Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Multiculturalism in the Valley

Langley Times Feb 24, 2008
Many multicultural events planned for Fraser Valley:

As the calendar marches forward, there are many diversity events and celebrations being planned for the Fraser Valley.It is shaping up to be a busy one as preparations are underway to make this year’s events the finest ever.Canada is becoming a place where the world meets and connects. Citizens from all over the globe are coming to Canada to be part of this multicultural nation.Canadians are reaching a plateau of cultural awareness and are getting involved in their communities to build a bridge of understanding. Diversity is becoming a way organizations and community thinkers provide leadership and integration.Get your day planner ready — these are just some of the diversity events happening near you.The annual Fraser Valley Cultural Diversity Awards take place on March 7 at the Ramada Plaza and Conference Centre in Abbotsford. Nominees are from Abbotsford, Mission, Chilliwack and Langley.Guest speaker will be B.C. Lieutenant Governor Steven Point, the first person of First Nations ancestry to hold the ceremonial post. Point is from Chilliwack.Master of ceremonies will be CBC broadcaster Margaret Gallagher.
For more information and tickets, please call Abbotsford Community Services at 604 859-7681 or 604 859-6334.A Multicultural Festival is being planned for this summer, which will showcase a wide variety of cultural diversity in Abbotsford. A steering committee has been set up, a date and the location will be finalized soon.It plans to be a premier event and input is needed. If you like to get involved, or for more information, please contact Musleh Hakki 778 240-5786.Culture Fest is taking place in Langley from June 23-28, during the week leading up to Canada Day. It is taking place throughout various venues in Langley. Guest speaker will be Jim Diers from Seattle. He will be speaking about hands-on community development. For more information on this event, please contact Ana David 604 533-4380 or go to www.bcharmony.orgThe next meeting of the Langley committee on anti-racism and multiculturalism will be held Thursday, Feb. 28 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Hampton Inn on the Langley Bypass. A roundtable discussion is planned. It is called “Dialogue on Diversity,” bringing together adults and youth in a unique community discussion on how we can approach diversity with better awareness and understanding. A light buffet dinner will be served and will feature several guest speakers. For more information contact or call 604 533-6011.
One of the largest multicultural events was recently held at H.D. Stafford Secondary School. It celebrated the “Year of the Rat” on Feb. 2 in Langley.The event was well- attended with approximately 400 guests participating from different cultures.It was jointly hosted by Immigrant and Multicultural Services Program of Langley Community Services. Some of the entertainment included performances by Taiwanese, Chinese, Korean, Egyptian, Irish and Punjabi Bhangra dancers.Cultural diversity is alive and well in Langley, as well as the rest of the Fraser Valley. Come and celebrate the world in the valley in 2008.
Ken Herar is a columnist with the Abbotsford News.
He can be reached at

Festivals are a terrific way to build an inclusive diverse community..


We can all talk about building an inclusive, diverse community, but are people’s actions representing their words?Well, I am happy to say a few responses and shows of interest have appeared in my e-mail box and they sound terrific. Again, the Diversity Challenge question is: “What have you done or what you could do to include someone into your culture or community organization?”In the coming months through this column, you will be hearing from many voices, hopefully capturing a glimpse of what is occurring in our communities on diversity issues. There are many cultures that exist in Canada and we would like to hear from as many as possible in this writing challenge.Doing a little soul searching myself on the question, festivals are a terrific way of sharing cultures with Canadians. There are currently two upcoming festivals in the valley that represent a multicultural theme.
In Langley on June 28, “Culture Fest” is taking place. Some of the cultural groups that will be participating will be: Punjabi, Afro Caribbean, Latin American and First Nation. Some of the events on this day include musical entertainment, drumming, carving and much more. Ana David of Langley, who is co-ordinating this event said, “The festival venue creates a place and an audience for those who normally go unnoticed.
Jim Diers, who is the guest speaker on community building, is all about turning perceived liabilities into assets.“You can nominate mobility restricted members to your organization’s board and use their talents at a different level than a regular 9-5 job setting. Seniors, youth, diversity, disabilities, parenting are all important factors to a cohesive supportive neighborhood network we can all call home... maybe one day.”Culture Fest is a weeklong celebration of culture and diversity from June 23 to June 28. Details of the various events can be found on the web: Rosen from the Baha’i Spiritual Assembly of Abbotsford and a co-ordinator with the Abbotsford Multicultural Festival, which is taking place at the AgRec buildings on Oct.r 4, shared these comments about that upcoming event.“The festival next fall will be an opportunity for new levels of bonding among people of various ethnic backgrounds, and will encourage new patterns of socializing in our city. It will build bridges of fellowship among the diverse faith communities, schools, businesses and performing arts groups of Abbotsford.“As an extended family event, it will generate greater trust, understanding and appreciation among our neighbours in the Fraser Valley. All of these likely outcomes of the Multicultural Festival are beautifully harmonious with Baha’i goals and purposes,” said Rosen.The model behind the diversity question is how can we better share culture. Festivals are a terrific way to connect citizens with different global villages.If you think you have an answer to the Diversity Challenge question, send me an e-mail of 300 words or less.
This challenge is open to all ages with two categories, one for school-aged children and the other for adults. Send your response by Sept. 19.Stay tuned. In my next column, we will find out how some public servants, otherwise known as politicians, answered the question.
Ken Herar is a columnist with the Abbotsford News.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

RCMP Insp. Amrik Virk: the creation of an inclusive society does not always evolve over time..

Sep 22 2007
Ten bright writers respond to our diversity challenge
Langley RCMP Operations Inspector Amrik Virk said the creation of an inclusive society does not necessarily evolve naturally over time.

The results are in.We have 10 writers who submitted their responses for the Abbotsford News Diversity Challenge.Going through the various submissions, I was absolutely impressed with the caliber of thought that went into these responses.The question was how can we build an inclusive, diverse community?It’s a question that requires creativity, sensitivity and a passionate vision.Participants came from various backgrounds and brought their own personal experiences into their submissions.Attracting 10 writers was more than I ever imagined, and it creates a discussion to an important question.This challenge is about quality, not quantity, and getting people involved, and shaping our future.There are no winners or losers, and all participants will be receiving a gift from the Abbotsford News for their efforts.In the near future all the submissions will be featured in the paper, and a group of four judges from the community will be picking the top three finalist.Here are some of the bright young people you will be hearing from: Harleen Dhaliwal, Dalvir Bhangu, Jasneet Brar, Mark Barnfield, Kelly Wong, Bal Bhatti, Nimret Grewal, Manpreet Bansal, Nathan Dhaliwal and Jaspreet Lidder.These individuals have captured the imagination, talking about how to create an inclusive, diverse community in about 300 words.The majority of our writers are young Indo-Canadians, who all want to be part of building an inclusive, diverse community.Writer Jaspreet Lidder said, “One of the reasons, I submitted my submission for this challenge was I believe it is important to come together as a community to solve some of the issues, and everyone should be involved.”After reading these responses you will be amazed at the vision of tolerance and inclusion these young community leaders display.Speaking to various people around town many echoed their positive thoughts on our Diversity Challenge. Coming out of the tennis club a few days ago a lady stopped and said, “Ken, I appreciate your efforts on diversity.”It’s nice to receive complementary comments, but this kind of work needs to be done.Langley RCMP Operations Inspector Amrik Virk said, “I find it quite refreshing that there are those who realize we must look at ways to be inclusive in a diverse community.“The naive and unfortunately much prescribed view, is that given time, diverse members of communities will be properly included into all levels of society. This may be true in some rare circumstances but ‘market forces’ do not always work. We can learn from International organizations such as Microsoft and AT&T who have very proactive workforce inclusion policies that have plans in place to promote and integrate diversity and inclusion into every level of their organizations.“We can only learn from these best practices. I end my comments with the fact that the face of Canadian society is not changing, it changed long ago.”As a community we need to keep publicly brainstorming the idea of creating an inclusive, diverse community. Taking this on the road and promoting diversity is something I will continue to do. I personally have enjoyed interacting with all the people who believe in diversity, making it a memorable experience. We all have engraved in a discussion of diversity for others to follow.

© Copyright 2007 Abbotsford News

Friday, December 18, 2009

Bonding through building...

Solving BC Gang Problems Through the Eyes and Ears of Virsa..

Jan 29 2005
Teaming up to save lives
In the past decade, the Indo-Canadian community of B.C. has gone through some difficult times with the high number of young men who have been killed.This is hopefully about to change. The mainstream and Indo-Canadian communities have been working in partnership over the last few years to counteract this problem in various Lower Mainland cities.Myriad groups have been formed and incentives created at the community level and in elementary and high schools to initiate preventive measures that might deter youth from entering into criminal activity.The system has been working well in many cities like Vancouver and Surrey, where large numbers of Indo-Canadians attend high school.Along with preventive measures, educational mentorship is helping students get through school.For example, at John Oliver secondary in Vancouver, 16 Indo- Canadian students were identified as having no chance of passing. Through the mentorship incentive, 12 of the 16 students passed.According to VIRSA (Sikh Alliance Against Youth Violence) president Harbans Kandola, programs like mentorship, parent awareness and Success by Six and Safe have all been successful in helping young adults cope with life issues.All these programs, Kandola says, have received outstanding reviews from students, teachers and parents.VIRSA, a community-based, non-profit organization governed by a volunteer board of directors, was formed in December, 2002 by members of the Sikh community concerned about the escalating level of violence among Indo-Canadian youth.VIRSA is a non-political organization, supported by 50 volunteers from all segments of the Indo-Canadian community.Kandola says he was watching the evening news in December, 2002 when the endless stories of drug-related killings of Indo-Canadian youth touched him, prompting him to try and do something to halt the carnage.To that end, VIRSA is looking to soon expand into Abbotsford. The group has trained two facilitators and is looking for more.Those interested in making a difference can contact VIRSA online at Vancouver organization looking to expand its youth work into Abbotsford is United, a 10-volunteer-strong organization that began mentoring in Greater Vancouver schools in 2002, helping youth stay clear of criminal activity. According to president Amar Randhawa, the programs are working and have been a success."Our main focus is to promote self development in young individuals through mentorship and sports programs."United can be contacted online at takes organizations like these to start something and move in a positive direction that will touch so many lives. I know my generation and the generation before the current crop of Indo- Canadian youths hardly ever got in trouble with the law. Actually, put bluntly, Indian kids were some of the brightest and excelled in various sports.There are still many fine young adults; unfortunately, there are certain segments of the Indo-Canadian youth community that are involved in serious crime.I see this as a generational shift and, hopefully, the worst is behind us. I give the entire Indo-Canadian community full credit for recognizing these problems and addressing the issue head-on.And local community leaders welcome these programs to Abbotsford and its various schools."To my perspective, communities are made stronger through our relationship with each other," said Satwinder Bains of UCFV."There is always strength in unity. Abbotsford's Indo-Canadian community is blessed that it has champions like VIRSA and United to help it through some of its issues."It is very appropriate that the community addresses issues in a proactive way, rather than always reacting to concerns."Added Manpreet Grewal, manager of multicultural and immigrant services at Abbotsford Community Services: "It's a continuum of services for children, youth and parents. All these organizations, to be successful, should connect with one another and be united in their efforts."Others expressed hope - but with caution.Jinder Sarowa, principal of Rick Hansen secondary, said better communication is needed with interest groups, along with better integrative measures with students from all backgrounds.Darryl Plecas, head of UCFV's criminology and criminal justice department, called such programs "an incredibly positive step."In particular because it's driven by individuals who have in-depth understanding of Indo-Canadian culture. Plecas, like Sarowa, would also like to see more integrative measures for students, as opposed to isolation mentoring.

© Copyright 2007 Abbotsford News

A Conversation with Pastor Cam Stuart..

Jul 17 2003
Empowered for a journey of living
The last few months, I have been on a quest searching for spiritual fulfillment for the first time in my life.I have been procrastinating this search for a long time and now the time has come to fill this void. When you look around us there is so much hate and pain how can we make this world a better place to live?The answer is simple - we must have God in our lives. Having God in our lives empowers us for a journey of living and reminds us that we are here for only short while.Having self-respect for yourselves and others is an important part of God's work and through him we are reminded of this.Discovering God can be fulfilling and rewarding and can forever change a persons life. Having lost a friend a few months ago, I decided to change my direction to God for answers. During this time, I had the opportunity to meet with Pastor Cam Stuart to discuss and learn about my new relationship with God. Although I am from the Sikh faith, I decided to explore other ways that might bring me closer to God.Having met with Pastor Stuart on several occasions and read a few books through his guidance have opened a whole new world of knowledge in relation to God. He explains that Christianity is a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. I am saying to myself sure, I have heard it all before is this really going to make a difference in my life?I can say in the short time, I have known Pastor Stuart this information has made a world of difference. The search for God is like searching for gold. It requires tenacity, courage, patience and passion for truth. I am hoping my search for God will provide me with hope, love, purpose and freedom. I can honestly say before meeting Pastor Stuart, I was spiritually lost with no physical connection to God and now with this knowledge I feel a lot closer to him. I respect the fact that Christianity focuses on God and its teachings. From my past experiences, God was always clouded in mystery and finding him was difficult.Understanding Christ is not an easy task but a journey worthwhile. Through my search I am learning that Christ's life reveals the heart, the mind and the will of God. The fact that God gave his son (Jesus) to be with us in human form is something truly remarkable. What God has demonstrated is that he loves us all! Why is it important to have a relationship with Jesus?According to Pastor Stuart, "Jesus is the way to God. Jesus came to this earth to give life, true life to all who follow and enjoy him.''Receiving this kind of information is like getting something in the mail from a long lost friend.Last month, I was touched when I pulled into a parking lot at a school to teach some tennis lessons when a group of young people came up to me and said can we wash your car Sir?I said how much? They said for free and there is breakfast too! I couldn't believe it!Churches across Abbotsford were promoting Love Abbotsford Day.I was very thankful for their generosity and kindness. Apparently these simple acts of kindness were done to communicate that God is loving and kind towards us.It takes moments like this to believe that there is still a lot of good out there we just need more of it through God. My experiences through all of this is not only building a relationship with God but also with your pastor who plays an important role in your search. I truly believe we as a society don't talk enough about God and how He can influence people to become better individuals. Living with God is a remarkable journey living without God is a lonely road of unhappiness.

© Copyright 2007 Abbotsford News

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Incredible Legacy of Jim Braich..

Con't: Remembering Jim Braich...

Celebrating AbbyFest...

Maureen Berlin: India's Rise..

Con't Mission Bridge...

Mission Bridge....

Great Indian Food at Blackberry Kitchen..

Gord Kurenoff Day in diverse colours..

Living with Challenges..

Building bridges, tear down barriers...

Mentors Gord Kurenoff and Rick Rake are respected community journalists

Demostrating Ignorance...

Let's remove ignorance from equation..

Up Close and impersonal with intruder...

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Advice from Professor Andrew Gutteridge..

Speaking at University of the Fraser Valley..

Ideas for making area more inclusive..

Talking Trash..

Diversity Working Here..

Diversity Gaining Steam..

Views we can use to unite..

Celebrate Diversity through Writing Contest..

History of Discrimination against First Nations in Canada..

Columnist Ken Herar, Tok Herar, Mayor James Atebe, Paul Dhaliwal and Coun. Terry Gidda honoring the late Naranjan Grewall..

Rembering Kuldip Gill...

Mission Sikh Temple celebrating 20 years..

Fighting for the Mission Hospital in 2009..

Respected and much admired Editor Gord (Gordwinder) Kurenoff a true friend of diversity...

Farewell to friend, mentor
Ken Herar, The Times
Published: Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Before you start reading this, many of you may already be aware that Times editor Gord Kurenoff is leaving us at the end of this week to join The Vancouver Sun.
Friday is Gordo's final day at the Peardonville office and for me that's sad stuff.
I first met Gord in 1983, when he was a young sports reporter in Mission. In that era, he covered many of my tennis accomplishments, always impressing me with his fairness and clever humour.
I phoned him in 1995, when he was editor of the Abbotsford News, about the possibilities of becoming a columnist. He loved the idea and the rest became history for the making. I had the privilege of working with him for a few years at The News until the late '90s, when he left to join the sports desk in Toronto at the brand new National Post daily newspaper.
I reconnected with Kurenoff approximately nine months ago. I phoned him just like I did 14* years ago and told him I would love the opportunity to work with him again. He immediately embraced the idea and gave me this wonderful opportunity to join the crew at the Abbotsford-Mission Times.
When you meet people who inspire you, keep them close. Kurenoff has not only inspired me, but more importantly also encouraged me to succeed.
I recall knocking on several doors in 1995 to get this gig like some television game-show contestant trying to win a prize. Luckily enough, a door opened with Kurenoff welcoming me with open arms.
In all my years as a columnist, the past nine months here have probably been the most intense and enjoyable.
Kurenoff has always shown faith in me, allowing me to pursue several initiatives showcasing our communities' many talents.
For example, the Times' essay contest Building An Inclusive Diverse Community - which just recently wrapped up - was a huge success. He has always been a friend of diversity and understands that it is essential to get out of the newsroom and meet with members in the community to understand the dynamics of the issues.
Kurenoff did just that when we both had the opportunity to speak at the Dasmesh Punjabi School, encouraging students to participate in our contest.
I have also been extremely fortunate to have worked with award-winning former Abbotsford News editor Rick Rake for a number of years, who is recognized as a respected community builder and a trusted journalist for some 30 years.
Kurenoff and Rake both worked together at The News during the peaks of their careers, leading one of the best-ever powerhouse newsrooms in B.C. community newspapers. I will always remain thankful to these mentors, who gave me this priceless opportunity to touch so many lives.
What makes them successful? They listen and they didn't apply structure in specifically asking me to write exclusively on South Asian issues, which would be a huge mistake. My purpose, if you will, has always been to promote diversity, but also recognize how we all can become better Canadians, regardless of colour.
In my last phone conversation with Kurenoff, he shared some interesting statistics with me: "The readership numbers have never been higher at the Times and that has something with you writing for us, my friend."
He wrote this last touching e-mail: "Having you join the Times was a no-brainer - you honestly promote diversity every waking hour and walk the talk. Having you spread the good word to our readers is awesome and more credible than someone not known for doing this."
He added: "What I also liked was the fact you weren't afraid to get your hands messy, to make people think, to make people react and to make people do the right thing when common sense didn't seem so common.
"It's now up to you, Air India to carry the torch. And never let the critics get you down."
Columnist Ken Herar writes for the Abbotsford-Mission Times. To comment, e-mail him at
© Abbotsford Times 2009

Honourable Mention Suman Dhillon..

Winners of the Essay Contest and Me Speaking at Dasmesh Punjabi School

Monday, December 7, 2009

Democracy at its Best..

Democracy at Its Best:

Municipal elections are one of the most exciting processes in our democracy watching the various characters duke it out. There is still much work to do to get voters engaged with the dismal turnout (Abbotsford 33%, Mission 25%). With issues like Plan A Capital Projects and the crematorium on the minds of Abby voters and Genstar for Mission residents, I expected a massive turnout and change of guard. But, it became apparent early throughout the evening it was going to be the same old political show with many incumbents getting reclaimed for another 3 years. With a councillor not seeking re-election and an incumbent going down to defeat in both Abbotsford and Mission there will be two rookies at the table on both sides of the Fraser. There were even a few candidates with no prior political experience challenging incumbent Mayors, proving not to be politically effective.
The Fraser Valley’s political spectrum is often defined by religion and race. Abbotsford being known as the "Bible Belt" with 80 plus Christian Churches it is often hard for newcomers to break into the political circle. Voters have had a long tendency to go to the polls in blocks whether they be Christian, anti Christian or ethnic voters. This strategic voting has divided this farming community for decades. We who live in Abby like to believe we are multicultural with many diversity events taking place in our city in the country. With the changing demographics Abbotsford still unfortunatley struggles to be inclusive and change is often too slow stopping it from progressing. The clear message has always been if you are not Christian, you are not welcome here. The crematorium issue is a prime example of this and was on the minds of many South Asian voters after it was turned down earlier this year. The general consensus was that it was defeated because many Abbotsford Christians don’t accept the concept of cremation as part of their faith. Abbotsford the fifth largest city in province is slowly changing and the ruins of Christian power are disappearing. The vibrant South Asian community is the second largest community in Abbotsford with roughly around 20% of the local population being involved in various facets of local life. The community ran a record number of candidates at this years civic elections with four vying for council and three hopefuls for school trustee. The South Asian community has faced discrimination, but with patience and well-spoken leaders Abbotsford is proving to become a viable place to live.
Veteran Abbotsford City councillor elect Moe Gill knows this story too well. Gill first ran for city council in Abbotsford in 1986 and campaigned five times before getting elected on his sixth attempt in 1996. He was urged by many including Christians to try one more time and he was successful becoming a steady voice at the council table for over a decade. Councillor elect Gill will be entering his 5th term on council and had his best showing this month finishing third with 13,248 votes. Gill said, " I thank the community for the strong support. They came out and brought the heaviest support and I will do my best to work hard at the council table for the community".
Another bright spot for the South Asian community in Abbotsford was electing Preet Rai to School Trustee after his third attempt with Trustee Sat Gill not seeking re-election after one term.
Across the river in Mission, they also ran a record number of South Asian candidates with a total of three seeking a seat on council.Councillor elect Terry Gidda was easily re-elected for the second time with his strongest showing finishing second. Gidda ran unsuccessfully many times through the decades proving to become a strong leader on council with his community experience.
South Asians candidates were unsuccessful in their bids for local office in surrounding Fraser Valley communities in Langley, Chilliwack and Maple Ridge for School Trustee.
I applaud all the candidates who put their names forward. It takes courage to run many people talk about it, but very few actually follow through. There are no losers in this political game just people who want to make a difference.

Prime Minister Harper Should Apologize..

August 15th, 2008 to August 28th, 2008
Punjabi Patrika

"The apology has been given and it won’t
be repeated," said Conservative MP Jason
Kenney. Some harsh comments from
someone, who is supposed to be sorry. Prime
Minister Stephen Harper, who was in various
parts of British Columbia to celebrate the
provinces 150th anniversary two weeks ago,
where he attended Surrey’s Gadri Babeyan
Da Mela and surprisely gave an apology to
the Sikh community for the Kamagat Maru
incident. The Komagata Maru sailed into the
Vancouver harbour with 376 on board on
May 23, 1914. The dominion government
would not allow the passengers to disembark
and the vessel sat in harbour for two months.
The 1910 Canadian law, which many deemed
to be racist declared that there had to be
direct voyage or continuous journey from
their homeland, which even today doesn’t
exist from India. The would be immigrants,
who were British subjects and had legal
rights to land in Canada were turned away
and 20 were killed and many were jailed when
they arrived back to Calcutta
I applaud Prime Minister Harper and his
government for taking the courage to
apologize the first federal government to do
so, but it fails short of a standing ovation.
Harper had a beautiful opportunity to get
this right; instead he struck out at the park.
Their is nothing wrong in coming to BC and
attending a outdoor function in Surrey’s
Bear Creek Park and apologizing for the
mistakes that were passed down by
lawmakers many generations before him.
But, not to repeat this same apology on the
floors of the House of Commons as the head
of state is more of a slap in the face that a pat
on the back. First of all, Surrey does not
represent all of Canadian Sikhs and many
nationwide didn’t get the opportunity to hear
or read what Harper said in his speech. He
should of told the Surrey crowd during his
presentation that a follow up speech would
be coming in the Commons where it can be
properly documented and recorded for
national and historical significance.
Unfortunatley, Harper is treating this has
regional issue within Canada, but it carries
both regional and national importance,
because the laws at the time were passed by
the central government.
This so called apology in Surrey marks the
third such reconciliation Harper has made
with embarrassing parts of Canada’s past.
On June 11, Harper apologized to First
Nations who suffered abuse decades ago at
Canadian residential schools, calling it " an
important evolution in Canada’s relationship
with our first peoples". In 2006, Harper issued
a full apology to the Chinese Canadian
community for the head tax. Last May, the
British Columbia government apologized to
the Canadian Sikh community for this
incident in the legislature.
Norm Sangha, past president of the Khalsa
Diwan Society of Abbotsford said, " I don’t
think that this was the right place to do this.
The discrimination bills were passed in the
House of Commons in the early 1900’s and
that’s were the apology should take place.
This is a joke to come to a function in Surrey
and to apologize".
Satwinder Bains, Director for the Centre of
Indo Canadian Studies at the University of
the Fraser Valley said, " Prime Minister
Harper’s apology in Surrey on Sunday for
the Komagata Maru has not met the
expectations of Canadians who are looking
for redress on past wrongs. Precedent
dictates that a formal apology by
Government is done in Parliament, for the
record and for all Canadians to become aware
and to acknowledge the apology. Going to a
park and apologizing in front of a group of
people (no matter how large) is not the same
as apologizing in front of all Canadians in
the proper and graceful manner".
For families who were effected by this
unfortunate circumstance this apology is
personal and waiting. We must never forget
that Canada is a compassionate country and
it has learned from its past mistakes and
continues to build bridges in a multicultural
environment. What concerns me is some of
the comments surrounding this issue.
Unfortunately, racism is still alive and we
must continue to find ways of not heading
back to the past.
If you are going to apologize make it
meaningful or don’t do it at all. I urge Prime
Minister Harper to apologize in the
Commons and to participate in our diversity
challenge. It’s amazing what minority
governments will do for visible minorities
groups to stay in power. Apologize and let’s
move forward together.

Together 4 Tomorrow..

August 1st, 2008 to August 14th, 2008 PAGE 26
Punjabi Patrika

With eight weeks remaining before the
Abbotsford News Cultural Diversity
Challenge deadline of September 19, we are
still seeking submissions. They will be two
categories: school aged children and adults.
The questions is, "What have you done or
could you do to include someone into your
culture or community organization?". I was
informed about an organization that is doing
exceptional in our community mentoring
young students. Together 4 Tomorrow, is a
social mentoring program for grade five
students in the Abbotsford community. They
have been operating since 2005, meeting at
Harry Sayers Elementary School on Saturday
mornings. Organizers mainly consist of
university students, who volunteer their time
investing in tomorrow's generation. Some of
their objectives include: leadership,
teamwork, friendship, social responsibility,
community awareness, and self-confidence.
Together 4 Tomorrow, President Sat Oberio
said, " The main goal is to fill the students
with self-confidence so that they are able to
make the appropriate decisions that all kids
going through middle school and high
school must make. All of the t4t leaders and
supervisors feel strongly that once the
students graduate from t4t, they hold a wealth
of tools to help them become future leaders
and extraordinary citizens. We also hope that
one day they'll want to come back to t4t and
become a mentor for younger students".
They will be able to have the experience that
none of us have, going from a student of t4t,
growing up, and then coming back full circle
as a mentor, said Oberio.
I applaud this group for having the vision
and taking it to our youth. At a generation,
where youth are faced with challenges from
outside sources in our society, they become
our wealth, which can be saved or lost.
Together 4 Tomorrow is looking for more
dedicated individuals, who want to become
friends and mentors for young students.
Walter Lippmann's quote can be easily found
on their brochure and reflects their purpose,
" The final test of a leader is that he leaves
behind him in other men the conviction and
the will to carry on". For more information
go to their website at
If you can answer the diversity question in
300 words or less r email me at the address

Building An Inclusive Community Through Festivals..

June 20th, 2008 to July 3rd, 2008 PAGE 19
Punjabi Patrika
Looking For Answers In Diversity Challenge

Hmm...we can all talk about building an
inclusive, diverse community, but are
people’s actions representing their words.
Well, I am happy to say a few responses
and interest has appeared in my email box
and they sound terrific. Again, the
Diversity Challenge question is: "What
have you done or what you could do to
include someone into your culture or
community organization?" In the coming
months, through this column, you will be
hearing from many voices, hopefully
capturing a glimpse on what is occurring
in our communities on diversity issues.
There are many cultures that exist in
Canada and we would like to hear from
as many as possible in this writing
challenge. Doing a little soul searching
myself on the question, festivals are a
terrific way in sharing cultures with
Canadians. There are currently two
upcoming festivals in the Fraser Valley that
represent a multicultural theme. On June
28, "Culture Fest" will take place in
Langley and some of the cultural groups
that will be participating will be: Punjabis,
Afro Caribbeans, Latin Americans and
First Nations people. Some of the events
on this day include musical entertainment,
drumming, carving and much more. Ana
David of Langley, who is coordinating this
event said, "The festival venue creates a
place and an audience for those who
normally go unnoticed. Jim Diers who is
the guest speaker on community building
is all about turning perceived liabilities into
assets. Nominate mobility restricted
members to your organization’s board and
use their talents at a different level than a
regular 9-5 job setting. Seniors, youth,
diversity, disabilities and parenting are all
important factors to a cohesive supportive
neighborhood network we can all call
home... maybe one day." Culture Fest is
a week celebration of culture and diversity
from June 23 to June 28. Details of events
can be found on the web:
Harold Rosen from the Baha’i Spiritual
Assembly of Abbotsford and a coordinator
with the Abbotsford Multicultural Festival,
which is taking place at the AgRec building
on October 4, 2008, shared these
comments: "The festival next fall will be
an opportunity for new levels of bonding
among people of various ethnic
backgrounds, and will encourage new
patterns of socializing in our city. It will
build bridges of fellowship among the
diverse faith communities, schools,
businesses and performing arts groups of
Abbotsford. As an extended family event,
it will generate greater trust,
understanding and appreciation among
our neighbours in the Fraser Valley. All of
these likely outcomes of the Multicultural
Festival are beautifully harmonious with
Baha’i goals and purposes," said Rosen.
The model behind the diversity question
is how we can better share culture.
Festivals are a terrific way to connect
citizens with different global villages. If
you think you have an answer in 300
words or less send me an email me at the
address below before September 19,
2008. This Challenge is open to all ages
with two categories: one for school-aged
children and the other for adults. Stay
tuned for my next column, where we will
find how some politicians answered the

Promoting the Diversity Challenge on 93.1 Red FM with Rick Lucy and Manpreet Grewal..

June 6th, 2008 to June 19th, 2008
Punjabi Patrika

The time has arrived folks for the 2nd Annual
Abbotsford News Diversity Challenge
question. The moment many of you have
been waiting for. If you were tuned into 93.1
Red FM last Monday who would have heard
a sneak preview of this year's question. But,
if you weren't ready or not, here it is.
"What have you done or could you do to
reach out to include someone into your
culture or community organization"?
I am fully satisfied with this question
developed by a group of writers at a
workshop in Mission, last month. It is a
question that requires thought and
understanding. I proposed a few possible
questions to the group and out of those we
agreed with this. This diversity question is
continuation from last year's tradition on
building an inclusive, diverse community.
They are two important components to the
question: how can we share our culture with
others and how can we get more people
involved in our communities. Two most
common questions, I frequently receive as
a columnist.
Sandra Fiedler of Mission who attended my
workshop and assisted in designing the
question is looking forward to the
responses. "This question is of particular
interest to me as the President of the
Mission/Abbotsford Women's Social Club.
Our club promotes friendship and
socialization for women of all ages, ethnic
and economic backgrounds.
Friendship equals acceptance. Empathy for
another culture starts by knowing one
person, and being included in their life.
Learning about their culture through sharing
life experiences. It takes time, it takes effort,
it takes curiosity."
"Our book clubs read books about other
cultures and sometimes we gain further
insights through discussion because a
member is from that culture. Our dinner club
explores the foods of other cultures. At our
General Meetings we often have local
speakers, including learning about Bhangra
dancing, or mediating with a Buddist Monk,
or about the native culture. But, through our
curiosity of others we can experience the
lives of many other cultures. I hope you take
the challenge to reach out and enrich your
life", said Fiedler.
Linda Gertsen of Soroptimist Club of
Abbotsford-Mission is also happy with this
years question as her organization is looking
more Indo Canadian participation to reflect
the community, " it is important because we
don't have a contact with a large part in our
community. Could they help us or could we
help them. In recent survey are members
desired a diverse membership." To be part
of this organization you must be a
professional women or one who works
outside her home.
For more information contact Linda at (604) 852 8239.
We at the News believe in promoting
diversity initiatives such as the Challenge
and were encouraged from the responses
we received, last year. I am extremely grateful
to the Publisher and the Editor for allowing
me this opportunity for a second straight
year. The one criticism, I often hear is
newspapers like to sensationalize and focus
on negative stories. While we at the News
report what is a news story as our promise
to our readership we take enormous pride in
how we deliver the story to our readers. For
example, this Challenge is about building
relationships and sharing ideas with each
other a long outstanding tradition at the
News. From time to time our communities
do face unfortunate circumstances that have
the potential in dividing how we live in a
diverse environment. But, it is through
writing events like this that bring us the best
out of Canadians. As a columnist for 13
years this June with this paper I can honestly
say holding this Challenge has been the
highlight of my writing career. Giving writers
the opportunity to participate and a chance
to express themselves is a rewarding
experience. It allows me an opportunity to
listen and learn from people who want to
make our community diversified. As
Abbotsford get ready to celebrate the
Multicultural Festival this fall this Challenge
will recognize the many reasons why
diversity should be recognized in our
I will be making an effort to speak at various
venues in the Abbotsford/Mission area
promoting this event. We haven't set a
closing deadline and plan to keep the event
open for a few months giving adequate time
for responses. The Challenge will be open
to all ages and responses should be limited
to 300 words or less. Their will be two
categories one for school aged children up
to Grade 12 and the other for adults. All
responses can be emailed to me at the
address below or dropped off at the
Abbotsford News office. If you have
questions regarding the Challenge please
drop me a line.

Riding with the Calgary Police Service..

March 28th, 2008 to April 10th, 2008
Punjabi Patrika
Calgary Police Service – You Already Have What It Takes

Looking for a rewarding career that has
endless opportunities? If you are heading
to the Canadian Rockies anytime soon,
you could "Already Have What It Takes"
to join the Calgary Police Service (CPS).
The Service is planning to hire
approximately 225 recruits this year and
500 over the next two years. To put it
simply, the CPS starts training a new class
of recruits approximately every eight
Calgary is an appealing city to live in. It
was voted one of the best cities in North
America. With a diverse, vibrant
population of more than a million citizens
and an economy second to none, there is
no end to the growth in sight. Calgary
has become a destination of choice for
Canadians looking for employment
opportunities. They are flocking to Alberta
and finding incredible success. Just an
hour’s drive from Banff, Calgary has
many flavors that showcase the Canadian
spirit. What are a few extra months of
winter in the prairies? With job postings
in every corner of the city and the world
famous Calgary Stampede, which attracts
tourist from around the globe each
summer, there is no destination like it.
The CPS is one of the top law
enforcement agencies in North America
and has more than 1600 members. To
keep up with the demands of attrition and
growth, the Calgary Police Service is
continuously hiring. The CPS has a strong
reputation as a first-class employer and
is leading the way with many initiatives.
The Service has attracted the attention of
various police agencies in North America,
most recently for its innovative recruiting
and marketing strategies. The CPS has
one of the best tactical teams in North
America, an internationally renowned antigang
strategy, an award winning, anti-hate
project called "Hate Don’t Buy In" and
many integrated partnerships with other
police services. The Calgary Police
Service is a leader with its advanced
equipment and training. It was the first
municipal service in Canada to have air
support and it has two police helicopters
that support police officers from above.
The CPS is committed to community
partnerships and puts special emphasis on
building relationships with the city’s
various diverse communities. Calgary
police officers often receive compliments
from the community and citizen surveys
show that the public takes great pride in
the city’s finest.
With enormous success in past recruiting
drives in British Columbia, Staff Sgt.
Michael Watterston who heads the
Recruiting Unit is requesting applicants
who are interested in a policing career to
consider applying with the CPS. With
many law enforcement agencies in the
hiring mode across the country, it’s an
applicants market for the foreseeable
future, specifically in Calgary. According
to Watterston the demand is there, but the
pool of applicants has been decreasing in
recent years making it difficult at times
to choose the best recruit.
"We were not marketing ourselves
effectively and applicants were not
applying and classes were not getting filled
until the very last minute. This was
becoming a serious issue for us in the
Recruiting Unit," he said.
For example, in 2005 the CPS only
received 382 applications and hired 120
of those applicants. The CPS came up
with a new recruiting and advertising
strategy that launched in December of
2007. It featured police officers who
came to the Service from other
professions, including a lab technician,
waitress and carpenter. The campaign
showed that "You Have Already What It
Takes" to join the Calgary Police Service,
dispelling myths and stereotypes that a
background in policing or an college or
university education was required to join
The strategy expanded the search for
police recruits who were already
employed in various careers and others
who may have considered a policing
career when they were younger and didn’t
get the opportunity. According to
Watterston, those people now have the
opportunity and the skills that it takes to
become good police officers.
"We are looking at 19 and 20-year-olds
again and we accept some responsibilities
in maturing these recruits".
Five stories are exclusively profiled on the
CPS recruiting website giving applicants
an insight into how some CPS members
have changed their careers ranging from
Juno a lab technician to Ian a carpenter
worker who are both part of the CPS
team. CPS also wanted to speed up the
applicant process to get recruits hired as
quickly as possible. Watterston said, " on
average for locals we would like to speed
it up to a month and three months for out
of town residents, considering they are
successful at all stages of the process,
creating a win-win situation for us and
the applicant".
When it comes to talking about diversity
the CPS is second to none. The CPS has
been reaching out to candidates who have
been police officers in other provinces and
countries and who expressed interest in
working with the Service. The CPS
recently launched an English as a Second
Language (ESL) program that helps
people interested in becoming Calgary
police officers brush up their language
skills so they are more prepared to
compete in the application process. The
first of its kind in Canada, the CPS ESL
program offers two nights of classes a
week free of charge.
"Diversity is a key component of the CPS
and I encourage all qualified candidates
to apply with us," said Watterston. "The
Calgary Police Service is committed to
hiring people who reflect the cultural
make-up of the city."
There are many members from British
Columbia working with the CPS and they
are looking to hire many more in the near
future. With several quick flights from
Vancouver and Abbotsford International
Airport (YXX) you are over the Rockies
and in Calgary in no time. To be part of
this exciting team and for more
information visit
recruiting or call the CPS toll free line at
Continued from page 8

Alex Kotai: Setting Goals Key to Success..

December 21st, 2007
to January 3rd, 2008 Punjabi Patrika

After a busy month of
studying at Simon Fraser
University completing
my second Bachelor's Degree it's
nice to be done. After completing
my first degree at the University
College of the Fraser Valley, I
decided three years ago to go back
to school part time and do some
further studies. It's nice to have
degrees from two fine postsecondary
institutions. As
Christmas quickly approaches it
is a fabulous time to reflect on
your personal goals. I admire
people who are goal driven and
self-made in their careers. A
friend who became a independent
businessman agreed to speak with
me about some of his goals,
marketing his business and the
important of integrity in the
business world today.
Driving around Abbotsford you might
recognize his face or name. He is no
stranger and spends thousands on
marketing his business with many bus
bench ads around town and ads
plastered all over his vehicle. You're
probably thinking this guy must be
totally into himself. Alex Kotai an
Abbotsford resident for the past 12
years and successful mortgage broker
is hitting winners on and off the court.
A tennis star on the court and
successful businessmen off the court,
Kotai is gaining the reputation in the
community as a respectable broker
who knows what's best for his clients.
I have personally known Kotai for
many years and been on the receiving
end on many of his serves. Kotai, who
grew up in Kitimat, BC, was raised
by his parents to get a degree and then
find a stable job with some benefits
and a good pension to retire. Kotai
had different plans and goals that went
beyond his parent's expectations
including starting his own business
which was always one of his dreams.
Moving to Abbotsford from a small
town presented many opportunities
where he first attended the University
College of the Fraser Valley and
obtained his business degree. When
he completed his education he went
into banking for 10 years working for
the Royal Bank and HSBC Bank. After
a decade in banking gaining the practical
experience in several positions it was
time for a change. Kotai said, " I
worked in the banking business for over
10 years; however, I always had this
burning desire to start my own business
and see how big I could make it. When
you own your own business you really
get to see the fruits of your own labor. I
also realized that if I was going to stay
in the banking business the longer I was
there the more I would be tied in to my
employer with my pension and the salary
I was accustomed to. So as I saw it, it
was either stay with the Bank for the
long haul or get out while I was young
and didn't have a lot to lose".
Becoming a mortgage broker has
proven great dividends for Kotai. Many
sacrifices have been made often
averaging 60 hours a week trying to find
the right deal for his clients. His
marketing strategy has proven it works
effectively in establishing a healthy client
base. One of his major concerns from
the start was how to get started and
bring business in the door. Kotai said,
"I went from a great salary at the Bank
to no income the day I quit. This was
amplified by the fact that I was
spending a lot of money on marketing
and hired an assistant early on to help
grow my business faster. I could have
taken the safe road and only spent
money as the volume of my business
grew larger. However, I did the
opposite. I started out spending a
massive amount to market myself
without the business volume to support
it. I was marketing in the real estate
papers, bus benches, direct mail
postcards, launched a website and
much more. Then things started to turn
the corner where all of those advertising
dollars started to pay off. Now I get a
lot of people telling me they recognize
my face and see me all over the place.
This is the encouraging part and really
makes may want to continue to be
even more aggressive".
Ethics and integrity are valuable
ingredients in building a business with
clients. Kotai said, "My goal is to get
the best deal for my clients and be
honest and up-front with them at all
times. I think this is very important,
especially given the many corporate
scandals we have heard about in recent
years. Doing business in an honest and
ethical fashion means you have nothing
to hide. You can look back later in life
and say I did it the right way."
Kotai suggests that anyone wanting to
start out his or her own business keep
in mind a few key things. "Always have
a plan. Both short and long term plans
in all areas of your business are essential
to your success. Be prepared to have
a lot of ups and downs early on but be
resolved that absolutely nothing will
stop you from succeeding. Work on
your business as much as you work at
your business. This means don't spend
all of your time working on your
profession. In my case, I make certain
to work diligently on marketing my
business and developing more efficient
ways to do business instead of just
focusing on the mortgage aspect all of
the time. Lastly Dream as big as you
can. You can't achieve anything big if
you don't have a big vision. Even if you
fall a little short in achieving that big
vision you will be much further ahead
than if you didn't dream big in the first
I am always amazed at what people can
accomplish when they have goals and
achieve things with integrity.

MIERT: Face to Face with SWAT

June 8th, 2007
to June 21st, 2007
Punjabi Patrika`
M.I.E.R.T. - Making our Communities Safer

As police department deal with more
dangerous and sophisticated calls on the
streets a combined approach was needed
to combat crime. In 2004, four municipal
police agencies put together a regional
Municipal Integrated Emergency
Response Team (MIERT) to make our
communities safer. The municipal police
departments of Abbotsford, New
Westminster, Delta and Port Moody have
all contributed members to the 22-member
tactical unit. Currently there are 9
members from the Abbotsford Police
Department including Acting Staff
Sergeant David Schmirler who overlooks
the unit. The MIERT model has proven
to be successful in its response to priority
calls from the previous model where
departments had their own Emergency
Response Teams. As soon as members
are paged MIERT can be in any of these
four communities within the hour 24/7.
Schmirler said, " all of the members are
on a group pager network that is used to
activate them for a call but also to provide
narrative updates while they are
responding to the call. It speeds up the
deployment process". Cst. Desi Sansalone
who has been an ERT member since 1998
when Abbotsford had its own tactical
team agrees this approach of regionalizing
between departments is working
effectively. Sansalone said, " what has
increased because of integration is the
ability to provide rapid response to these
communities."MIERT are usually called
out when there is an execution of a highrisk
search warrant where the level of
threat is beyond the capacity of the
average patrol officer on the streets.
MIERT deal with barricade situations,
hostage situations, high-risk vehicle stops,
high angle operations and marine
interdictions all which involve a high
degree of expertise.
Being on MIERT is physically challenging
and members have to be fit and prepared
for almost anything that may happen in
seconds in a crisis situation. Members
must have at least three years of service
with their police department and be a first
class constable before applying to the
team. If selected they go through a fourweek
basic course preparing them for the
unexpected. MIERT members workout
almost everyday and get tested physically
twice a year. The team trains twice a
month practicing various scenarios. I
recall once being a bad guy for a day
during an ERT training exercise a few
years ago. I almost had a heart attack
when one of the concussion grenades
came flying though the window. The
element of surprise is often used in tactical
work to hopefully defuse the situation.
Tactical members are there to protect your
safety and the safety of the individual their
trying to apprehend. I've watched Dallas
Swat on television and seen footage of
the 1997 North Hollywood bank robbery
in Los Angles it not all about glamour.
Tactical work is unpredictable and
dangerous and seconds are a lifetime.
MIERT have an average of 60-70 calls a
year with numerous operation support
deployments like uniformed police
members and police dogs who often assist
them if needed. "They are months when
it is very busy and they are times when it
is quite," said Sansalone. Anywhere from
12 to all 22 members may attend a call
depending on the seriousness of the call.
The last call for the team was in the
Abbotsford. Sansalone recalls one of the
more challenging call he has received as
a tactical member was the search for
Graham McMynn who was being held
hostage last year. Several ERT units
worked together and raided houses
throughout the lower mainland finding
McMynn alive in the process.
With the amalgamation of four different
departments the resources and tools that
are available for MIERT is much greater
adding to their crime fighting capabilities.
Cst Sansalone who enjoys being on
MIERT says it has been a rewarding and
challenging experience for him personally.
Sansalone said, " I like the type of work
and we are getting trained at a high level.
I like the high-risk calls we respond to. I
like to provide a safe work environment
for the general police members and
community as a whole."
The last ERT member who was killed in the line of duty
was Sgt. Larry Young from the Vancouver
Police Department in 1987 during a drug
raid. MIERT provides a valuable service
in protecting and serving our communities
in dangerous situations.

Diversity in Abby Policing...

Law Enforcement Adapts to a Growing Multicultural Community.

Law enforcement in the 21st century has become complex in dealing with the ever-changing demands of a growing multicultural community. Whether it is in a corporate boardroom or fighting crime on the streets diversity is the approach many companies are pursuing in the globalization of our communities. Abbotsford Police is one of these organizations that has taken a leadership role on diversity initiatives and many police agencies across North America are modeling their approach. Abbotsford Police has eight organizational values, one of which is diversity. Last year, the department formed a Chief Constable's Diversity Advisory Committee and Diversity Relations Unit, which have proven to be both successful additions to the 195-member department. Abbotsford Police is the second city police department (after Vancouver Police in the province to adopt such models. When it came to forming the Diversity Advisory Committee the department received overwhelming solid support from the community. The committee meets a couple of times a year or more to deal with issues of diversity.
Meeting with two members from the Abbotsford Police Recruiting Unit Sergeant Jules Tessarolo and Constable Wanda Lane the department is looking to add new members in the coming years. Both Tessarolo and Lane are not shy about the idea that the department is targeting people from various ethic communities. The department currently has a wide range of members from different nationalities who speak various languages and they are looking to add to these numbers in the future. In a time where many departments across Canada are in a hiring phase Tessarolo and Lane are asking applicants to consider applying with them.Abbotsford Police is one of the fastest growing departments in the province to meet the demands of the Central Fraser Valley. Are you fit with no criminal record and looking for an exciting and rewarding career. The Abbotsford Police wants you. The recruiting unit are encouraging candidates who want to pursue a career in policing there is no better time to apply than now. Applicants should be 19 years of age and a Canadian citizen with a valid driver's license and have a minimum Grade 12 education. The selection process is competitive with a written test, a physical component and many interviews. The process can take anywhere from three to six months depending on the individuals background. Candidates who are selected are sworn in as Probationary Recruit Constables and attend an extensive training program at the Justice Institute, which includes three blocks of training. The department is looking to hire recruits for this fall.
The duo member recruiting unit team encourages applicants who are considering applying that good work history solid character with good decisionmaking ability is what they are looking for in a new recruit. Tessarolo and Lane added that they understand people make mistakes but want they are looking for is honesty and what they have done to better themselves. Age is not a factor and applicants who are considering career changes are welcomed to apply. There is currently a recruit who is 37 years old and is in training at the Justice Institute. Tessarolo and Lane express that life experience is valuable in the selection process and on the job. Cst. Lane said, " Diversity is one of our values and as such we work to ensure our department reflects the diverse make-up of our community- it is very important to us. Abbotsford is a diverse community and we recognize in order to provide the best possible police service to our citizens we must have officers that reflect this diversity. We are, and always have been, a department seeking qualified men and women from all backgrounds. We are proud of our diversity." Cst. Nina Brah, the first female Indo Canadian officer to go through the entire selection process and get hired by the Abbotsford Police department in 2006 said, " Abbotsford is a great place to live and work. The entire community of Abbotsford has been welcoming and supportive. Abbotsford Police is a first class organization that believes in diversity and I am proud to be part of this team. I would like to encourage more women to chose policing as a career and make a difference in our community."
Policing has endless opportunities with a competitive salary and benefits with enormous growth potential. Communication is a valuable weapon in policing which opens up arteries in the community. When you have a diverse police body, which includes women, are community becomes an inclusive environment making it safer for everyone.
If this sounds like a career that your interested in please visit and submit your application online or contact Cst. Wanda Lane at 604 859 5225.

Abbotsford Police Recruiting Unit Sergeant Jules Tessarolo and Constable Wanda Lane
Cst. Nina Brah, the first female Indo Canadian officer to go through the entire selection process and get hired by the Abbotsford Police department in 2006

Speaking with Students at Harry Sayers Elementary..

January 19th, 2007
to February 1st, 2007
Punjabi Patrika`
Youth Views on Diversity
by Ken Herar
In my quest to find my last and
remaining group to discuss diversity I
decided to open this space for our youth.
They might be young but many have the
ability to think beyond there chronicle
age. Harry Sayers Elementary in
Abbotsford is a model school when it
comes to diversity. A student population
of just under five hundred students Harry
Sayers is the largest elementary school
in the district. Students and staff come
from all backgrounds making Harry
Sayers a unique place to teach and learn.
Some say Harry Sayers Elementary is
too ethnically diverse. School officials
and students have proven many wrong.
With programs like Conspiracy and
Together For Tomorrow which provide
students with leadership ability to make
better choices Harry Sayers students are
becoming leaders on diversity. Winner
of the local Cultural Diversity Award in
2005 for Inclusive Environment many
schools are looking toward Harry Sayers
Elementary for leadership. One of the
school officials who is leading this
initiative is Sayers Principal Susan Antek.
She has undertaken this difficult task and
shown that diversity has no boundaries.
Antek and her staff have developed a
positive environment at Harry Sayers
Elementary creating a common
understanding where students appreciate
and learn about various cultures. Often
what we learn at a young age shapes us
for tomorrow.
Antak said, "At Harry Sayers
Elementary, all students have the
opportunity to develop their full potential
as individuals and as members of our
school community. Students are
encouraged and expected to achieve
their personal best in school and to
become socially responsible individuals.
We work to inspire students to become
lifelong learners. Our school motto is
"Reach for the Stars". The guiding stars
for lifelong learning that are stressed at
Harry Sayers Elementary are: Respect,
Effort, Attitude, Cooperation and
Honesty. When I imagine one of my
students as an adult, I see a person who
is a thinker and a doer. I see an individual
who speaks up for what he or she wants
or believes, with creativity, passion,
courage and perseverance. I see a
person who cares about others and the
world. When students leave our school,
we want them to have the basic life skills
that will help them get along in middle
school, in high school and in the adult
world. At Harry Sayers Elementary
students, staff and parents have created
an environment where diversity is truly
respected and celebrated." I proposed
the same question to four Grade 5 Harry
Sayers students. How can we create an
inclusive diverse Canada and become
better citizens? Here is what they said:
Kieran Dyck said, "I like living in a
diverse country because it would be
boring if everybody were the same. You
shouldn’t fight with someone because
you don’t understand their culture or their
religion. I have fun experiencing and
learning about different cultures.
Respecting all cultures and religions
with something, it’s important that you
help out. We need to be caring and not
racist in our thinking. Don’t think that
you’re better than other people.
Everyone deserves respect. Living in
Canada is great because we try to help
one another. We also need to respect
our environment. If everyone helps out,
our world will be fresh and clean for
people today, and in the future."
Jasmin Gill said, "Do you want to
make the world a better place? I sure
do. Some of the ways we can try to make
a difference are to encourage kindness
and affection and discourage violence
and greed. We can solve problems by
thinking about others and how they feel
other than your own is very important.
We respect one another at our school."
Sandeep Kang said, "If you want your
culture to be respected, then you should
respect other peoples’ cultures too. You
should always treat other people the way
you would like to be treated. We talk
about this at our school assemblies and
in our classes. For example, if a smaller
person wants to join a sports team and
the rest of the children are taller, it doesn’t
mean that the smaller person can’t join
because he or she is small. Everybody
should get a chance to try. To make our
community a wonderful place to live, we
should also keep the environment clean.
To do that, we should recycle. Working
together, we can make a difference."
Nhan Nguyen said, "We need to walk
in other peoples’ shoes and feel what
they feel. If you say something hurtful
to someone, you need to think about how
they are feeling. If someone needs help
and by talking to one another. We need
to respect both the similarities and
differences of other people. At Harry
Sayers Elementary, we follow the
Guiding Stars every day. (Respect,
Effort, Attitude, Cooperation and
Honesty) We work to remember to treat
others the way we want to be treated."
I have enjoyed these discussions on
diversity. I like to thank all respondents
for participating in these series. Many
voices are better than one. We have
heard from a variety of ages, sexes and
cultural groups. The answer is
unanimous. We can all become better

Friday, December 4, 2009

A CandleLight Christmas..

Candlelight parade among annual thrills

Ken Herar, The Times

Published: Friday, December 04, 2009

Did you hear that Santa is making an early stop at the 26th annual Mission Candlelight Parade tonight?

The annual event, presented by the Mission Regional Chamber of Commerce, is one of the largest evening parades in B.C. with approximately 1,000 participants, more than 75 entries and around 13,000 spectators.

Having lined up along the parade route on previous occasions it's a fabulous evening destination to connect with people and meet friends.

I encourage you to get there early because parking is always challenging. The parade starts at 7:30 p.m. along First Avenue and concludes at the Cedar Connector.

Parade entries are expected to come from all over the Lower Mainland.

Mission Food Centre will be accepting food donations along the parade route.

Satti Grewal, owner of Swing Optical and treasurer of the Downtown Business Association, is looking forward to the excitement of the parade.

"As a business owner and member of the DBA, I am very happy to see so many great family events happening downtown. Just in the last few weeks, a large number of First Avenue businesses participated in Customer Appreciation Night as well as Cookie Night.

"It is nice to see people coming out as a community and recognizing the potential the downtown has."

"There are so many unique little businesses that people don't know about. These events help to raise awareness of the quality shopping Mission has to offer," Grewal said.

- Mission's Cultural Resources Commission recently held its second forum on Nov. 19 at the Mission Leisure Centre.

Organizer Sharon Syrette, explained that a major theme emerged from this discussion - to promote Mission as a City of Festivals.

Syrette said there are a lot of events already happening and some that have disappeared but could be brought back.

Currently most events are in the summer, which is such a busy time. Planners need to look at the calendar and see what festival would fit each month.

© Abbotsford Times 2009

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Our Thanks
Jean Konda-Witte, The Times
Published: Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Abbotsford-Mission Times wishes to thank Ken Herar, our judges, the winners and the many entrants for making this year's Building An Inclusive Diverse Community essay contest a huge success. We'd also like to thank Abbotsford Community Services, Mission White Spot, Punjabi Patrika (publisher Andy Sidhu), The Link and all the local schools that allowed us to make presentations.
Those singled out for their great work in the inaugural Building An Inclusive, Diverse Community essay contest, sponsored by the Abbotsford-Mission Times, were, from the left, Suman Dhillon (honourable mention), Aaron Myales (third place), Ken Herar (contest co-ordinator), Mike Westwick (winner) and Jaskiran Sidhu (second place).
© Abbotsford Times 2009

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A Memorial SoftBall Tourney with a Cause...

Despite warm weather conditions the 11th Annual Sherry Pawa Kaila and
Friends Memorial Softball Tournament was an overwhelming success. Myself and
Link Editor Paul Dhillon ventured under the bright hot sun last weekend to
catch some fine softball skills and rays at Riverway Park in Burnaby.
Looking back at this years Link Diversity Question: What have you done or
could you do to include someone into your culture or community organization?
Reflecting back in the stands with a hot dog and a soda, sporting events are
a terrific way to include people into your culture. All teams are co-ed with
men and women participants and carry a multicultural mix on the diamond
including a variety of levels. This tournament attracts hundreds of
participants and spectators from across the province remembering Sherry and
the traffic accident that claimed two lives and injured many on August 1997
in Seattle. Having participated four years ago and a baseball mitten that is
relativity new, I couldn't think of a better way to remember the victims,
raise money for charity and have fun all during a weekend family outing.

Sherry's older sister Lali Pawa shared these words, "On August,8,1997 a car
accident took the life of a young and beautiful woman, named Sherry Pawa
Kaila. She was a loving wife, a special daughter and an amazing friend who
touched the lives of many people. In her memory, family and friends have
organized a softball tournament for the last 10 years". " A softball
tournament was chosen because it was viewed as an event that would allow for
family and friends to come together and participate in a co-ed game. All the
money raised from the tournaments has been sent to the BC CHILDREN'S
HOSPITAL and the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Vancouver", said Pawa.

The first tournament held 11 years ago had 14 teams and raised $5,000
dollars. Each consecutive year since the tournament has grown to 40 teams
raising over $150,000. This year, there were 18 teams participating with all
proceeds going to the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Vancouver and the total
dollar figures are still being calculated.

When we talk about some of the great Indo Canadian charitable causes and
social events that take place in British Columbia this has to rank as one of
them. Having organized many tennis tournaments, I know the commitment and
energy it takes to run an event of this magnitude. Supposedly, organizers
meet several months prior putting endless hours to discuss and plan this
event. Everyone involved on and off the field including sponsors should feel
proud of their generosity over the last 11 years assisting many unfortunate

Sporting events are a terrific way to share culture. The recent Euro 2008
soccer tournament is a great example and the many countries who bring their
spirit and culture to the game. The upcoming 2010 Winter Olympic Games in
Vancouver will be another example how we can learn and share culture with
people from around the globe.

According to Pawa their will be a 12 Annual tourney and hopefully more in
the future.

Building An Inclusive, Diverse Community..

Westwick shines with worthy words of wisdom

Ken Herar, The Times

Published: Tuesday, November 24, 2009

"As has always been true, people are intimidated by the unknown, and if the unknown is reduced then people will be more willing to take it upon themselves to improve community diversity."

Those are the inspirational words of Mission's Mike Westwick, a media and communications student at the University of the Fraser Valley.

Westwick, an aspiring journalist, is this year's worthy winner of the Times' Building An Inclusive, Diverse Community essay contest.

His essay was powerful, passionate and concise. His words reveal a touching truth, catching the imagination and approval of all six of our judges.

Westwick's words also parrot our sentiments at the Times to eliminate the unknown factor in our communities and create a brighter future for everyone.

As the 2009 winner, Westwick is receiving an honourary ticket from Abbotsford Community Services to attend the Fraser Valley Cultural Diversity Awards on March 5, 2010 at the Ramada Plaza and Conference Centre in Abbotsford.

Those who took part in this year's contest responded to the question "What have you done, or what can you do, to make our community more inclusive?"

I have been truly blessed these past four months meeting people from all walks of life and having the opportunity to speak at various local venues.

The road to the final four has been one of hard work and perseverance.

In fact, what we have learned here is that walking along the path of diversity is not a lonely journey - thankfully!

I would like to thank Times' publisher Fred Armstrong and editor Gord Kurenoff who encouraged me to spread the important words of tolerance, togetherness and love.

Our team of judges was brilliant and their individual efforts are appreciated. Out of 40-plus final entries they respectfully narrowed it down to the finest four.

For those who were not selected please try again next year.

There were many fantastic submissions and the toughest part is telling someone they didn't make it to this final stage.

Kudos to Mike Westwick, Jaskiran Sidhu, Aaron Myales and Suman Dhillon.

And thanks to everyone who entered and demonstrated that we have a lot of caring youth who want their community to be more inclusive.

© Abbotsford Times 2009

Making a Difference at the BC Summer Games..

Nov 20 2003

It's time to get involved again

By Ken Herar

As the New Year slowly approaches it is time to get excited about new things.

In eight-and-a-half months Abbotsford will host the B.C. Summer Games, guided by a capable team of 15 directors led by Milt Walker.

The excitement is building around town quickly and preparations are being made for this to be the best B.C. Summer Games ever for athletes across this province!

The July 15-18 sports spectacle is something that is close to my heart as I have competed on six different occasions. They are a learning experience for athletes who travel to various communities across this province and compete in their respective sports.

This feature makes the Games special: travelling to different cities and enjoying the hospitality of the host city. The Games experience has a lasting effect on athletes throughout their lives.

The Games are not only about competition, but are also about meeting new people and having fun. Every time I competed at the Games I have met an endless amount of friends with whom I have kept in touch with over the years.

The first time I competed away from home was in 1985 at the Games in Victoria. That experience helped me build character, but the Games are also a beautiful way to promote our province and cities to athletes who may never get a chance to travel to various B.C. destinations.

The City of Abbotsford has a proven track record, as it hosted the 1995 Western Canadian Games and the 2002 Disability Games, something which the citizens of this fine city should be proud of.

Abbotsford is known as one of the best sports towns in this province and for having some of the best, modern facilities for athletes. There is no better choice than Abbotsford to host the Games next year.

It takes some 4,000 volunteers to host the Games.

Volunteers will not only come from Abbotsford but from surrounding communities such as Aldergrove for it to be a success.

The benefits for the area are enormous. I have decided to become a volunteer next year with the team of 60 people specifically required for the Games' News Services, chaired by the editor of the Abbotsford News, Rick Rake.

The Games have given me so much in terms of character building that I wanted to give back.

Looking back at my experiences at the Games I have been fortunate to win six medals in tennis but never the gold and I am very thankful for that opportunity. By becoming a volunteer, I see myself involved in a gold medal experience.

I would like to encourage all of you to get involved by volunteering in any capacity to make this the best B.C. Summer Games yet.

Volunteerism brings pride to the area and neighbouring communities like Aldergrove.

It shows that we have real people who care about others in an unselfish way.

During the Games, Abbotsford will be host more than 3,000 athletes from every corner of this province. We hope to see you there!

© Copyright 2007 Aldergrove Star