Canada’s 1st hijabi anchor hopes to change stereotype

Ginella Massa says she is ‘lucky’ that she had ‘people in the industry who took the risk to put me on air’

Dina al-Shibeeb

Published: Updated:

Ginella Massa, who on Friday became the first Canadian woman donning the Islamic veil covering the hair known as hijab, told Al Arabiya English that she hopes this will change “misconceptions” about Muslim women.

“I hope being on air in the hijab can help change perceptions about what Muslim women can do and be, especially in today’s climate when there are so many misconceptions about us,” Massa, who works for CityNews, said.

While the hardline militant group known as ISIS has killed so many Muslims, especially in areas it occupies in both Syria and Iraq, there are stereotypes in the West about Muslims, leading to what experts dub as Islamophobia.

Another typical stereotype is that Muslim women have no rights and are generally confined to do household and kitchen chores.

“I hope people will realize that having a piece of cloth on my head does nothing to influence whether I can be a good journalist or not,” the Toronto-based Massa continued.

“It feels pretty amazing to be the first,” she said, “but it’s also disappointing that it has taken this long.”

Canada, which touts its multiculturalism policy and made immigrants a major part of its population of approximately 35 million, “has been a hugely diverse country for decades. There are more than a million Muslims across this nation,” she said, adding: “However, our news outlets largely don’t reflect our diverse make-up.”

The Panama-born Massa described herself as “lucky” that she had “people in the industry who were able to see past appearances, recognize my work ethic and skills, and take the risk to put me on air.”

She emphasized that it was a “risk” because “because it’s never been done before.”

“I hope more people in positions of power will see the value in having more diverse voices in the newsroom, whether it’s diversity in age, gender, physical ability, sexual orientation, race, religion,” she said. “It’s vital if we truly want to tell the stories of our communities.”

In early 2015, Massa scored another first, becoming the first hijab-wearing television news reporter.

CityNews is the news and current affairs division of City, which is a Canadian network that includes six metropolitan TV stations and a cable service.

Massa becoming the first hijabi news anchor in a major channel also represents changing Canada under its Liberal Prime Minister Justine Trudeau’s administration since he assumed office in November 2015.

Since Trudeau’s coming in office, Canada witnessed its first Sikh Minister of Defense Harjit Sajjan and its first Muslim woman Minister of Democratic Institutions Maryam Monsef.

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