Thomas S. Saras – President and CEO of the National Ethnic Press Media Council of Canada, who publishes the Greek-language newspaper, Patrides – watched the “ethnic press” grow and evolve over 50 years in the business. He says Canadians used to dismiss these publications as foreign propaganda, but the hard work and determination of new Canadians helped to build a news sector that is carrying the flag for the printed word.
“In order to have changes in society you have to be organised”
Saras says new comers to the country faced huge hurdles in finding employment, since they were rarely credited for the education they’d received before immigrating, and in learning about their newly-adopted culture – especially if they didn’t speak English or French. The ethnic press served these new Canadians by guiding them through the hurdles, and by speaking up on their behalf. Saras, who remembers the frustration of feeling like he didn’t belong, says he learned from former Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau that the key to getting what you want in this country is to demand it.
“He told me ‘In order to have changes in society you have to be organised’…don’t expect the Anglos or the French to give to you without demanding,” says Saras, sitting in his office on the first floor of Toronto’s city hall. Saras says over the course of his fifty years living in Canada producing newspapers, he was lucky enough to befriend a number of Canadian PMs.
“To me it makes no difference if they are Conservatives or Liberals, what matters is that he’s the man in power, so he can do something,” he says.
But it was the advice of Pierre Elliott Trudeau that set his wheels in motion. Saras fled Greece after the colonels coup d’etat of 1967, and with the help of Canadian immigration authorities, landed in Toronto, with a BA in Greek Law, and a BA in international business, from the University of Rome. He said he was advised to attend University, but was disappointed to find out that he would only get a couple of credits for his European degrees.
“I had to completely start over,” he says.
He went to Ryerson University and studied Canadian business law and journalism. After that he launched Patrides.
“I started the newspaper in the early seventies. There were good days and bad days with this newspaper, some days we managed to make a dollar, sometimes we managed to lose money,” he says, admitting that for a time he had to work another job in order to keep the printers printing. “After forty-five years I believe it is one of the best in the community I am serving.”
Saras, says he acted on Trudeau’s advice to organise, and founded the NEPMCC – which represents more than 500 Canadian publications serving 93 different linguistic and cultural communities.