NDP MP Jinny Sims (Newton-North Delta) on Monday demanded answers from the Conservative government in the House of Commons on how they would ensure that new Canadians who relied on OMNI ethnic-language newscasts stay informed, following last Thursday’s announcement by Rogers Media Inc. That it was cutting 110 jobs and shutting down ethnic-language newscasts across its OMNI TV stations.
Sims said: “Many newcomers are still perfecting their English language skills, and ethnic-language newscasts keep them abreast of current events in their new home. This is how immigrants learn about Canadian traditions, and what life is like here. Without warning, they’ve taken away a very accessible and important information source.”
She added: “OMNI news was a key link for many new Canadians to each other, their culture, to Canada and to the Canadian way of life. Punjabi speakers in Surrey and across Canada are in shock. News in Punjabi, Cantonese or Mandarin engages new Canadians in our democracy. It builds bridges between our diverse cultures. OMNI’s role is to foster multiculturalism. These cuts undermine the mandate that CRTC has given OMNI. How will the government ensure that new Canadians who relied on OMNI stay connected and informed.”
Sims said in a statement that as soon as cuts were announced, Canadians were in shock and she started receiving calls on the matter at both her constituency office and her office on Parliament Hill.
NDP MLAs Bruce Ralston, New Democrat multiculturalism spokesperson and MLA for Surrey-Whalley, and Harry Bains, MLA for Surrey-Newton, urged Rogers to reconsider their cuts to Omni TV’s Mandarin, Cantonese and Punjabi language news services.
Ralston said: “In the month that we celebrate Asian Heritage Month, it sad to learn about cuts that will severely impact the way Asian and South Asian communities access news in their own language. These news broadcasts are a vital link to Punjabi, Mandarin and Cantonese elders who do not speak English as a first language. They are also important for young people who are learning the language. News is the glue that binds communities and Omni TV’s services have been an essential and vital service for many years.”
He added: “Canadians need answers about the cutting of local news production, the loss of jobs and a valuable service to all communities. I hope Rogers will reconsider this decision and find a way to restore these services.”
Bains said: “The decision by Rogers to cut Omni TV’s ethnic news service has drawn criticism from the communities affected. This is a worrying concern. Many non-English speakers watch Omni news for coverage of local and international issues in their own language. Also important is the fact that many follow local and federal politics through these news services. It is in the public interest to ensure we have these services continued.”
He added: “The CRTC originally licensed the Omni TV stations to ensure Canadians of linguistic diversity and different cultural backgrounds have full access to programming and news. The lack of coverage will have a negative effect on Canada’s multicultural communities, particularly as they begin to get cut off from what is happening in local, provincial, and national level news.”