August 27, 2019 | Society
The Common Ground, a five-episode podcast series that launches September 4, explores the topic of hate and counter-hate in Alberta. Produced by MacEwan University’s Office of Human Rights, Diversity and Equity (OHRDE), The Common Ground Podcast is rich with conversations about challenging, polarizing and contentious issues affecting Albertans.
One of those conversations, says Irfan Chaudhry, co-host of the podcast and director of the OHRDE, was with members of Yellow Vests Exposed. The trio of activists were initially interested in joining Canada’s Yellow Vest movement thinking it would be similar to the movement in France focused on workers’ rights, unionization and coming together to make change.
Very quickly they saw that it wasn’t. Though the leaders of group disputed accusations of being racist and xenophobic, the Canadian Yellow Vest movement was connected to a strong anti-immigration stance. So the trio decided to stay in the social media groups and expose the Yellow Vest leaders for their divisive and potentially discriminatory online activities.
When Irfan interviewed the activists, he was blown away by their honesty. “They were very candid in terms of what they initially thought Canada’s Yellow Vest movement was about, what motivated them to still be involved in the group and to expose the members for their bigotry, as well as the work they're still continuing to do,” says Irfan.
Listen to The Common Ground podcast on Spotify.
Irfan thought a podcast would be a good way to moderate discussions about a topic from two very different — sometimes polarized — points of view.
To ensure the series provides a holistic viewpoint about hate and counter-hate in Alberta, Irfan turned to Iman Bukhari, founder of the Canadian Cultural Mosaic Foundation. Based in Calgary, Iman is an advocate for improved race relations and sits on the Government of Alberta's Anti-Racism Advisory Council. Irfan credits her as the creative force in the development, storytelling, scripting, editing and mixing of the episodes.
Irfan and Iman encountered one interesting challenge — finding people with hateful views who were willing to be interviewed.
“We had a couple of people lined up, but at the last second it just fell through because they felt uncomfortable — which is fine,” says Irfan. “We wanted to make sure people feel comfortable with being interviewed.”
Even though they made every effort to balance different points of view, Irfan won’t be surprised if The Common Ground is accused of being biased towards a certain side or group, but says the podcast will reference when they were unable to get a guest to share contradictory views. At other times, guests on the podcast shared incredible personal stories that caused moments of reflection.
“I was really inspired by how candid and open people were,” says Irfan. “That’s just how real these conversations were.”
The Office of Human Rights, Diversity and Equity was able to promote The Common Ground Podcast with a grant from Alberta’s Human Rights Education and Multiculturalism Fund.
Using podcasts to have big conversations
Sometimes a conversation is too big for the classroom, so with a series or interview style for everyone, podcasts have become the next big storytelling adventure at MacEwan.