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Religion and Media in Canada

Religion is prevalent in many forms of Canadian media. The main religions found in Canadian media are Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Although Canada’s Broadcasting Act (1991) called for representation of multicultural and multiracial aspects of Canadian society, Canadian religious media is dominated by Christian-based programming. To cater to the growing diversity of Canadian society, Bill C-10 was introduced in November 2020 to update the Broadcasting Act in order to include digital media. It also encourages media outlets through programming and employment opportunities to “serve the needs and interests of all Canadians… Canadians from racialised communities and Canadians of diverse ethnocultural backgrounds, socioeconomic statuses, abilities and disabilities, sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions and ages”.

TV and Radio

Christian television is very accessible in Canada. Corporations like Canadian Christian News Service help broadcast material from faith-based organizations – mostly Christian – all over Canada through major newspapers, radio, television, blogs, and editors and reporters of media outlets. Other Christian media outlets in Canada include ChristianWeek, Faith Today, Canadian Christianity, Christian Herald, The Anglican Journal, and Christian Courier.

The Canadian corporation Crossroads Media is “Canada’s leading international distributor of faith and values media content, crossing multiple genres and demographics by encouraging the development of media that shares values sourced in religion”. They are the producers of religious programming such as YES TV, 100 Huntley Street, and Context with Lorna Dueck. All these programmes broadcast Christian media and their main source of funding is charitable donations amounting to $12 million per year. Another large religious media corporation in Canada is United Christian Broadcasters. Their audience consists of over 1 million people in the province of Ontario alone. Like Crossroads, they are a registered charity organisation in Canada. They also broadcast radio stations in Alberta and Ontario.

The Miracle Channel was started in 1996 and still operates as an all-Christian TV station, claiming to be the only TV station in Canada that still broadcasts only Christian TV shows. Their channel can be accessed and viewed online anytime because they operate 24/7.

There are also several Christian radio stations in Canada such as United Christian Broadcasters Canada (Alberta and Ontario), Christian Hit Radio Inc. (Ontario), and Bethany Pentecostal Tabernacle (Yukon).

Portrayal of Religious Minorities in Canadian Media

Religious minorities in Canada are not represented as well as Christians in media. There are TV shows and programmes that include religious minority programming and representation such as Channel Punjabi, Apna Punjab TV, Jewish Voice, and Canadian Bahá’í News Service.

Among religious minorities, the portrayal of Muslims in Canadian media is very noticeable and is influenced by Hollywood. Studies have illustrated that many Hollywood films and TV shows villainize Muslims, and portray Muslim men as violent and Muslim women as oppressed (Alsultany, 2012, Arjana 2017, Shaheen 2012). Little Mosque on the Prairie (2007-2012) is one of the few Canadian TV shows that present a realistic perspective of Muslims in Canada. Produced and directed by Zarqa Nawaz, the sitcom is about a town in the province of Saskatchewan where Muslim immigrants set up a mosque in a predominantly non-Muslim society.

The portrayal of other religious communities in Canadian television varies from non-existent to only focusing on issues of religious accommodation.

 Alsultany, Evelyn. 2012. Arabs and Muslims in the Media: Race and Representation after 9/11. New York, NY: New York University Press.
 Arjana, Sophia R. 2017. “Monstrous Muslims” in Religion and Popular Culture in America. Oakland, CA: University of California Press.
 Shaheen, Jack G. 2001. Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People. Northhampton, MA: Olive Branch Press.

D 27 September 2021    ASana Patel

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