We Want to Hear From Canada Letter Readers

This week I returned from a rare (for me) trip to The Times’s head office in Manhattan. One of the things that repeatedly came up during my meetings with editors is this newsletter. They were very keen to know what you, its readers, want to see in it and what you want to see about Canada generally in the report — what we used to call the newspaper.

The newsroom of The New York Times in Manhattan.Credit…Jeenah Moon for The New York Times

So, for this week, the Canada Letter will turn its gaze inward.

This newsletter, under the name Canada Today, debuted in 2016, right around the time of my previous trip to the New York office. It was part of a push by The Times to attract more readers in Canada.

The effort included, among other things, adding two more correspondents who joined me after a decade of covering Canada solo. Now there are four of us covering Canada — me, Dan Bilefsky, Norimitsu Onishi and Vjosa Isai, our reporter-researcher who now writes the Canada Letter once a month.

Every week, a number of you take the time to email us with your compliments, comments, complaints and suggestions for the newsletter. Those notes have been very helpful in guiding its evolution. (And, while my schedule sometimes makes it difficult to respond, every one of your emails is indeed read, often by several people.)

In those emails I’ve sometimes found a bit of confusion between the newsletter and The New York Times in general. So it might be useful to lay out what we’re doing here and where we might be able to go.

Above all, the newsletter is not our news report on Canada. That appears on, on the New York Times mobile app and in the print edition of the paper. In the Trans Canada section of the newsletter, we share links to the full Canada report each week, in case you missed something.

More on Canada

  • Chinese Interference: A foundation honoring the father of Justin Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister, said that its board of directors and chief executive had resigned after being swept into a political storm over leaked intelligence showing that China planned to meddle in Canadian elections.
  • A Controversial Tactic: A Canadian policing technique that relies on undercover officers and fake criminal enterprises to obtain confessions has come under fire for the role that opponents say it plays in wrongful convictions.
  • Asylum Seekers: After a new agreement went into effect with the United States, a freer era of migration into Canada ended on March 25 when officials stopped accepting asylum petitions from people who walk in at unofficial crossings.
  • Record Population Growth: Canada grew by over one million people last year and most of them were newcomers, as the government pushes more immigration to plug labor shortages.

Another thing that sets the newsletter apart from The New York Times’s news report is that the newsletter is intended specifically for Canadian readers. As a result, the editors give me and Vjosa some leeway, for example, in omitting background information on issues and people familiar to Canadians and in some style variations like not including the province after the names of larger cities. Many of you have told me that you want Canadian spellings as well, a request I’m sharing with my editors. We currently adhere to The Times’s style guide, as the other international newsletters do.

We keep the newsletter short and avoid using it for in-depth investigations and deep analysis because few people love long emails.

But from the start of the Canada Letter I have tried not to restrict what it can be. In terms of content, my model for it has been the long gone CBC Radio program “Morningside” when it was hosted by Peter Gzowski, the journalist and author who died in 2002. (My apologies to younger readers for whom this is probably meaningless.)

Its mix of topics was highly eclectic. The show’s weekly political panel had no equal in Canadian media at the time. It mixed fun and sometimes bizarre elements —most famously Stuart McLean’s appearance with a “sleeping” cricket that he had just purchased.

Here I wouldn’t go quite that far. I know from emails that some of you would prefer that we stick with serious news and analysis every week. But several of the most popular Canada Letters have been about things like Canadian junk food.

The headquarters of The New York Times.Credit…Sasha Maslov for The New York Times

I apologize that we’re not able to report or write a newsletter featuring every province or region every week. Our goal is to be the authorities on what is newsworthy to our global audience. We aim to provide as wide a report as possible without compromising the signature New York Times depth that readers expect.

We have always been committed to covering all of Canada in its entirety, and we regularly report outside the population centers of Ontario and Quebec. I felt like a part-time resident of Alberta last year, Dan has recently returned from reporting several articles in British Columbia, and Nori reported in the far north.

Before I send editors my follow-up memos from my New York excursion, I’m hoping that some of you will let me know what you want, and would rather avoid seeing, in the Canada Letter. Please send your thoughts to [email protected]. Thanks to the many of you who have been loyal readers and commenters over the past few years, and a warm welcome to those of you who have just recently found the newsletter.

Trans Canada

Alison Craig, a Toronto lawyer, has defended several people caught up in Mr. Big schemes.Credit…Ian Willms for The New York Times
  • An invention of the Mounties, “Mr. Big” schemes are essentially con jobs in which undercover officers create a fake criminal enterprise and then entice a target to join it, with the aim of getting them to confess to previous crimes. Vjosa Isai, my Toronto-based colleague, reports that the Mounties claim a 95 percent conviction success rate for the tactic, but critics say that it’s a breeding ground for false convictions.

  • As Ukraine is expected to begin a counteroffensive against Russian forces, Canada pledged to provide it with additional military aid during a visit by Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal of Ukraine to Toronto this week.

  • Since 2020, the Toronto Blue Jays have been the nomads of Major League Baseball. That’s finally nearing its end.

  • The president and the board members of the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation quit this week, saying that accusations of Chinese meddling in its affairs had made it impossible for it to function as before.

  • The Styles desk has prepared a guide to the coronation of King Charles III.

A native of Windsor, Ontario, Ian Austen was educated in Toronto, lives in Ottawa and has reported about Canada for The New York Times for the past 16 years. Follow him on Twitter at @ianrausten.

How are we doing?
We’re eager to have your thoughts about this newsletter and events in Canada in general. Please send them to [email protected].

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