Immigrant and refugee-serving organizations, as well as other organizations working with immigrants, are often system navigators and points of reference for newcomers and local communities. During the pandemic and the shift to remote and digital work, this role had two important sides. One was helping newcomers understand the support available to them from the government and understanding how they could access support from agencies. The second was providing useful, authoritative, up-to-date, and relevant information about COVID itself, and how to deal with the pandemic.
The second has been and still remains a significant challenge. Misinformation and disinformation has flowed at unprecedented rates during the pandemic. Community organizations, health care providers, and communities themselves have struggled with both, a lack of formal system support from government, as well as a changing information landscape. This Language Advocacy Day panel focused on promising practices and lessons learned during the past year, including gaps and unaddressed issues, as well as the creation and distribution of effective multilingual information.
Questions we started with:
When it comes to providing accurate, timely, multilingual, culturally relevant information about COVID-19 in Canada, what's the problem? What are you doing to address the problem?
What role do ethnic media (George), community & advocacy organizations (Louisa), individuals and community members (Sukhmeet) have in this process? How can they work better together?
Information sharing and communication among newcomer communities is happening, increasingly in private online spaces (digital messaging groups, online social networks, etc.). What can information providers do better to reach these communities?
What advice do you have for public health and government communications staff and policy-makers to ensure that multilingual communities get the right information at the right time in the format that is most accessible and trusted for them?
George Abraham George is a founder-publisher & executive director of New Canadian Media who brings 30 years of writing and newsroom management experience. He began his journalism career with The Times of India in Mumbai (formerly Bombay), followed by stints at the Khaleej Times in Dubai and as managing editor of The Peninsula in Qatar. A journalist with high ethical standards, George won the prestigious Nieman scholarship at Harvard University (1994-95), and more recently, pursued a Master’s in Journalism at Carleton University (2004).
Sukhmeet Sachal Sukhmeet Sachal is the University of British Columbia medical student and co-founder of the COVID-19 Sikh Gurdwara Initiative provides a front-line community-led effort to ensure people have authoritative COVID-19 information. Since starting the project this past summer, Sachal and a network of more than 100 volunteers have taken a number of steps to ensure public health measures are introduced to people attending the Gurdwara with cultural awareness in mind.
Louisa Taylor Louisa is a communications professional and non-profit leader who thrives on bringing diverse people together to spark connection, strategic thinking and innovation for social change. At Refugee 613, she leads a small, dynamic team and an extensive network of partners working toward a welcoming world where everyone can thrive by convening and strategic communications to build stronger communities.
Background Inspired by over 40 years of continuous effort by the Joint National Committee for Languages, the objective of the first virtual Canadian Language Advocacy Day (LAD) on February 4th, 2021 is to strengthen the informal coalition between participating language rights advocates, individuals and organizations. The event also aims to establish an ongoing policy forum to explore the role of language within the context of social justice, education, economic recovery and improved access for Canada's changing demographics.
One of the pioneers of advocacy for language rights in Canada, Language Advocacy Day (LAD) began in 2020 as a grassroots initiative committed to creating speaking and networking opportunities that contribute to shaping Canadian language policy and advocacy by including a wide range of perspectives.