Making headlines in Canada
Anne-Marie Mediwake

Co-Host of CTV’s daytime show Your Morning shares the story of her rise to the top in TV

Text Tina Edward Gunawardhana

More often than not the first person many Canadians see on TV is the smiling face of Anne-Marie Mediwake the vivacious co-host of CTV’s Your Morning programme. Of British and Sri Lankan heritage, Anne-Marie moved to Canada as a young child with her family. Despite wanting to study law, Anne-Marie realised her strengths were more in tune with a career as a journalist. Starting out at a local cable TV station, Anne-Marie moved up the ranks with determination which saw her end up on Your Morning, a much watched morning show. Anne-Marie has covered a range of events from the Asian Tsunami which brought her back to the country of her birth to two Royal weddings, the most recent being Harry and Megan’s in Windsor. A bi-racial woman herself, Anne-Marie is a shining example of one who has reached the pinnacle of her career through hard work
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What prompted you to get into a career in the media?

I decided at 10 years old that I would be a lawyer. It would be a great job for me according to my parents - lots of reading and debating. During my last year of High School a family friend asked what I wanted to do for a pre-law degree. They asked what I loved to do and I said political science. After highlighting my interests and strengths – reading, writing, interviewing, and politics – they suggested journalism. This had never occurred to me but the more I researched it, the more I knew this was the perfect choice! And I never looked back.

What was your first job in the media?

I volunteered at a local cable station while in college but my first paid TV job was as an associate producer for a lifestyle programme on a local station in Lethbridge, Alberta. It was a small station which was terrific as it meant you were able to work in many different departments. I produced lifestyle segments (health, fashion and home) in the studio and the field for the daytime programme and was a floor manager for afternoon and evening programmes. Working on both sides of the camera has been a huge benefit throughout my career. Within the first year I began hosting and producing the daytime programme. I also volunteered to produce and report on their live election show and that was when I fell in love with election coverage. Oh, and I met my future husband at that station! A great first start!

As a woman of mixed race was it difficult to get a job in television?

I feel very fortunate to have entered the industry when I did (late 90s) – a time when networks were beginning to realize they were not reflective of a true Canadian audience. Diversity was the buzzword in the 2000s and networks began to focus their efforts on becoming more racially inclusive and gender balanced in their on-air teams. I fit the bill. In 2001, CTV, Canada’s largest network, took a relatively unproven young journalist and allowed me to helm their new team of investigative journalists with the programme 21C. That opportunity opened a lot of doors for me and gave me the confidence to keep going.

What has been the most interesting story you worked on?

Hard to select one story in particular – there have been many, big and small that change the way you see story telling. The Newtown shooting. My co-anchor and I both had young children the same age as many of those inside the school (ages 5 and up) who were victims. That was one of the hardest stories to keep focused on air. I went home after that newscast and woke up my kids and put them all in bed with me. I needed to feel them breathing. There were mothers that night who were waiting at a fire station because the bodies of their kids were still inside the school. Syrian refugees finding home in Canada. It is a good reminder to everyone to understand where people have come from, why they chose Canada and the struggles they face to fit in, understand and create a new life while mourning the life and country they were forced to leave behind. 

Black parenting in Canada –is it a different lived experience?


I wanted there to be understanding, through the lens of parenting, the race struggles and inequality experienced in Canada.Every election show. I love elections. Municipal, provincial and federal - I love them all. I describe them as the country talking back –and we get a front row seat into how Canadians feel and where they want their country to be heading in the next four years. I have really been fortunate to report on various Royal events – William and Kate’s wedding and Canadian Tour, The Queen’s Jubilee, and now Meghan and Harry. This one was special because it is the last of the late Diana, Princess of Wales’ children to be married. I was a young girl visiting Sri Lanka when I watched her wedding to Charles. 

Does your Sri Lankan heritage influence your work?

Being of mixed heritage (Sri Lankan and British) has meant that I have insight and understanding into issues and stories that others may not. Toronto is home to the largest diaspora of Sri Lankans outside the island. When elections happen “back home”, when protests happen here, when there are immigration stories and concerns from the community, my connection allows others to really understand the what and why.

How did you find reporting on the Royal Wedding?

What an exciting and gorgeous day! Bunting and flags flying, marching bands, celebrities, and royals mixing together – so much excitement! It was my second royal wedding after covering William and Kate in London. So much fun to see the crowds, and of course, the Royal couple. My location was on a hotel rooftop right along the carriage route as they came around the corner, I could see Meghan’s tiara sparkling in the sun, and we could see right down into their carriage. How beautiful to see them holding hands, as they did in Toronto (the couple dated here and revealed their relationship in the city) fingers interlaced and so happy. I shared that moment with David Emmanuel, dress designer for the late Diana, Princess of Wales.

Of course a highlight was seeing my co-host Ben Mulroney sitting across from the Queen, and his children Brian, John and Ivy as page boys and bridesmaid of the wedding party. Ben later shared with me that his son Brian’s excited face seen around the world, was because “he had never heard a trumpet before”. I think everyone was rooting for Meghan to get a happy ever after, given the drama she experienced with her father, in the days leading up to her big day.

You are involved in charitable projects. What are they?

As a family we support children through World Vision, local charities through our church, and personally, organizations within Toronto that support women and children. When in Sri Lanka last year, we were privileged to visit and support Home of Hope (homeofhopetrust.org).

Can you describe the journey you made to Sri Lanka to do a story on the Asian Tsunami?

Covering the Sri Lankan Tsunami was my first experience with a large scale natural disaster. The devastation and human loss. The experience with children who had witnessed and survived. Some of them could not speak or smile. Interviews with political leaders. All the elements that exist as a country and people mourn and try to move forward. 

What are the challenges of working in the media in Canada?

I think the barriers that existed when I was starting out, have lessened to some degree. Pay equity is being exposed and starting to even out; there are more women in the newsroom. In fact, two of Canada’s largest news organizations including my network CTV News, have female presidents. I would like to see more diversity not just on air but in key editorial positions and executive roles .More people of colour and cultures represented in the positions that determine content.

If you could have chosen any other profession what would it have been?

I would probably have been a lawyer or an author. Perhaps that is still in my future!

As a mum of triplets how do you maintain a healthy work life balance?

Every day is a juggling act. Some days I am ahead of the game, others I forget to pay for field trips. My husband and I do our best and try to fill the gaps with a lot of love and laughter for our kids.

What do you miss most about Sri Lanka?

My sisters and I took our father back to Sri Lanka in 2017. This was a special trip – the first with the three of us together. My eldest sister Naomi lived there as a girl, I was born there and left when I was young, my youngest sister Becky was born in Canada and has been back to visit, but we have never all been there at the same time. I miss our cousins and the Mediwake family. This is strange as we were not raised together, but learning about our history, our family heritage, our grandfather’s land through their memories and stories, that makes me very proud and humbled at the same time.

I love the land, how loud the birds are in the morning, the crosswinds at Mediwaka, feeling like being in the clouds as you climb the mountains. I miss the food. So much the food!! The scenery that changes as you travel the island – sunsets in the south, evenings in the north. The people are so kind, beautiful, and graceful. But the mornings in the hills are my favourite, before anyone is awake. The island waking up. Some of my favourite memories include walking at Victoria Estate before dawn. It is truly some of the most beautiful scenery in the world.

Who has been the most entertaining person you have interviewed?

Sitting down with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. There are many Canadians, like myself, whose parents came to Canada, chose Canada, because of Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s message that this country offered, opportunity, peace and freedom. He left out the part about the cold winters... So 40 years later, to be sitting in the PMO, telling his son that he and I were there together because my father believed in the Canada his father shared, was a very special experience. 
 
How do you prepare before an interview ?

I love to read fiction and news. I am genuinely interested in what goes on in the world – finding patterns and connections, and where there is a break in the pattern is often a good place to start an interview. I often imagine that I have met someone at a party – and if I had only a few minutes, what would I ask them. That is where I begin.

What are the pressures you faced as a news reporter?

To get it right! There is a lot of responsibility with an interview. You might only get one shot at this conversation and you want to be sure it is what Canadians want to hear.

Any advice for buddingjournalists?

I give back the advice I was given. It is not what is thrown at you; it is how you handle it that matters. My personal guiding principles – do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.