TORONTO – A Toronto television journalist is believed to be Canada's first anchor to don a Muslim head scarf at one of the city's major news broadcasters.
Ginella Massa was asked to fill in on the anchor desk for CityNews' 11 p.m. broadcast last week and created a buzz after the broadcast ended and she Tweeted, "That's a wrap! Tonight wasn't just important for me. I don't think a woman in hijab has ever anchored a newscast in Canada."
Massa, 29, said Friday that she became Canada's first hijab-wearing television news reporter in 2015 while reporting for CTV News in Kitchener, Ontario, a city west of Toronto. She moved back to Toronto, where she grew up, earlier this year to take a reporting job at CityNews.
Massa recognized the personal career strides she had made after stepping out of the anchor desk, but she said it took her editor to point out the larger significance.
"It wasn't until my editor said, 'Hey, great job! Was that a first for Canada? A woman in a hijab?' And I said yes. And so I tweeted about it. As much as I knew it was important, I didn't expect the reaction that I received. My phone hasn't stopped buzzing for the last week," Massa told The Associated Press.
Massa's achievement comes at a time when anti-Muslim sentiment has swept across the U.S. and Europe, stirred by a rise in populism, xenophobia and political rhetoric, most notably in the U.S. by President-elect Donald Trump. During the election campaign, Trump called for a "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on" — a blanket religion test denounced by many as un-American.
"I've talked to many women who are journalists in the U.S. who work behind the scenes and they've told me that they face multiple challenges trying to get on air," said Massa. "They've been told because of their hijab, that's not going to happen. That makes me really sad because they're being held back by someone else's idea of what the public can or cannot handle."
Although the reaction to Massa's anchor stint and reporting role has been mostly positive in Canada, she said she has received a handful of negative comments and Tweets.
"But this is all the more reason in today's climate to see positive images of Muslim women," the journalist said. "They are a symbol of Islam when they wear the hijab and that carries a powerful image. It's so important to see positive images of us in the media."