Panama-born Massa – a reporter for CityNews in Toronto – anchored her first newscast on Friday, and spoke to The New Arab about what she called an “important milestone” for herself and the country.
Despite its significance, Massa tells The New Arab that the move has been a long time coming, given Canada’s pride in its diversity and pluralism.
“It feels pretty amazing to be recognised as the first,” she said. “But it’s also a shame that it has taken this long in a country as diverse as Canada.”
Nonetheless, Massa remains highly appreciative of the move by CityNews to put a Muslim woman in a hijab as a headline presenter.
“I’m really thankful to work for a station that sees the value in hiring staff from all walks of life, who actually reflect the diversity of community we are reporting in.”
Massa hopes that being on screen will alter Canadians’ perception about the potential roles of Muslim women in society.
“I hope being on air in the hijab can help change perceptions about what Muslim women can do and be, which is also important in today’s current climate.”
Earlier this year, UK hijab-wearing reporter Fatima Manji came under attack by a right-wing tabloid for fronting Channel 4’s coverage of the Nice terror attacks.
The Sun spewed a tirade of Islamophobic rhetoric over the broadcaster’s decision to choose a Muslim anchor to cover the attacks.
For Massa, despite the hijab being a clear symbol of her faith, she believes it should not affect people’s perception of her impartiality as a reporter.
“I hope people will realise that having a piece of cloth on my head does nothing to influence whether I can be a good journalist or not.”
Massa also became the country’s first headscarf-wearing TV news reporter in 2015.
As Muslims across North America fear the repercussions of President-elect Donald Trump government in waiting – on the back of his unpresented anti-Muslims rhetoric during the election campaign – Massa’s presence on screen serves as a reassuring sight for Muslim women.