Bye, bye Canadian Scene

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It hasn’t been active for many years but I think the Canadian Scene deserves at least a mention as it dissolves, because it was a good idea that lasted half a century.

Here’s my old friend Ben Viccari describing the organization, in an interview he gave before his death in 2010.

Back in 1951 when Canadian Scene was established by a group of dedicated volunteers, there were about 50 ethnic newspapers and one or two isolated radio programs — that’s all. Most of these papers were Eastern European and German, with a smattering of Italian since there had been a substantial Italian immigration prior to World War I.

According to my estimate, there are some 1,000 media representing non-English, non- French and non-Aboriginal communities. By media I mean newspapers, magazines, and individual radio and television programs — plus the growing number of internet publications.

The role they play is threefold: (1) acting as a bridge between the newcomer and the community at large, (2) providing ethno- specific community news and (3) providing motherland news.

(…)

One of the most rewarding periods of my life was being in 1986 offered the position of managing editor of Canadian Scene, a free news and information service for Canada’s ethnic media. I was also in effect the executive director with a staff of one, the highly efficient Naomi Macdonald who was our office manager. We were publishing in 13 languages by the time of our unfortunate demise and mailing in English to those for whom we couldn’t afford to translate.

I was responsible for persuading the Board back in 1986 that with mailings of our twice-monthly bulletins to such media as Dutch and Czech and Slovak with small representation. We went into Chinese, Urdu, Punjabi but felt the need for even more translations. I lucked into the job after the untimely demise of Doug Amaron , a highly praised retired Canadian Press executive.

When competition for funding became fierce in the late 1990s, Ben saw that Canadian Scene was not going to survive if it didn’t adapt. Postal costs were killing the charity, so Ben asked me if I could help him take him onto the web. Without pay and without an office, Ben continued to write articles on his blog “Canscene”, offering the content free of charge to any ethnic newspapers who wanted to pick it up. Pretty generous.

Since I liked and admired Ben personally, The least I could do was host his blog and teach him the technical needs for blogging. I laugh when I remember how he dealt with flaky software issues. He would bang his mouse on the desktop like a bar of soap, expecting that to clear things up.

Today I got word from another friend about the impending dissolution of the Canadian Scene corporation. John Robert Colombo had served on the board, so he got the official notification. In 120 days, Canadian Scene will cease to exist as a legal entity. I’ll continue to leave Ben’s Canscene in place, anyway.

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