Canada is a culturally diverse country that is home to many different religions. These religions, however, are not always equally represented in Canadian media, where portrayals of religion are often stereotyped and disempowering.
Christian religions form the largest religious group in Canada today, with more than 70 per cent of the population identifying with a Christian denomination. The widespread popularity of Christianity in Canada, however, does not mean that media treatment of Christianity is always accurate or informed.
Since the 1990s, media educators Anita Day and Guy Golan have identified increased tension between people of faith and media outlets . Media and religion are two concepts that can be challenging to partner: religion is frequently misrepresented in media for a wide variety of reasons, whether as a result of mistakenly held beliefs or by dramatizing religion to sell newspapers or attract viewers.
It is called the “Highway of Tears”: an 800 kilometer stretch of highway in British Columbia where more than a dozen young women have disappeared since 1994. The same thing had happened before in the same place – almost twenty young women disappeared or were killed there between the late Sixties and the early Eighties – but until recently these crimes have received little media attention, perhaps because the majority of victims have been Aboriginal women.
I can look at the media and see people from my group widely represented as heroes, role models, leaders, news anchors, television hosts, and experts.
Although the benefits of visible minority media are considerable, the creation process can be riddled with challenges.
Since before Canada became a Confederation, visible minority groups have been creating their own media: the first issue of the Provincial Freeman, which was a weekly newspaper edited and published by African Canadians in the Province of Canada West (now Ontario), was first published on March 24, 1854.
For over a hundred years, Westerns and documentaries have shaped the public’s perception of Native people. The wise elder (Little Big Man); the drunk (Tom Sawyer); the Indian princess (Pocahontas); the loyal sidekick (Tonto)—these images have become engrained in the consciousness of every North American.
Objectivity and accuracy are among the most important journalistic values. Consistently, however, Canadian news media has underrepresented and stereotyped visible minority groups.
Persons with disabilities might best be described, in the media at least, as an invisible minority: though a large segment of the population has a physical or mental disability they have been almost entirely absent from the mass media until recent years. Moreover, when persons with disabilities appear they almost always do so in stereotyped roles.