Inside Q&A: Ryerson and Carleton journalism students talk to VIA Rail passengers

What are Canadians talking about?

VIA Rail was hoping to find out through a new podcast series.

The podcast, C4C (Students of Challenge for Change) Conversations, was created from conversations recorded by six Mitacs researchers — three each from journalism programs at Carleton and Ryerson universities — who spent the summer of 2017 travelling across Canada by train, meeting and listening to fellow passengers.

The 10-episode series, ranging from 20 to 30 minutes each, is now available for passengers while riding the train on VIA Rail’s On Train Entertainment system in the Quebec City-Windsor corridor. This marks the first time VIA Rail has introduced a podcast channel for riders.

The students recorded frank conversations between hundreds of passengers to develop a unique compilation of raw, organic dialogue on topics ranging from bullying, parenting, fear and belonging, to what it means to be Canadian.

In addition to streaming on VIA Rail, the C4C Conversations podcast is available on iTunes, Google Play and Stitcher.

The North York Mirror sat down with North York Ryerson University student Nadia Khamsi to find out more about C4C.

Q: Why did you want to become involved with this project?

A: The opportunity was an internship provided by Challenge for Change (C4C), a not-for profit media organization, and Mitacs, a national, not-for-profit research and training organization, and as soon as I saw the posting, I was intrigued and excited to apply. Getting to travel across the country, meet new people and tell Canadian stories from people we don’t normally hear from sounded extremely rewarding.

Q: How were the topics chosen?

A: We let travelers discuss the topics they wanted to discuss. Many had things they wanted to get off their chest. For those who needed some help getting started, we had pre-prepared questions on timely themes we thought could spark conversation. For example, around Canada Day, we asked about identity and what it means to be Canadian, and for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, we talked about parenting and growing pains.

Q: What is the goal of the series?

A: Challenge for Change is about deep and active listening. We spend so much time absorbed in our own lives that we forget to really listen to each other. The goal of the series is to help build bridges between Canadians. We have a lot more in common than we think regardless of our life experience or where we’re from.

Q: Is there a specific story that stands out to you?

A: I’ll never forget a conversation between Pete Emery, an English tourist and Peggy Harper, a Saskatchewan residential school survivor. It was late at night as Peggy recounted her experience with the residential school system. Unfamiliar with Canadian history, Pete was shocked at the abuse she endured. She shared stories of her suffering and everyone around us, producers and passengers alike, were moved by her heart breaking experiences. At the same time, it was empowering to hear her hope for the future.

By: Fannie Sunshine