Changing Face of Canadian Population Challenges Managements

By Yuen, John | Communication World, July-August 1989 | Go to article overview

Changing Face of Canadian Population Challenges Managements


Yuen, John, Communication World


Changing Face of Canadian Population Challenges Managements

Employment equity--the band-wagon that helped push women communicators to the forefront of the profession earlier this decade--is steamrolling ahead in Canada. As it advances, it is paving the way for the slow rise of a new shade of practitioner: the multicultural communicator, officially referred to in IABC short-hand as the MCC.

But north of the 49th parallel on North America's vast continent, the numbers in this emerging generation of MCCs are not as high as some are anticipating given the fast-changing racial composition of the Canadian population. In 1951, fewer than two percent belonged to ethnic minorities. However, it is estimated that by the year 2001, some 15 percent of the population will be members of a visible minority group. (The 1986 Canadian census pegs their number at nine percent of the entire population of some 26 million.)

In February this year, a survey by IABC's multicultural communicators standing committee, revealed that out of 1,350 Canadian IABC members, only 43 were MCCs--or 3.2 percent. The handful had identified themselves as having multicultural backgrounds such as chicano/hispanic, black, Asian, North American Indian, Pacific Islander and Inuit. (For the entire membership of IABC, numbering some 11,000, the survey found only 360 MCCs--or 3.3 percent of the total.)

Since there are so few of them, many are asking the obvious questions: Where are these rarities to be found and who are they working for? According to a survey by the author, MCCs in Canada are finding it easier to get jobs in government or nonprofit corporations than in business.

Rosalind Franklin, a Toronto MCC employed with the Commercial Travellers' Association of Canada, believes that the three levels of government are doing well in recruiting the "newbreed communicator" because they are regularly updating their employment equity guidelines.

"This fosters a more accessible atmosphere for the employment of qualified MCCs," says Franklin, who was the first public relations coordinator ever appointed by the 115-year old nonprofit association with 35,000 sales professional members across Canada.

"The public sector is where one would first find positive enhancements in the workplace, so the fact there are more MCCs working--and being hired--in the government sector is not surprising," observes MCC Chitra Reddin, a professor of public relations at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax, NS. She left her job as a communication manager at the accounting firm of Peat Marwick in Toronto four years ago to pursue an academic career.

Reddin, who is currently finishing a textbook, "Public Relations in Canada," adds: "It seems to me that if governments were to go ahead and legislate mandatory hiring goals for minorities in the private sector, they would still allow private employers several years to pursue these voluntarily before enforcement is carried out."

In the City of Toronto, Ont., Canada's largest business city, the municipal corporation has been pursuing affirmative action in its hiring. Wendy Forbes, self-described as "a person of mixed race," was recently appointed to coordinate the "1989--The Year for Racial Harmony" program. The job involves communicating with and motivating neighborhood groups, the trade unions and business associations to become better community neighbours.

On a year's leave from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation where she is a publicist, Forbes notes that the city government "did move early and fast to deal with the realities of an ethnically diverse population." (According to 1986 Canadian census statistics, some 20 percent of the city's population belong to "visible minorities.") The city has, since 1981, expanded its equal opportunity program to ensure equal access to jobs for racial minorities.

Toronto's initiatives in multicultural programming have caught the eye of other major Canadian cities. …

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