring it all together. We actually filmed the Stardust stuff at the end of the shoot. We did that just in terms of the location, but it actually was this amazing burst of energy at the end of this very long, challenging shoot. To be in Stardust with all these people and to watch those dance numbers and hear the music was just incredible. 

AM: We were inspired by a club that was rooted in Montreal that was called Rockhead’s Paradise. I think there was a lot of spirit in that establishment in Montreal that we wanted to harness and create in our own way. I think that was really part of the magic of Stardust and this series. 

TC: What are you ultimately hoping that viewers take away from this show?

MG: One of our great hopes, in terms of the history, is that it would inspire people to look things up. To watch an episode and to be like “Did that happen, was it really like that?” 

I hope that the audience also takes away that no two Black people are anomalous. We are multidimensional people and we all have similar yet different lives. It’s wonderful to be able to watch because it’s relatable to any other race or culture. We have regular lives, we have families. Not every story for us is a struggle story. I’m so happy that “The Porter” displays that because it brings meaning to our lives. It allows you to see the value of us. Most of the time you can only see the value of something when it’s in you, so yes, we represent the Black community, but we also represent so many communities that have the same experience family-wise and love-wise. I think that’s what we’re promoting more than anything: to just see us.

For more information on “The Porter,” please visit CBC’s website.


Visual courtesy of CBC 


Just As I Am follows Montreal’s Shira Choir as they persevere through turbulent times

Director Evan Beloff’s new documentary highlights the collaborative vocal power of the Shira choir, revealing both the pain and triumph that the team has experienced during such an isolating time

Montreal filmmaker and Concordia alumni Evan Beloff’s new documentary Just As I Am details the formation of Montreal’s Shira Choir, a talented group of singers with special needs. Set to the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, Just As I Am presents viewers with a much-needed escape from the gloom of the past 18 months as it follows choirmaster Daniel Benlolo and choir members navigate barriers caused by the pandemic, while simultaneously shining a light on the absence of resources for those with special needs.

“[This was] definitely the most challenging film I’ve ever made, from both a personal and professional artistic POV,” explained Beloff. “It was initially a film exploring inclusion, the power of music, and a choirmaster who acts as the emotional glue of his special needs choir. But very early on, when the pandemic hit […] I was forced to make creative and technical decisions that would impact the narrative and visual aesthetic of the film.”

The documentary highlights the collaborative vocal power of the choir, revealing both the pain and triumph that the team has experienced during such an isolating time. “We’re all struggling with the same issues,” said Beloff. “Adults with special needs are no different than the rest of us. Inclusion is essential for us to become a compassionate society.” Despite the past 18 months being nothing short of a nightmare for most, the team has learned that there’s still a light at the end of the tunnel. “The pandemic has created the opportunity for us to light the darkness,” added Beloff.

In the film, the choir members can be seen practicing virtually in the early stages of the pandemic. As the year progresses, the choir is able to meet in person with safety measures set in place. It is apparent that the team is composed of a tight-knit group of individuals, each of them playing an equally important role in one another’s lives. While some technological issues arise during a few of the virtual practices, choirmaster Benlolo and the team persevere, unwilling to succumb to the virtual barriers that the pandemic has imposed.

While Just As I Am showcases each member’s passion for song, it is about so much more than just music. “I believe it’s a sweet film, a film that celebrates life even in the midst of all the sickness and death which we’ve experienced collectively over the last 18 months,” said Beloff. “The Shira Choir is a marvelous group of adults with special needs who have a tremendous amount to teach us about simplicity, kindness, directness, and enjoyment in each moment.”

For more information on the Shira Choir, please visit their website. Just As I Am can be viewed through CBC Gem.


Photograph courtesy of Keith Pun


Navigating Quebec’s tight-knit art community

Changing the culture of representation for contemporary artists

Benjamin J. Allard, BA Concordia Communication Studies alumnus, former research assistant and Art Matters curator, currently runs Radio Atelier for CIBL 101.5. Radio Atelier a podcast about local artists and current exhibitions in the greater Montreal area, and Quebec at large.

Allard recently put forth a petition, as part of the INVISIBLES group, to highlight his concerns with arts representation in the media. INVISIBLES is specifically asking Radio-Canada to rethink their approaches to coverage of artists and arts events.

The petition, which now holds 10,572 signatures (and counting) is in French, and begins as follows; “we would like to draw your attention to the fact that the coverage of the visual arts on Radio-Canada contravenes your journalistic standards and practices by not respecting the principles of equity, impartiality and integrity.” Its clarity and strong language demand attention.

“INVISIBLES is an umbrella organization for people and institutions interested in the subject of visual art representation in the media,” said Allard.“It’s super new, they had a meeting in Quebec and we’ll have our first meetings in Montreal [soon].”

The petition has also made headway with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), which opened a public platform, from Nov. 25 to Feb. 20, where individuals and collectives had the opportunity to suggest ideas and provide feedback on CBC/Radio-Canada programming as they renew their broadcasting licences, which expires on Aug. 31.

“We want to make sure that the content produced and distributed by CBC/Radio-Canada reflects the diversity of Canada’s population, while meeting its needs in both official languages,” read the platform. The forum will hold and record a public hearing on May 25 in Ottawa to further address the issue of representation.

Allard, along with a team representing INVISIBLES, was invited to meet with Radio-Canada on Feb. 20 to discuss their demands. They proposed a document of suggested practices, which was received well by Société Radio Canada/Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (SRC/CBC), L’Association des galeries d’art contemporain (AGAC) and the Artist-Run Centres and Collectives Conference (ARCA). However, SRC/CBC explained that contemporary artists need better press relations in order to receive accurate representation.

“There are some projects on their way to create something to help at that level, but nothing is confirmed,” said Allard. “AGAC and ARCA had things to say about that, it’s not something really new they told us. However, they also offered to meet radio producers, which (according to them), they never did before. It is very generous and it’s the sign that it’s the beginning of a dialogue.”

But, if pre-existing government-funded arts programmes, in and of themselves, are not exploring diverse audiences, how can we expect the media to do the same? 

Since its conception, the petition has also attracted the attention of MAtv’s “Mise à Jour Montréal” who invited Louise Déry, the director of UQAM’s art gallery, to discuss the issue.

In a segment of Feb. 17’s episode, Déry reflects on how art writers for The New Yorker, The New York Times and The LA Times attend art schools’ graduating exhibitions to get a sense of emerging artists. Quebec media, on the other hand, doesn’t do that.

In most of Quebec’s newspapers, the arts section has been merged with culture, leading coverage to typically include generally inaccessible events, such operas, plays and symphonies. Rarely do they immerse themselves in art galleries outside of Montreal’s larger cultural institutions.

Allard argues that it is always the same artists who are put forward on the Quebec scene, and this way of thinking starts in university.

Allard attended Concordia’s MFA Open studios on Feb. 19 and noticed that all their visiting artists were from Montreal. “This is unacceptable,” he said. “I think that [the] university should strive to create new networks and this passes by inviting people outside current networks.”

On their social media platforms, INVISIBLES showcases a Quebecois artist or art collective a day for a project called 366 jours/366 artistes. Among the 366 artists are multi-disciplinary, video, performance and screen printing artists like Rachel Echenberg, Marc-Antoine K. Phaneuf and Dominique Pétrin. Also featured in the project are some that are well represented, such as sculptor David Altmejd and Concordia Studio Arts professor, painter Janet Werner. Both artists have pieces at the Musée d’Art Contemporain in Montreal and the Musée national des beaux-arts in Quebec.

Tune in to Radio Atelier on CIBL 101.5 on Mondays at 6 p.m. for more from Allard, or find them wherever you get your podcasts. For more information, or to listen/download episodes online visit



After a five-year break, Shad is back with his most complete album yet

After a five-year break, Ontario MC is back with his most complete album yet

“If I’m honest, it’s not exactly what I wanted to do, but at the end of the day I have to do the thing that feels like I’m giving people something real. That’s what this was,” said Shadrach Kabango, a rapper known as Shad. He just released A Short Story About A War, his first album since taking five years off of music to host CBC’s flagship arts interview show, Q, then Hip-Hop Evolution, a Netflix docuseries produced by Russell Peters about the growth of today’s most popular genre.

A Short Story About A War is a concept album that was birthed from a poem Shad wrote about societal inequality. It’s a war metaphor in which snipers represent merciless capitalists, stone-throwers are everyday people, and the central character, the fool, doesn’t believe in the power of bullets. The violence in war stands for social inequality. “What do our governments and corporations do, here and abroad? Violence, really,” Shad said. The album was inspired by his time in Vancouver, where he got a master’s degree in liberal studies from Simon Fraser University. The city has the highest percentage of low-income households in Canada, while the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment is the highest in the country, rising above $3,000, about $1,000 more than Toronto, the next highest city. “That’s where that story came from. My subconscious mind trying to grapple with what does it mean to live well in a place like this,” Shad said.

Shad interspersed heavier cuts from his new album with his classic, lighthearted tracks. Photo by Simon New

The album presents a bleak depiction of this war, concluding that fear is at the heart of the conflict. The main character defies this conflict. “There’s many different ways to participate in the violence and the tension that you’re feeling. And there’s an alternative, but it’s very difficult; this fool character,” Shad said. The fool comes to realize that violence stems from fear, and although the album is at times dark, this character leads the listener to look within themselves to find hope. It is a sprawling message packed tightly into a metaphor that is the perfect backbone to A Short Story About A War.

On Friday night, Shad put on a show that was exuberant as often as it was somber and reflective, mixing his new, heavy cuts with the material that got him to where he is. Thoughtful, slick and technically sharp rap that is all too often given the dreaded, trite label of “conscious.” “The bigger part of me loves entertaining people, loves giving people a certain style that they’ve come to know and enjoy with my music,” Shad said. That was certainly apparent when he brought freestyles, call-and-response and quick banter to Le Ministère.

Shad has won a number of awards including an Emmy and a Peabody Award for Hip-Hop Evolution, and snatched the 2011 Juno for Rap Recording of the Year from none other than Drake. As decorated as he is, Shad values consistency over any specific prize, particularly after his 2013 album, the last before his five-year break. “When I finished Flying Colours and that album was well received, for some reason that was significant to me. Because it felt like I wasn’t a fluke,” he said. With A Short Story About A War, he handles complex topics with succinct clarity, all while delivering top-shelf punchlines and metaphors inside of five-star flows. Shad is certainly not a fluke.

Student Life

What looms on the horizon for journalism?

McGill hosts discussions with industry bigwigs, veteran correspondents and student journalists

Even though journalism is facing enormous challenges, the profession is going through somewhat of a renaissance. That was the general consensus among panelists at the Journalism and Media Conference, held in the McGill University Student Centre from Feb. 26 to 28.

The conference was co-hosted by The Tribune and The Daily publishing societies, responsible for publishing McGill’s two English-language student newspapers. The panels featured conversations with new and veteran industry insiders, moderated by editors from The Tribune, The Daily and McGill’s francophone student newspaper, Le Délit.

The editor-in-chief of the McGill Tribune, Nicholas Jasinski, said the goal of the conference was to provide McGill students interested in journalism with the opportunity to learn about the industry and its future. “Unlike Concordia, McGill does not have a journalism program, and part of the [Tribune] Publishing Society’s mandate is to act as an educational resource for students interested in journalism,” he said. Each panel related to the conference’s theme, “journalism redefined,” and focused on recent trends in the industry that have changed the way journalists do their job.

Day One: Public Broadcasting

Panels on the first day included some serious CBC heavyweights, such as Julian Sher, a senior producer at CBC’s The Fifth Estate, who led a panel on investigative reporting.

There was also a bilingual Q&A session with Hubert Lacroix, the former president and CEO of CBC/Radio-Canada. Lacroix was blunt when he compared the CBC’s funding model to other public broadcasters around the world. “I’ll tell you that we have a different business model, and I’ll tell you right away that it’s broken,” he said.

Lacroix explained that 65 per cent of the CBC’s revenue comes from the government, and 45 per cent comes from commercial revenue, notably television advertising. Due to the overall decrease in advertising revenue in the media industry, Lacroix was adamant that the CBC needs to be completely government-funded to ensure its future success.

“We want to go ad-free in order to have stable, multi-year funding,” he said. “You need to be able to give us a funding model that is not crumbling.”

The next panel featured long-time senior correspondent and the new co-host of CBC’s The National, Adrienne Arsenault. She was joined by Deidre Depke, the New York bureau chief for NPR’s Marketplace. Both women agreed that President Donald Trump’s animosity towards the press, and the recent increase in newspaper subscriptions seemingly in response to his attacks, have created an exciting news environment to work in. “This is an era of ‘bring it,’” Arsenault said. “This is what separates the posers from the people who really do the job.”

Hubert Lacroix, the former president and CEO of CBC/Radio-Canada, answers questions with Margot Hutton, the news editor at Le Délit, McGill’s francophone newspaper. Photo by Kenneth Gibson.

Day Two: Fake News and Foreign Correspondence

Day two began with Emily Kingsland, a research librarian at McGill, leading a workshop on verifying news to avoid being duped by websites masquerading as legitimate news sources.

Kingsland recommended techniques such as considering the audience an article is written for, assessing the authority or credibility of the source, and keeping an eye out for sloppiness, like typos or unprofessional tone and word choice.

Then, for a different look at fake news, Emma Overton from The Beaverton, a Canadian news satire website, answered questions about what it’s like to write made-up news for a living.

Overton talked about The Beaverton’s writing process, but also provided an eloquent explanation of the difference between fake news and satire, arguing that good satire is actually rooted in truth. “Its intent should be to expose and criticize a societal ill and make people more curious about the topic,” she said. “The intention of fake news is almost always to deceive the reader for political gain.”

In the evening, two highly-accomplished foreign correspondents, Dan Bilefsky from The New York Times and Michel Cormier from Radio-Canada, shared anecdotes about the specific highs and lows they’ve experienced as foreign correspondents. The Montreal-born Bilefsky was recently re-assigned to Montreal by The New York Times as a “Canada correspondent,” part of the paper’s push to appeal more to their Canadian readers. He spoke about the peculiarity of returning to his hometown after 28 years, and going from writing about war criminals to writing about poutine.

Day Three: Indigenous Reporting

The most compelling panel of day three was on Indigenous reporting. It featured Daniel Rowe, a reporter for The Eastern Door, Kahnawake’s community newspaper, and Christine Lussier, the co-producer of Nipivut Radio, an Inuit community program on McGill’s radio station, CKUT.

Lussier pointed out that many distinct nations and communities fall under the umbrella of “Indigenous” in Canada, and there is a common misconception that all Indigenous reporting focuses on the same broad issues. In reality, Lussier said, an Indigenous reporter’s writing will reflect the community they are reporting on, as with any other reporting.

The two panelists also discussed the role Indigenous reporting plays in creating a more diverse representation of Indigenous people in the media, rather than the handful of cliché news stories that tend to be written about Indigenous communities by non-Indigenous reporters.

Feature image by Kenneth Gibson


Nahlah Ayed on migration and refugees

The foreign correspondent spoke about her experience covering the refugee crisis

Nahlah Ayed, a foreign correspondent with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) based in London, England, gave a talk on Feb. 8 at Concordia University to discuss issues of immigration, migration and refugees.

She opened the discussion with a clip of an episode of CBC’s The Fifth Estate called “Saved at Sea,” which she reported on. The Fifth Estate is a weekly Canadian investigative documentary program which reports on various political and controversial issues and the people whose lives are affected by them.

Ayed’s “Saved at Sea” focused on refugees and migrants who were rescued from the Mediterranean Sea by the Red Cross/MOAS Responder. In the episode, she tells their stories and details their efforts to find a better life in European countries.

“This has been a documentary 15 years in the making,” said Ayed. Back in 2008, she met an Iraqi refugee as he waited her table at a restaurant in Paris. “I was thinking about writing a book on refugees and the Middle East, but he wasn’t very comfortable talking to me. He didn’t want any trouble,” she said. Having traveled on foot from Iraq to Europe, Ayed believed he was the perfect example of the lengths people were willing to go to escape Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

Ayed described how, in 2003, there were thousands of people fleeing Iraq, usually to Syria which was safer at the time. “This new wave that started was something we’d never seen in the Middle East before,” she said. Ayed was then sent to the Iraq border with her crew. “I stood at that border, and thousands of people were crossing the borders with their belongings, children, extended families and their stories,” said Ayed.

There were two stories coming across the border, Ayed said. One about Iraq itself and the politics, the other about these people trying to regain control over their interrupted lives. “I felt that the future of Iraq itself rested on what these people could do to survive successfully,” she said.

“Dozens of stories were based on that one day at border. I wanted to do a story of people who were doing the impossible to get out of the country.”

Nahlah Ayed is a foreign correspondent with CBC based in London, England. Photo by Alex Hutchins

In 2015, people were starting to pay more attention to refugee crises, Ayed said, this time to the Syrian crisis. Due to the prominence of social media, the Syrian crisis became more accessible.

“I remember meeting two Syrian women talking about the dilemma about what to do with their children, their young men. Once they were old enough, they were either going to be recruited by ISIS or by the Assad regime and, therefore, they would send them out to smugglers or any other ways to get them out of Syria,” she said.

“We went out to the borders, just like we did in Iraq, but this time in the heart of Europe,” Ayed said, as this was the location where people were fleeing to at the time. Her main question was what motivated these refugees.

Eventually, the journalist got a spot on one of the Red Cross Responders travelling in the Mediterranean thanks to a Fifth Estate producer. “We were on the ship eight days before we finally saw a few boats coming towards us,” she said. “I had essentially a day to find the answers I was looking for.” Some people fled for in hopes to have better lives and security, some for economic reasons and some were forced to leave by smugglers.

Following the lecture, the journalist answered some questions from the audience. Several people asked about her role as a journalist when interacting with refugees. “[Refugees] feel betrayed by the media and the only approach is to be honest,” she replied. She said that about two out of three people will be open to sharing their story, but it depends on the person. “There is nothing more important for a journalist than to use the truth as a weapon. You want to tell the stories you see and hope people will open up to them.”

Ayed herself experienced hard times when reporting in Iraq, which she told The Concordian about. “We were about to cover a story after Saddam had fallen, and we were near an explosion and I felt very unsafe. The crew and I were separated and I was physically harmed before a really nice guy, who understood I had nothing to do with it, came to save me,” Ayed said.

She also offered some tips to aspiring international journalists. “If you want this career, you should start by covering foreign stories in Canada,” she said, suggesting cultural community centres as one place to find such stories. “That’s what I did.” She added that learning a second language is definitely useful, but that it shouldn’t hold a journalist back from pursuing a story.

For her next project, she will try to contact people from the Red Cross Responder to find out where they are now and how their lives have changed.

Student Life

Laughing at myself with strangers

One Concordian’s experience participating in Grownups Read Things They Wrote as Kids

Grownups Read Things They Wrote as Kids (GRTTWaK) hosted their fifth Montreal show on Nov. 20 at La Sala Rossa.

On an elevated stage, with bright lights making it virtually impossible to see the audience before me, I shared childhood writings, from elementary school assignments to angsty teenage diary entries, for a night of comedy and emotion.

Katerina Gang reading things she wrote as a kid. Photo by Jenna Misener

GRTTWaK is a travelling, open-mic show hosted by Dan Misener. Misener and his wife, Jenna Misener, have traveled across Canada since 2007, bringing the show to Canadian communities big and small, where locals sign up to read their childhood writing. Misener hosts about 30 shows per year.

The Miseners came up with the concept in 2006, after returning home for the holidays. “We rummaged through a bunch of old boxes that my wife had stored at her parents house. In one of those boxes was her diary from when she was 13 years old,” said Misener.

“We spent a lot of that Christmas reading this thing out loud to each other and laughing and crying, and it was just this lovely perspective that I had never seen before in my wife,” said Misener. “It struck us that lots of people probably have this kind of material.”

Misener records each reading for the show’s eponymous podcast, which is available online. A few readings from each show make it onto the podcast, which is released every second Monday.

The podcast started in 2008, and has evolved as more voices participate—it is downloaded about 250,000 times a month. “Quite frequently, I get notes from listeners who heard a reading on the podcast that really resonated with them and really spoke to their experience,” said Misener. “And that’s really gratifying.”

Each show opens with Misener reading his own childhood writings. “Nobody wants to go first, so I always go first,” said Misener, who shared an elementary school journal entry about “root bear flats” during the latest show.

As a long-time fan of the podcast and the concept, I decided to share my own writing at the latest event on Nov. 20.

After attending a GRTTWaK event in January 2016, I went home and searched through my old writing. I spent hours reading and laughing at old poems, assignments and diary entries. I put some pieces aside in anticipation of GRTTWaK’s next event.

Selecting writings really allowed me to reflect on how I’ve changed since my pre-teen years. Some of the stuff I found was funny and light-hearted, but some of it was downright embarrassing. I knew I wanted to share it, but I initially felt very unsure.

“I think some people are apprehensive about the idea of sharing personal or private stuff that they’re maybe not super proud of—the parts of themselves that they like to keep hidden or the parts of themselves that aren’t on public display,” said Misener. “But I think there’s a lot of power in that.”

I shared one poem I wrote when I was 10, which featured lines like “I worry what the world will become with racism and terrorism” and “I cry at the knowledge of death.” I found it quite dramatic and funny for a 10-year-old. I also shared a diary entry I wrote when I was 12 about lost love, being “emo” and President George W. Bush.

“It can be really kind of scary,” said Misener. “We’re asking people to get up on stage and be open and honest and vulnerable in front of a crowd full of people that they don’t know.”

Getting up on that stage was an amazing feeling in that, once I started reading, I wasn’t nervous at all. I was shocked at how easy it was to open up to a group of strangers. With each line or phrase, I could feel the warmth emanating from the crowd. It was really refreshing, and almost therapeutic, to laugh at myself with strangers.

Another participant, Kristen Witczak, read several journal entries about Shakespeare and the 1994 referendum from her elementary school journal. “When I stumbled on my grade five English journals, I just couldn’t stop laughing and I thought, ‘This is kind of unique,’” said Witczak.

“Reading to the audience was a blast. It was a hugely supportive crowd and, as soon as they started laughing, I felt completely relaxed and just enjoyed the moment,” said Witczak. “I’ve been to a GRTTWaK event before and I think they’re a fantastic evening spent with a warm, kind community of strangers.”

“Our show is a show where the audience is already on your side,” said Misener. “When people get up on stage and they see the warmth in the room and they see the authenticity of the readers who share their writing, they warm up to the idea a little bit.”

Going forward, Misener hopes to incorporate a visual element to the show and create a web series to accompany the podcast. There’s no end in sight for the show, as Misener said he’s going to keep doing it so long as people are willing to share.


Hubert Lacroix on the future of CBC

CBC CEO spoke to a class full of Concordia journalism students on Jan. 21

On Jan. 21, Hubert Lacroix, the CEO of CBC/Radio-Canada, addressed a journalism class in order to discuss the future of Canada’s public broadcaster.

Concordia Journalism Chair and Associate Professor Brian Gabrial introduced Lacroix, who got more applause from the class than he had gotten as of late. This is in reference, of course, to the fact that he has been quite unpopular around the CBC these days because of the massive cuts, both in labour and finances, that have transpired under his stewardship.

“Before I start this, full transparency: I’m a double McGill grad,” he said, and the students in the class laughed. After making a few more jokes about his background, Lacroix began talking about CBC, and the jokes were soon a thing of the past. Instead, during the nearly 90-minutes he spent talking to students, three themes seemed to keep coming back: financing, Canadian content, and scandals.


Lacroix asked the room and asked how much cable costs most people, and how much people are willing to pay for it. One student mentioned that Bell had approached him saying that it would cost $50 a month.

“If you pay taxes, you actually give to CBC/Radio-Canada per year, for all the services, en anglais et en français, toutes les platformes, about 8 cents per day, $29 per Canadian, per year,” he said.

According to a document published by House of Commons back in 2008, it was recommended that Parliament should “increase the appropriations it gives the public broadcaster, from $33 per capita to $40 per capita a year over the next seven years.” This number was considered the amount required for continued quality production, and did not take into account inflation. And yet, funding has since decreased for the public broadcaster.

Another big topic was the CBC losing the rights to broadcast NHL hockey last year, a contentious and public decision which Lacroix said would cost too much, and that the money would be split in half between players and the NHL itself. “There is no way in the world a public broadcaster can justify spending $5.2 billion of taxpayer money on hockey.”

Lacroix also spoke about the high costs of producing content, both in Canada and elsewhere. For example, one hour of House of Cards costs $5 to 7 million to produce. He explained that that is why other Canadian networks often just pay for rights to air American content, which costs much less money, hence a lack of Canadian-produced content on all networks except for CBC.

Lacroix spoke of public broadcasting funding in other countries, showing just how low the CBC’s numbers are compared to others: the average for developed nations is $80 per citizen, per year.

“Everybody wants us to be the BBC. Look at the numbers. I’m sorry, but they have something like five times our budget, one language, and one time zone.”


For a perspective on CBC’s content, Lacroix once again asked the room to name a program they watched on CBC or Radio-Canada in the last week. People mentioned Tout le Monde en Parle, CBC News, or The National, to name a few. He then asked how many had the CBC App, how many people watch Schitt’s Creek, Book of Negroes, and other shows. He asked students about what they like so much about Netflix, and on how everyone uses every platform: most Canadians have four, Lacroix explained. This has changed the way that content is delivered to Canadians.

“It’s not true that people watch television and series on their mobile phone yet, when we create content, we have to consider that a number of Canadians are still watching in the old way.”

Lacroix also spoke about why Canadian content is so important right now, showing the audience that other networks barely run any at all—most of the programs shown on other networks are produced in the U.S. He then explained why this was such a big problem.

“People ask: is public broadcasting a good investment? Well, for every dollar that the CBC gets, we generate about $4 for the Canadian economy,” Lacroix said. “We create jobs, we commission programs, there’s a whole industry that supports us, and, what’s interesting, is that if you take us away, you immediately take two and a half times the amount that the government invests in us, which is a billion bucks, and you take it away from the Canadian economy, because we indirectly create jobs for that value.”

To rest his case he said the CBC last year invested $762 million in Canadian content, while all the other canadian networks combined invested $500 million.


Understandably, concerns came through on the many scandals the CBC has lately been associated with.

Lacroix spoke openly about the Jian Gomeshi controversy, saying that what happened led to a national conversation about sexual harassment. “I think our job is to manage this, go to the bottom of this and put in place the best possible programs and make them easy so that you’re not scared or fear retribution when you actually put your hand up and say ‘The behavior that I witnessed or that affected me was improper,’” he said.


After the talk, The Concordian got the opportunity to ask a few extra questions to Lacroix.

The Concordian: What can we as consumers of the CBC do to make sure that there is a future for the public broadcaster?

Hubert Lacroix: I think that the time has come to ensure that if you believe in public broadcasting, that your voice is heard. That the people who choose on where the tax dollars go, if they hear that public broadcasting is important to Canadians in this country—because it does ensure Canadian culture, it ensures democracy in this country—if the people who are going to be seeking votes and who are elected understand that it is important for you … if you make those statements clear, that’s going to be the big difference maker.

C: You spoke a lot today about the importance of Canadian content, and yet one of the first things that the CBC cut was in-house productions. A lot of known personalities like Peter Mansbridge have spoken against this. What will the 2020 plan mean for in-house productions? Will they be returning?

HL: No. Because Canadian content doesn’t have to be done by CBC/Radio-Canada in-house. We can actually partner with an independent Canadian producer, creating Canadian content, and have it on our programing schedules in the same way. It’s just the making of it, inside our shop, with the infrastructures, with the square footage, with the technical equipment, that is what we have chosen to do less of, inside our shop. CBC actually was not doing much inside our walls … We commission the program. We decide, ok we are going to greenlight your project, we are going to invest in it, and we are going to show it on our network.

C: You mentioned that you give a lot of talks like these. Why do you think that it is important to talk about CBC today to university students?

HL: Because the interaction that I get, the questions that I get, the blank stares when I talk about CBC and our programming … shows me that in order to be able to reach the audience that is the next generation of our audience, plus, people in this faculty that could actually work for us one day, we have to continuously listen. Listening, seeing what your consumption habits are, what you’re doing in your schools, the subject matters that are important to you, the matters that you raise with me… all of that is absolutely key to how I see the broadcaster evolving … And because you are going to be involved in here, some of the challenges that will impact your work area.


Media today: Canadian content matters

Why people should be passionate about public broadcasting

On Jan. 21, Hubert Lacroix, the CEO of CBC/Radio-Canada, addressed some of Concordia’s journalism students and asked them a question.

“How many of you care about Canadian content?”

The answer was, quite frankly, underwhelming. A few people said yes, and a few said no. At least a hundred young adults sat in that room, and none seemed to feel strongly about the importance of Canadian content.

We won’t mince words: this is depressing.

As Canadians, this is an important time for us to band together and express an interest—no, a need—for Canadian-produced content. Because supporting Canadian content means giving a chance to people in our own country to produce things that matter to us, like films, documentaries, T.V. shows, everything. It means creating more jobs, and knowing that we are supporting our own.

Let’s not forget the idea of a cultural identity: it’s the reason the CRTC was made in the first place! Before, in the deep dark ages of the early 20th century, Canada was inundated with American content. Media is a part of “soft power,” and it was this slow encroachment from our neighbours to the South worried many Canadians, who felt that it was slowly eroding any national identity Canadians have.

The best way to create jobs, protect content and craft a cultural identity, is by watching Canadian content.

Even if fiction and television don’t interest you, your interest in The Concordian is proof enough that you care about the news. Publicly-funded news is not beholden to corporations or private interests: it is only loyal to the public that provides its budget.

After all, who didn’t tune in to CBC during the Ottawa shooting? During the elections? During 9/11? Having a news source that is not pressured by ad revenue, one that cares more about getting it right than getting it first, is invaluable in the era of the 24-hour news cycle.

If Canadian content matters to you, or if public news matters to you, or if the CBC/Radio-Canada matters to you, remember to vote for it! Canada is in an election year. Consider voting for Canadian content. Consider voting for un-commercialized news.

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