Journalist recalls days of racist attitudes in Toronto

Jules Elder, now a Centennial College professor, helps launch Share Newspaper in the 1970s.

A prominent Toronto journalist, originally from Trinidad and Tobago, says that racism has always existed in the news media industry where he works.

Jules Elder, a founding member of the Canadian Association of Black Journalists (CABJ), spoke to journalism students at Centennial College’s Story Arts Centre on Feb. 14. It was one of the college’s Black History Month events.

In the mid-1970s Elder helped launch Share Newspaper, a weekly newspaper serving the Black and Caribbean communities in Toronto.

He described an incident, working for Share, when he faced racial discrimination. Elder remembered attending a news event at which a white supremacist was speaking.

“I went to a press conference with Ernst Zündel, and was one of two black people in the room,” Elder said. “Some reporters asked questions, so I got up to ask a question.” Elder paused for a moment. “I’m still waiting for my answer! He just looked at me,” he said.

Jules Elder recalls times when his racial background sparked negative response.

Ernst Zündel lived in Canada from 1958 to 2000, and was jailed multiple times for publishing hateful literature, and allegedly being a threat to national security. The press conference took place in 1976. Elder did not let the racism stop him from doing his job, however.

“Did I go back and write a story for Share newspaper? Of course I did,” and again Elder paused in thought. “These things happen,” he said.

When asked if black journalists still face racial prejudice in the industry today, Elder insisted that discrimination still exists in some quarters.

“Sometimes it is blatant, while at other times it could be subtle,” he said. “I deal with it as I see fit, but always in a responsible manner that places me above the one displaying the racist behaviour.”