Monday, April 02, 2007

Thomas Madondoro, Luis Matta, Morteza Abdolalian, Mir Hussain Mahdavi, and Ashoke Dasguita (left to right) are enrolled in a new program at Sheridan College that retrains foreign journalists so they can work in Canada.

Foreign journalists in a Sheridan College retraining program share a zeal to find work in Canada's newsrooms
Mar 29, 2007 04:30 AM

Ashoke Dasgupta Special to the Star
Ever wonder who answers the phone when you order a pizza, or who delivers it?
It may be a one-time journalist from Afghanistan. Or a pamphleteer from Iran.
Now a trail-blazing program at the Sheridan Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning is giving foreign-schooled reporters and editors a chance to sharpen their skills to seek work in their chosen field in Canada.
The program, called Canadian Journalism for Internationally Trained Writers, started up in January. The first class has 32 people originally from Pakistan, Kenya, India, Brazil, Argentina and elsewhere.
It was set up by Joyce Wayne, a journalism and English literature teacher at Sheridan for the past 18 years. Formerly editor of the books magazine Quill & Quire, Wayne knew of newcomers with writing backgrounds here through PEN, the worldwide association of writers, and Canadian Journalists for Free Expression.
"Many writers living in Toronto are refugees and had to leave their countries for writing the truth," she says.
The daughter of immigrants to Canada, Wayne empathized with their struggles to re-establish their careers here.
"I don't see why most (Toronto) newsrooms are a sea of white faces in the most multicultural city in the world."
Wayne approached Sheridan academic vice-president Maureen Callahan who, she says, needed just two minutes to approve the year-long journalism certificate program.
The program got a major boost last month when Mike Colle, Ontario's citizenship and immigration minister, announced $348,000 in funding. The federal government has kicked in another $275,000.
The money will go to establishing a broadly based Centre for Internationally Trained Individuals at the Oakville college. Courses modelled on the program for journalists are planned for foreign-born accountants, technologists, nurses, early-childhood educators and filmmakers, among other pursuits.
Those enrolled in Sheridan's journalist program are paying $4,400 in tuition, with some helped by scholarships funded by the Globe and Mail, CBC, Canadian Press and Torstar, parent company of the Toronto Star. All students will get a three-month work placement as part of the program.
Some in the inaugural class came to Canada simply to seek a better life, but as the accompanying profiles show, others have backgrounds more evocative of political-intrigue novels than pizzeria work.

The writer is in the charter class of the Sheridan program for émigré journalists. Dasgupta worked as a copy editor in Nepal before coming in 1997 to Canada, where he has mostly worked in call centres.

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