Friday, December 17, 2010

Try on a pair of Naked underwear...

Naked underwear & help for the hungry

Thank you so much for those who responded with their kind words of encouragement after being denied entry to a Christmas party.

My festive spirits have not changed.

For your knowledge, and to clear the air, the reason I didn't disclose the personal details on the whereabouts of the party was because this would never bring closure to the issue.

It would drag on and on, and this is something I am not prepared to do during the holiday season.

The main concern and focus should be that these issues still exist. It's time to move forward and there will be plenty of time in the New Year to hash out these concerns.

With the recent hiring of Abbotsford's diversity co-ordinator Med Manzanal for a three-year, federally-funded Building Connections Project, our future is in good hands.

Also, if you're still searching for last-minute gifts don't forget to try on a pair of Canada's newest underwear line, Naked Boxer Brief (

Naked has a local twist that has captured the imaginations of international audiences.

CEO and founder Joel Primus, while filming a documentary for his charity, Project World Citizen (PWO) in South America in 2008, came across a new style of men's underwear.

Primus took his underwear line to the Canadian reality TV show Dragon's Den in 2009 and did not get what he wanted. But later, Abbotsford entrepreneur Rick Rake teamed him up with now-Naked chairperson Ross Brown of Altitude Consulting in Abbotsford.

Brown, former marketing manager for Abbotsford Airport, linked Primus with WestJet co-founder Tim Morgan and other major investors to prove the Dragons wrong.

And did they ever. Naked launched its men's underwear line last September at a packed Boys Co. on Robson Street in Vancouver, in Toronto, and at Ronald Allan Clothiers on South Fraser Way in Abbotsford.

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to witness all three high schools in Mission in action, preparing for their second annual Dinner for the Less Fortunate at Heritage Park Secondary, organized by the Mission District Student Leadership Committee. What an afternoon it was. Seeing students and teachers put clothing, sleeping bags and other necessities in well equipped care packages, which were then handed out to approximately 150 people.

Heritage Park Secondary Principal Wade Peary spoke about the passion demonstrated by students' efforts to work together and make this event a another huge success. Something he claims the entire district school staff are extremely proud of.

Mission Secondary student Alicia Setter said: "The Dec. 4 dinner was a great success, and a eye opener for many of today's youth."

- Ken Herar is a columnist for the Abbotsford-Mission Times.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Denied to a Christmas party....

Denied entry to Surrey Christmas party for being East Indian, Herar speaks out

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Photo by Michael Hilton via creative commons

Two weeks ago, diversity columnist for the Abbotsford-Mission Times, Ken Herar, was denied invitation to a Surrey Christmas party, because he was East Indian, he said. Herar reports that just prior to the incident, a friend had given Herar a residential number to call and direct RSVP inquiries to. When Herar called the number, he said, a woman answered the phone. After a couple exchanges, he said, the woman asked, “are you East Indian?”

“Yes,” he replied.

“Sorry, we’re not allowing East Indians at this party,” said the woman.

After the conversation ended, Herar said his initial reaction was laughter. When asked why he thought the woman on the phone would not invite East Indians, Herar speculates that “(she probably had) the stereotype that too many South Asian guys together are going to cause trouble.”

At first, Herar said he didn’t want to expose his story too much, “if they didn’t want me there, fine.” But after a day, he thought to himself, “this is kind of a interesting subject here.” So he decided to post his story on Facebook. Within the first hour alone, Herar received up to sixty responses. Some were shocked and some were thankful to Herar for bringing the issue up.

“It’s a reminder that racism still exists,” Herar says.

In a telephone interview with the Vancouver Observer, Herar shares his insight from more than fifteen years of diversity writing experience. He believes that this sort of race-fueled animosity has been growing in the past thirty years. But what has changed between the 80’s and now? Demographics.

Herar grew up in Abbotsford during the 1980’s and notes that “thirty years ago, the South Asian community was small.” Because the community was small, the desire to integrate into the Canadian mainstream was high. Now, in 2010, when you arrive in Canada as an immigrant, there still is the pressure to assimilate, but now there are choices to settle and root yourself in various communities that have established strong ethnic community support networks. Herar speaks of Abbotsford in particular.

In terms of community fundraising, if money needs to be raised within the local South Asian community: money will be raised from local South Asian avenues. But these self-supporting communities have some problems as to how they fit within general society. Some view these communities as self-segregating while others view them as self-supporting.

“The incentive of being Canadian is becoming lost.”

One of the problems is that there is a lack of coverage on incidents like Herar’s within mainstream media. It is seems to be a very “Canadian thing” to promote multiculturalism. Multiculturalism: it’s what Canada is known for. The problem is no one is talking about multiculturalism: the good and the bad.

Herar predicts that if the current growth rates continue throughout the next thirty years, the South Asian community will compose a majority of the population within the Lower Mainland. Herar adds that as these minority communities have grown, “isolation has grown. And from isolation can foster hate.”

Herar decided to come out with his story to raise awareness that this type of hate exists, a wake-up call that often surprises people. He wants to help prevent the growth of xenophobia in the Lower Mainland. He wants to see more joint-initiatives between different communities. “We need to be more interactive with each other, ” Herar says, “it’s important to have friends outside your culture.”

Ken Herar is a diversity columnist for the Abbotsford-Mission Times. In May/June 2011, Herar will be cycling from Mission to Victoria, visiting communities, school and local councils. The project is part of an effort to listen to citizens across the Lower Mainland and engage the local governments into building stronger interactive communities.

(2) Comments

wetcoast December 14th 2010 | 1:13 PM

Unfortunately, it's hard to react to this story because so little context is provided. Who was hosting the party? Was it a private party? Was Mr. Herar invited to the party? Did the Observer (or the Abbotsford-Mission Times) try to contact the woman to get her side of the story? Racism is inexcusable but without more context to this story, it's difficult to judge what happened.

linda December 16th 2010 | 7:07 AM

Thanks for your comment, Wetcoast, but in this case, I disagree. I think the context is our society.

The writer encountered a racist remark. Most of us encounter these routinely. As an investigative reporter, I absolutely respect his decision not to go into WHO said it, or to give out her number. That would be really inflating it beyond what it was. She shouldn't be humliated for it. But, as a writer, he has a right to comment upon it and speculate about what it says about our society in general. I would like to see much more discussion of this kind on VO. My son, for instance, and his three friends, were recently confronted by a group of four boys who tossed homophobic slurs at them, made anti-semetic remarks and then pulled a switchblade on them. My son was never afraid and felt they were just big bullies, but the fact that teenage boys are talking this way is a reflection of the kind of thinking that got Herar thinking, in my humble opinion. VO's decision to talk about his story is part of a larger editorial direction.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Letters to the editor

No place for prejudice

Editor, the Times:

It saddens me what happened to Mr. Herar (Wrong number - South Asians turned away, Times, Dec. 10). Being rejected because of race is offensive to me.

My daughter was engaged to an Argentinean and because she was not Spanish they disowned their son, so I have experienced racism, I wanted to strike back.

Since moving here from Ontario six years ago, most of my friends are South Asian. My workout partner is an South Asian, I work for a South Asian, and my best friend is South Asian.

We have gone often to the temple, listened to the service which I did not understand, but had explained to me. I was always made to feel welcome and treated with respect.

To insinuate that young South Asian in a group cause trouble maybe we should open our eyes to all the gangs and see who is causing the problems.

Many of the attitudes exhibited by the Christian church make it embarrassing to be associated with them.

Tom Lester


Saturday, December 11, 2010

No East Indians allowed at this Christmas party

A local diversity advocate was shocked after recently being refused entrance to a Christmas event because of his ethnicity.

Mission resident Ken Herar, who writes about diversity issues in a column for the Abbotsford-Mission Times, was making arrangement to attend a Christmas function only to have the host say, "Sorry, we're not allowing East Indians at this party."

Bemused at first, Herar later got angry and posted his thoughts about the incident on his Facebook and blog pages.

"My feelings weren't hurt, but I was disappointed in society," Herar said.

"[She probably had] the stereotype that too many South Asian guys together are going to cause trouble."

Reaction to the story on his social network was fast and furious.

"My Caucasian friends were really shocked . . . and one of my South Asian friends didn't believe it," said Herar, who also posted letters received in recent years that he believes illustrate that racism and the cultural divide between different ethnic groups is getting worse.

"We all need to make an effort to eliminate racism," he said.

Larger society has to overcome stereotypical thinking, but minority groups need to take more steps to integrate themselves, particularly in communities like Abbotsford and Surrey that have concentrated ethnic populations, Herar said.

"People feel very comfortable in their own ethnic communities, and there's nothing wrong with that," he said.

"But we need to break those barriers. [South Asians] need to recognize we need to get more involved in larger society."

Herar said in the 1980s when he was growing up and attending school in Mission, there was more integration among different groups of people.

"Now, I rarely ever see people from different races walking together. Young kids generally stick together," he said.

There is a growing culture gap that needs to be addressed both in schools and the larger community, according to Herar.

"If we don't recognize the problem, we can't fix it . . . isolation creates hate and this affects [all of us]."

Friday, December 3, 2010

No East Indians allowed at this party...

Not allowing East Indians was a surprise to many

Knock knock. Who's there? Sorry, no East Indians allowed.

Yes, it's true. That's what I encountered last week when I was making booking arrangements to attend a Christmas party in Surrey via telephone.

The polite lady asked me if I was East Indian and I replied, "yes". She said: "sorry, we're not allowing East Indians at this party." I kind of thought it was funny at first. But, it started to bother me a few days later. Let's say this wasn't the first time for me and I am sure it won't be the last.

So, to take some of the frustrations away, I posted this on my Facebook. Well, in a matter of a few hours, I had a lengthy stream of comments faster than I could push the reply button.

Some of my friends found it hard to believe that this still exists. I guess for many they just don't see it. I view it first hand constantly with the feedback I receive. A few of my so-called friends challenged me to prove this. I wasn't in a position to broadcast the address around the world. How childish and foolish that would be. And I wasn't looking for revenge, either.

So, I posted the six worst letters I could find in my e-mail box from readers to prove my point. Well, that created a whole new avenue of discussion and opened many eyes. This was the first time I have done such a thing. What I clearly discovered was when we speak about a "cultural divide" it's a generational topic. Youth clearly view it differently than adults. Kids in high school still see it as "us against them" and adults generally want to find ways to build bridges. For example, one of the youths commented to my friends that I was against the East Indian side. Not true at all. I don't play favorites.

If someone is wrong, I will let them know. Parents have a special role in educating there children on this topic. I urge them to take an interest. Let's not forget that isolation creates hate, and this affects you and me. Hey, some people might of had bad experiences with East Indians. I don't know. But, don't judge me based on the actions of a few. Painting everyone with the same brush is something we all need to avoid, including me.

Speaking of brushes, one Abbotsford resident is using her camera to challenge social stereotypes. Deesh Sekhon is involved with Help-Portrait, a community of photographers that are taking portraits individuals and families who otherwise couldn't afford them. Sekhon is working to provide positive images of people within the community.

This is about giving back - giving a family or individual something they may never had before said Sekhon. But I think it's also about changing people's view of their community. For more information please contact her at

- Ken Herar is a columnist for the Abbotsford-Mission Times. Contact him at: