Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Does cultural divide issues exist on Facebook?

Facebook befriends diversity

I would like to congratulate the Sikh community for the official opening of the Sikh Heritage Museum at the Gur Sikh Gurdwara, which took place last month.

My father and several of my close friends enjoyed the celebrations.

I look forward to revisiting the landmark temple where I played as a child.

A year ago I was interviewed on CBC Radio's The Early Edition with host Rick Cluff concerning being denied access to a Christmas party because I was South Asian.

During the program, he asked me whether or not I believed that Facebook was a contributing factor towards the cultural divide in the Lower Mainland.

I didn't see this as being the case, however, I do see this as an avenue in which cultural polarization can be addressed.

I decided to do some quick research through some of my friend's Facebook lists to see what kind of cross cultural friendships are being developed through a click of a button.

I discovered that most cultures actually stick within themselves (especially youth) and some of my friends who are over the age of 30 seemed to show some improvements in how they reached out on social media.

If we plan on bridging the cultural divide in the future, we must realize that social media is one platform that has never been explored.

Jassi Hera, a Grade 12 student from Rick Hansen Secondary School shared these comments: "I personally think everyone should get along with each other. We only live once, why not get to know some new people and even learn about their culture. Facebook is one of the best ways to actually meet new people."

On another note, I have some sad news to share.

The tree that was planted on May 18 to celebrate the Cycling4Diversity ride to Victoria was vandalized in August and did not make it.

I would like to thank the District of Mission for doing their best to save the tree. Another tree is scheduled to be planted in the spring as a replacement.

Since the completion of the ride, the momentum hasn't stopped.

We have some exciting announcements to be made in the New Year.

Sarina Di Martino Derksen, the executive coordinator, is planning on revealing the schedule, a new logo, as well as other events scheduled to take place.

One of the many highlights of this trip was when the winner of the Cycling4Diversity bike offered to sell the bike.

Di Martino Derksen stepped up and advised me that this would be a wonderful opportunity to help out the winner as well as keep the bike for the rides to come.

Derksen personally purchased the bike and will be loaning the bike each year to the team.

- Ken Herar is a freelance columnist. Contact him at kenherar@gmail.com.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Expand Punjabi as a second language-based program in Abbotsford schools. Let's grow together.

Be together, speak together

I’m a little disturbed by some of the racial driven comments I have read online and in the paper about expanding the Punjabi language program in the Abbotsford School District. It’s these kinds of comments that trigger hatred, racism and discrimination amongst our diverse community. I recall going to school in Abbotsford and I was required to learn a second language to graduate. I enrolled in German 11 to achieve the graduation criteria and enjoyed it very much. I see this as a great step forward in expanding our school system’s idea of embracing multiculturalism and giving the students an opportunity to learn how to communicate with other cultures in their community by learning a different language. I come across non-Punjabi’s on a regular basis that can speak the language better than me, in their efforts to communicate with South Asians. I respect and appreciate their efforts in caring enough to take the time out to expand their skills. As I’ve mentioned in previous columns, we have some cultural gaps that require attention.

One of the critics said in her letter, “Why teach the Punjabi language when it’s not one of the official Canadian languages.” If we use that line of thinking, neither is German. I think many people that demonstrate opposition to this initiative actually have underlying issues directed towards the Punjabi community here in Abbotsford. I see this more as a racial issue than a financial matter.

We need to take a look at the demographics of where this language is being proposed to be taught. Just like German being one of the languages taught in our school system due to the large German population in Abbotsford, we now have a large Punjabi population which also includes many businesses. By giving students the opportunity to explore their educational language studies, this will encourage them to reach out and connect with other individuals in their community that they normally would not have been able to relate to.

A few years ago, someone said something I have never forgotten. The individual said, “Ken, we live in one of the most illiterate regions in the world.” I took a moment to ponder what he referring to and came to the realization that what he was trying to say was that many of the new Canadians that arrive into our country don’t know English. Not knowing English is not proven grounds for deeming someone to be illiterate.

Learning multiple languages is how our world is becoming more connected. Having said that, it is important that non-English speaking residence take the initiative to also try to connect by learning English as their second language. People need to step up and understand that in order for us to conquer the cultural divide in Abbotsford, non-English speaking people need to learn English and English speaking people need to learn Punjabi (or other languages) to create a more integrated community. After all, it is language that connects us all together and allows us to relate to one another.

With the idea of expanding language based programs in our school system, we need to study the benefits and long-term advantages of embracing and implementing such an opportunity

Friday, December 2, 2011

From the pages of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Cycling4Diversity initiative began in 2011 to celebrate “World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development” on May 21st - a day proclaimed by the United Nations. Our mission is to make a number of stops along the way in different cities to celebrate diversity and build bridges. This will encourage dialogue regarding racism, discrimination and shed some light on underlying issues associated with living among different cultures and races. This initiative is all about teamwork, creating awareness and bridging the divisions. By traveling through the different cities and meeting with students in several schools as well as community organizations and neighbourhoods, we will have the opportunity to learn about other different cultures, which will allow us gain a better understanding for who they are so that we can celebrate our differences. Our vision is to reach out to many people along the way and come together for the good of a common goal.

In 2011, from May 18th-21st a group of cyclists travelled 200 kilometres from Mission, British Columbia to Victoria, British Columbia.

The cyclists stopped in Mission, Abbotsford, Langley, Surrey, New Westminster, Burnaby, Vancouver, Richmond and Victoria. The cyclists made various stops speaking with students and organizations about cultural diversity, racism, discrimination and inclusivity. In addition, celebrations took place with civic leaders and individuals from the community.

On the morning of the 18th, the ride was launched with the assistance of the District of Mission where a Ginko Biloba tree was planted at Griner Park. One of the most memorable moments of the ride took place when the cyclists visited the Indian Friendship Centre in historical downtown Mission, BC where the team was part of a native drumming ceremony. Also, a bandana was placed on each cyclist.

Another memorable stop was at the Dashmesh Punjabi School located in Matsqui Village. A large group of students along with their teachers were waiting outside and gave a warm welcome to the team upon arrival waving their school flags.

An hour celebration took place at the Abbotsford, BC Canada Safeway where supporters of the community came out to enjoy food and entertainment. Entertainment included Korean drummers and Bhangra dancers and a mob flash.

On the last day of the trek, the riders were welcomed on World Day for Cultural Diversity on May 21st at the British Columbia Legislature building by the Acting Mayor of Victoria, Marianne Alto.

The team received support from local governments and the Province of British Columbia. The District of Mission, the City of Burnaby and the City of Victoria all awarded proclamations for their efforts. The Province of British Columbia announced that May 21st 2011 was declared “Cycling for Diversity Day” throughout the province.

The bike used by team leader and founder, Ken Herar was purchased from Wentings Cycle & Mountain Shop located in Mission, BC. The Devinci Oslo Hybrid road bike was raffled off and the recipient who won the bike wanted to give the bike back to the Cycling4Diversity team. Executive Coordinator, Sarina Derksen decided to purchase the bike and make it available on an annual basis for the cyclists to use.

The individuals that participated in this inaugural journey were: Ken Herar and Abbotsford City Councillor Bill McGregor, Alexandria Mitchell, Sukhi Dhami, Abbotsford Deputy Police Chief Rick Lucy, Pat Peron, Chris Singer, Cheryl Tallman and Langley City Councillor Dave Hall. Supporting staff: Sarina Derksen, Rick Rake, Deesh Sekhon, Rina Gill, Sum Dhillon, Shar Dubas, Dwayne De Souza, Sav Dhaliwal, Balwant Sanghera and Susan Archer.

Supporting financial partnerships included: Envision Financial, Van City (Mission Branch) Diane Delves (Quantum Properties), Canada Safeway, Rotary Club of Mission (Sunrise), Khalsa Diwan Society, Fraser Valley Indo-Canadian Business Association and Peter Warkentin (Quadra Homes). “By creating awareness, we are making a difference. The colours and cultures of Canada are changing and we should never stop building bridges.” Ken Herar Founder of Cycling4Diversity and Recipient of the Champion of Diversity Award 2007.

“I’m excited to be part of such an important initiative and help in spreading the message of building inclusive communities across our country. Creating awareness and dialogue is crucial in making this happen and we’re doing so by creating relationships and partnering with organizations and numerous individuals within our communities.” Sarina Derksen Cycling4Diversity Executive Coordinator

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Canada has 20 years to fix the growing 'cultural polarization' or face serious uphill challenges.

Electing to engage harmony and inclusion from the start

Now that the elections are over and the signs are coming down, it's time to look towards the future and create positive dialogue regarding the issues in our community.

One of the issues that wasn't discussed during this election was our growing cultural divide.

This divide does not only exist here in Abbotsford and Mission, but throughout several pockets within our country. Local elected officials have an important role and responsibility in demonstrating leadership on this topic.

The main reason why the cultural divide in Canada has continued to grow is because we have allowed it to, and our elected officials have paid very little attention to the matter.

In the next 20 years, if Canadians do not tackle or change the course of action the cultural polarization will continue to spread.

We're at a crucial turning point where we can build bridges and strengthen partnerships within our communities, or face the consequences of growing isolation.

The more isolated communities become, the risk of racism becomes a reality.

Unfortunately in recent years, many ethnic groups have steered away from becoming involved with other cultures other than their own in mainstream activities.

Parents and their children need to encourage each other daily to speak to other people outside of their own ethnic backgrounds and invite them into their homes.

Some of the ways families and people within our communities can be proactive in this change is to join integrated sports teams and leagues, or become involved in local activities.

I had the pleasure of meeting Svitlana Zafiekina at a Diwali function in Mission. She is visiting us for the third time as part of the Canada World Youth volunteer exchange pro-gram. As part of her PhD research, she is studying our diversity model and plans on taking our example back to the Ukraine to share with others.

"Canada is diverse and multicultural, I wanted to learn if diversity was taught here and if so how? It's an exciting program because I'm able to work with different cultures," she said.

This story is a leading example of how we can build relationships with people from different countries and cultures.

Throughout my years as a columnist, I've always strived to strike a fair balance in building a strong, connected and diverse community.

Sometimes I receive negative feedback that may surprise some.

Recently, I was told: "You're against your own ethnic [South Asian] community."

It's extremely disheartening. What I have been is fair and honest in my commentary without favouritism or biases.

- Ken Herar is a freelance columnist. Contact him at: kenherar@gmail.com.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

"Stop acting like a gora, when you are brown." What a discriminatory remark.

Taking heat on both sides of the multicultural issue

It's important to look beyond our skin colour and cultural differences in order to develop inclusive communities across our nation.

The cultural divide in Canada is an ongoing concern and has been with us for some time now. I receive e-mails on a weekly basis that reflect on some of these cultural and racial stigmas.

We have a lot of challenges to address as we continue to grow and build inclusive communities. On a positive note, there are a lot of people and organizations that recognize these challenges and are working diligently to bring awareness and change.

What I'm realizing every time I sit down to write is the best way to celebrate diversity and continue to promote it is through community partnerships and individual participation.

We need to raise the bar and challenge ourselves individually and collectively as a community to develop new ideas and strategies to address these issues. The foundation of our diverse society is based upon the family structure. When our families function in a healthy and productive manner, our communities prosper on many levels.

However, our families have been under a great deal of pressure over the last few decades, and as a result our communities have suffered. Our local community is like a house, in which we all live as family members.

So the question is, what kind of home do we want to live in? Do we want everyone in our family to be healthy, happy, productive and caring? Do we all want to get along or will we allow differences and strife to divide us? What does it take to raise a unified family?

These are some of the questions that all of us should be engaged in.

Our local community is also a family consisting of many differences that may include, religion, opinion, colour and tradition, yet we are all members of the same family - the human race. As family members, we should look past our differences so that we can get along and support one another to fulfill our aspirations.

You don't have to abandon your own culture to relate or be kind to someone from another culture.

A fellow South Asian recently directed the following statement towards me: "If you want to spread some love in this world stop acting like a gora, when you are brown." Gora means 'white' in Punjabi.

The truth is, love has no colour or boundaries. It's this kind of divisive outlook that only adds insult to the growing cultural divide in the Lower Mainland and across the country.

This mentality forces us to go backwards and is not how we address and work towards understanding diversity issues.

- Ken Herar is a freelance columnist. Contact him at kenherar@gmail.com.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Making diversity an election issue

Making diversity an election issue

When people write or stop me on the street to share issues regarding diversity in our community, they're not telling me anything new that I haven't already discussed. I can distinguish the haters from the people who have genuine concerns.

Like I've said in the past, we all can do better and we all have the responsibility to be welcoming to one another regardless to our ethnicity.

I have to ask the people who constantly complain and take shots at those in the community trying to make a difference regarding diversity, what are you doing to make a difference?

We are currently in election season and I have not yet heard any of the local candidates addressing issues regarding intercultural barriers. This issue is as equally important as the taxation and P3 water discussions.

I read one candidate's profile in Mission say that we need diverse leadership on council to reflect our diversity. Fair enough. We want to promote cultural diversity, but at the same time we need to also understand that there is a growing separation.

There's nothing wrong with candidates addressing these issues - actually it's imperative. However, the term "diversity" should not be hijacked to suit one's political aspirations in running for council.

Cultural diversity needs leadership if we're going to continue to promote this as an important symbol. I encourage candidates in the following weeks ahead, to familiarize themselves with some of the issues on intercultural barriers.

In order to see progress, we need to be real and honest in our intentions. If we don't address these issues now or in decades to come, we're going to encounter distinctive barriers.

This is a perfect opportunity for all candidates, including South Asians running for public office this November, to bring this issue to the forefront.

I hear several comments being made that the reason diversity isn't working is due to the fact that the South Asian community are segregating themselves.

There is some truth to this and I have addressed this point from time to time.

But it also goes further than this. It's a multidimensional issue and there are many factors that co-exist with one another. It's not just one specific ethnic community's responsibility.

What I've learned is the success and longevity of cultural diversity depends on the strengths of our partnerships. An example of this took place recently when a working accord was signed between the Fraser Valley Indo Canadian Business Association and the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce.

Also, this week I received an invitation to a local fundraising event hosted by The Center for Epilepsy & Seizure Education. It will take place at The Rancho on Nov. 5. Organizer Flo Dohms expressed that she would like to see more representation of our diversity at the event.

The proceeds from the Mardi Gras celebration dinner and dance event will be used to send children to camp, support and education, along with the distribution of a children's book about epilepsy. For more info, call 1-866-Seizure.

- Ken Herar is a freelance columnist. Contact him at kenherar@gmail.com.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Presenting the Cycling4Diversity bike raffle winner with her prize. The 2011 journey is over, and a exciting 2012 is set to begin.

Cycling4Diversity trailblazer Ken Herar with Amber Zurowski (left) winner of bike raffle, and Diane Delves, CEO and president of Quantum Properties, representing partners of Quantum Properties Brooklyn, who donated $500 to the cause.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Thanks to Diane Delves of Quantum Properties for your wonderful contribution towards our bike raffle

Overcoming 'intercultural barriers'

There has been a new development regarding the bike raffle that was drawn two weeks ago.

Winner Amber Zurowski of Abbotsford was thrilled to win the Cycling4Diversity bike, which I had the pleasure of riding to Victoria.

A few days after notifying Zurowski, she expressed to me that no one in her family rides a bike and would like to give it back to the Cycling4Diversity team for next May's trek.

She called Sarina Derksen, who was announced last week by the team to be the executive coordinator of the Cycling4Diversity ride in 2012. For a reduced price, Derksen recommended to me that we purchase the Devinci Oslo Hybrid bike from Zurowski for next year's ride and the years to follow.

Derksen said: "As the message of diversity is spreading throughout our communities, the response has been encouraging, therefore, we expect an even greater turnout for next year's ride."

The Cycling4Diversity team is thankful for the contribution made by Diane Delves of Quantum Properties, which made this all possible.

As I continue to express, the best way to overcome intercultural barriers is by encouraging people to become active in their communities. Programs are a wonderful way of initiating discussions.

Instead of placing blame, we all need to do better and include people from different cultures into our lives.

The success of diversity depends on our willingness to accept that there may be some differences, but also to work together for a common future. The Go-Ahead Power Project is an example of how we can develop relationships with new immigrant youth from ages 11-17. The program is funded by Coast Capital Savings and in partnership with Abbotsford Community Services.

The program's goals are to provide a sense of belonging and involvement in bridging cultural gaps.

Illana Boychuk said: "The project was also to implement change in their own lives by community involvement, opportunities and resources."

Another great local program that is building on international friendships is between the African nation of Namibia and the City of Abbotsford.

Since 2007, the Abbotsford Police Department has been involved in a police exchange program with the Windhoek City Police to assist it with its development as a new city police department.

Windhoek, which is the capital city of Namibia, decided to establish the country's first city police department beginning in 2006. Abbotsford Deputy Police Chief, Rick Lucy said: "There have been five exchanges focusing on a variety of areas. This sixth exchange, happening this week, will see three officers from their records section coming here to explore our records management system (PRIME), crime analysis, CompStat, and crime mapping."

There's a lot of positive activities that are occurring in our communities and I encourage people to get involved.

- Ken Herar is a freelance columnist. Contact him at: kenherar@gmail.com.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Surfing the net, this is what I discovered. Urging me to run for political office .

Letter to the editor:
Re: The CRMG's challenge to city council:

I couldn't help but smile when I received this national enquirer type tabloid the CRMG has dubbed "The Mission Messenger".
Laughable are the fact that the CRMG is simply using people's anger as an opportunity to seize power from an already lame council. They expose much problems but offer little solutions.
What most of the voters don't know is who is pulling the strings of the CRMG like the puppets masters that they are.
Ron Taylor was a former councilor of the city and Randy Hawes was a former mayor, he is now the current Liberal MLA.
Although some see a conflict of interest, the question I ask myself is: Does this election need to turn like there in 6 on one side and half a dozen on the other? Let's not be naive, Mr Taylor and Mr Hawes are good people at the core but why believe that the same people putting the current council in power, will replace them with something better? They won't! Where are the real people that make a difference? The Ken Herar (journalist), Rhett Nicholson(Mission Fest) Arnold Muir(outspoken critic), Karen Wootten (Folk Festival) and more...
The same mentality that got us into trouble will not get us out of it, this is what the CRMG is really offering; more of the same.

Kevin Francis
My Mission

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Announcing Sarina Derksen as the Executive Coordinator of the Cycling4Diversity in 2012

The Cycling4Diversity team, which travelled from Mission to Victoria last May to celebrate World Day for Cultural Diversity is adding to its team. Founder, Ken Herar is proud to announce Sarina Derksen, a long time resident of Abbotsford, BC as Executive Coordinator for the

Cycling4Diversity 2012 initiative. Herar said, “last year’s ride was a huge success and in 2012 we’re going to build on that momentum. Team work and partnerships are very crucial in our message as we visit Lower Mainland communities. For this ride to reach the next level, we need more involvement in the organizational structure. Adding Derksen to the team in 2012 will assist in reaching our team’s goals and objectives in delivering our message in building inclusive communities. Derksen brings a vast amount of experience and passion to our team and we look forward to working with her.”

Derksen said, “I’m very excited that the Cycling4Diversity team has chosen me as the Executive Coordinator and has put faith in me to perform this role in organizing such an important event. I see this growing throughout the years to come. My work begins immediately in establishing relationships with our future partners. Bringing people together for a common goal has always been a passion of mine and is extremely close to my heart. Growing up and attending school, I had friends from a variety of cultural backgrounds which enriched my appreciation and respect for diversity.

Next year’s ride is tentatively scheduled to take place May 22 to May 25th. For those who are interested in participating in the ride or to obtain more information please contact Derksen at cycling4diversity@gmail.com

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Endorsing Rina Gill & Preet Gill for local government in November 2011..

Supporting Rina Gill for Surrey City Hall:
I've known Rina Gill for approximately 5 years. I have worked with Rina on several community projects during this time. Rina is someone who has enormous passion and vibrancy. She has always been consistent in demonstrating leadership, commitment and dedication in making her community better and safer. The most recent being the "Cycling for Diversity" our team completed last May to Victoria. Rina, was a valuable member of this team and organized a vibrant community celebration for us in Surrey. The citizens of Surrey would be extremely fortunate to have an individual such as Rina on local government. Her love for community, along with vision and energy, is second to none. She is someone who is always striving to make a difference in the lives of others. Rina has the personal and professional qualities that would position her well to be a valuable member of Surrey City Council.


Supporting Preet Rai for Abbotsford School Board:
I've known Preet Rai for approximately 6 years. I have always found him to be passionate, hardworking, dedicated and someone who cares and is committed to local issues. He understands the value of education in our school system and what is required to make our environment successful and inclusive. Preet, brings a sense of cultural understanding in our diverse community, which is imperative today. He has earned the respect of the school board with his vision, along with the citizens of Abbotsford over the past 3 years. He deserves to be re-elected, and I endorse him in his campaign.

Ken Herar
Abbotsford Times Columnist
Founder, Cycling for Diversity

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Cycling 4 Diversity tree vandalized at Griner Park in Mission. Disappointing.

Diversity tree damaged and turban talk returns

The Cycling for Diversity tree that was planted at Griner Park in Mission on the morning of May 18th, was unfortunately damaged by vandals. The Ginko Biloba, is an evergreen native to China, which has potential medicinal properties and a shade tree. When the District of Mission notified me a few weeks ago I had just driven past the park a few hours before and looked over at my friend and said: Where’s the tree? I thought maybe the District moved it to different location within the park. When I received the call, they told me vandals pulled the tree out of the ground and laid it on its side with its roots sticking out. We’re all shocked someone would do such a thing. I had a chance to visit the tree and its being closely monitored by a tree specialist. What we’ve been told is that the diversity tree will rise again very soon. I am not jumping to any conclusions as to why someone would do this cowardly act, but rather remaining committed to our message of building an inclusive environment. People, who decide to destroy our symbols of cultural diversity will not succeed.
Getting back to my August 18th column (Keep turban queries respectful) this was my exact message that I was trying to deliver. If you can’t respect our cultural differences in our communities, they’re other options you may want to consider. This column was not about the various colors of turbans, but more on how we interact honestly with each other on cultural issues. When I said in my column: “If you don’t like the ethnicity in our local community, consider relocating.” Please, let me elaborate for a moment. In my 16 and a bit years as a columnist, I have met some amazing supporters of cultural diversity and yet on the other hand I met some vocal haters. Everyone’s thoughts and opinions are welcomed. But, what I’ve learned through my experiences is that often the haters cannot be reasoned with. If they are not willing to deal with they’re underlying cultural issues and are unhappy in their current communities and can’t function as a whole then, maybe they should consider relocating. There is nothing wrong or hurtful suggesting such a move. For example, many years ago, I went to a North Vancouver gas station and later spoke with an attendant. He told me in our brief discussion he used to live out in Abbotsford. He shared that he and his family were being isolated by some of the cultural differences in area and for the children’s future they had to relocate. He was being polite and genuine in his concerns. This is my very point. If you don’t like where you live, instead of becoming hateful and abusive, take this example as something you should consider.
To add to this discussion, I took all my emails I've received up to date and shared them with a local friend. Only a few eyes have seen these responses. Sarina Derksen of Abbotsford, who shares an interest on diversity discussions took the time to read the hundreds of emails I have saved. She said: “I was touched by the number of people who took the time to reach out, share personal stories and thank Ken for his tireless commitment regarding the important topic of diversity. At the same time, I was shocked and saddened by some of the most vile and disturbing emails that I have ever read. I would have never imagined someone writing such angry comments to another individual regarding a matter that is intended to unite rather than divide.”

It is troubling to see how hateful individuals are when hiding behind a keyboard. It is obvious there is still much work to be done in the area of diversity. We must continue to encourage honest, thoughtful dialogue within our communities, said Derksen.

- Ken Herar is a freelance columnist. Contact him at kenherar@gmail.com.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Celebrating the Big Day at the Gur Sikh Temple with the "Cycling for Diversity" bike in Abbotsford

Celebration sure to be remembered

The centennial ceremonies (Aug. 26-28) at the Gur Sikh Temple were celebrated by thousands from far and wide. The weather was beautiful and the hospitality of the Sikh community was first-class, making it an unforgettable moment in our nation's history.

I had the fortunate opportunity to attend the programs both on Friday and Saturday evening. This event touched citizens from all backgrounds, who came out to enjoy the colourful entertainment, socializing, local history and the endless amount of delicious food.

The Gur Sikh Temple is the oldest standing gurdwara in North America. The federal government declared it a national historical site in 2002, and thousands attended the event, including former prime minister Jean Chr├ętien.

On the Friday evening, I met many friends who I hadn't seen in years, coming together as part of a larger family. The lower parking lot of the heritage site was completely full with guests and community partners, who displayed their unconditional support for a special moment in our history. Throughout the night, I visited several booths and had endless numbers of memorable conversations under the setting sun. The main stage hosted performances from Dasmesh Punjabi School, Mamba Marital Arts Academy and a turban-tying contest. Many, who dedicated a lifetime of service to the temple, were also presented and honoured with plaques. There were fun activities such as hand painting, Abbotsford Heat hockey activities or a special tour of the historic building. Guests were also given a glossy 300page souvenir booklet featuring many articles on the service and achievements of the community over the past century. I encourage all of you to have a look at this book of history.

After the first day of celebrations, I walked away with such a proud inner feeling. This kind of love and friendship is something I will never forget.

The Saturday night celebrations were as equally well-attended, honouring the community's pioneer families throughout most of the evening.

Unfortunately, on the last day of celebrations (Sunday), I was a bit busy and couldn't attend the parade and gathering at Rotary Stadium. Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Premier Christy Clark spoke earlier in the day offering their congratula-tions. According to organizers, this day saw the crowd swell to 25,000 people.

Kris Foulds, collections manager of The Reach Gallery Museum said, "As I participated in the Gur Sikh Temple centennial that honored the contributions of community pioneers, both Sikh and non-Sikh, I couldn't help but think that this is what our pioneers strove to achieve; a community that values and celebrates the cultural heritage of its citizens and recognizes that Abbotsford's cultural diversity is one of its greatest strengths."

"It has a huge significance to us," said Satwinder Bains, director of the Centre for Indo-Canadian Studies at the University of the Fraser Valley. "It is the cornerstone of our social life. It has more significance that just being a religious place."

We'll be talking about the centennial for a long time, until the next big celebration in 2111.

- Ken Herar is a freelance columnist. Reach him at: kenherar@gmail.com.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Winning the Mission Open tennis tourney in 2011

Tennis players compete in annual long weekend tourney

Brandon Wood and Ken Herar took top spot in the Mission Tennis Club's annual year-end tournament last weekend.

The pair beat the Mark Gervais and Nick Borzelli team in a close match, 7-5 and 7-5, Sept. 3.

The men's singles group saw Herar beating his teammate Wood 6-2, 6-2, while the mixed doubles on Sept. 5 had Mark and Val Gervais beating Ian McKenzie and Jutta Wolf, 6-1 and 6-0.

The club continues to play Tuesdays and Thursdays, 5 p.m. to dusk, and Sundays, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information call Mark at 604-826-2586,

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Colleen Giesbrecht gets misses the point.. This was not the focus of my discussion.

Giesbrecht offers insight into Sikh headwear

Editor, the Times:

I have to agree with Regina Dalton's letter (Turban talk sets her head spinning, Times, Aug. 23). I, too, was disappointed with Ken Herar's column (Keep turban queries respectful, Times, Aug. 18).

We never did find out the answer to a question that many of us have wondered about. I have never taken the time to ask or look it up online, but now I have. This is the answer I found on www.sikhwomen.com which seems quite helpful:

In general, any colour or design is acceptable. Most men and women tend to coordinate the colour of the turban with their outfit and vice versa. Choice of colour may be just as unique as the individual. The turban fabric can be found in almost any colour's shade or hue. For the more creative folks there are various patterns to choose from as well. Although there are some commonly regarded colour preferences for certain occasions, choice of colour may vary.

There aren't any rules regarding what colour or pattern can or cannot be worn.

There a few popular favourites and some commonly practiced norms. For example, orange and navy are traditional Sikh Khalsa colours also worn on days of religious observance or special commemorative events. A shade of pink or red is worn on a special day such as one's wedding, engagement or to celebrate other major events. Many Sikh men and women choose to don a white, off-white or a similar shade daily as part of their beliefs in keeping with the faith. It is also a common colour worn by Eastern Sikhs at events such as a funeral ceremony or any event where a bright colour would not be considered appropriate.

On the other hand, Western Sikhs commonly wear white as part of their daily Sikh garb. Black and navy are more popular with the younger generation and also worn at more formal events such as black tie dinners and parties.

Camouflage pattern is a popular choice among the military personnel. Patriotic patterns also add their own charm.

These are the answers provided by www.sikhnextdoor.org

Q: Does the colour of the turban matter?

A: No. The colour of the turban is based on personal preference. There are hundreds of different colours, even tie-died colours and unique prints.

Q: Do girls and women also wear turbans?

A: Yes. Girls and women have the choice of wearing a turban.

A suggestion to Ken Herar: After questioning the motives behind the question you could have actually provided an answer for us all.

Too bad the opportunity to promote understanding was not used to best advantage.

Colleen Giesbrecht, Abbotsford

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Sarina Derksen clarifies cultural issues in her own words...

I’ve been following the responses regarding the column Ken wrote concerning the woman who approached him inquiring as to why women and children/babies are “now” wearing turbans as well the reason behind the different colour turbans within the Sikh community. I’m really quite disappointed reading how his statement about this woman re-locating has been taken. Unfair accusations and assumptions have been made against him and to me this is disappointing and uncalled for.

The fact is, Ken and his co-worker patiently took the time out (at their place of work) to try to answer her “questions” but due to her anxiety and responses to their answers, it was evident to the two of them that their answers were not good enough for her. Based on the anxiety she demonstrated and comments, there appears to be a very different underlying issue as to where she was really coming from. It seemed like she appeared frustrated with the increased number of turbans in our community and was disturbed as to why “now” women and children wear them. I will jump in briefly to say that I was born in Abbotsford, I’m a Caucasian woman and I have lived here my entire life (40 yrs) and Sikh women and children/babies wearing turbans is NOT a new “thing” in fact, I use to see more women and children/babies wearing turbans in our community than I do now.

I have to say based on this woman’s response and the indifference she demonstrated towards Ken and his co-worker, her questions to me were not coming from a sincere place but rather they appear to be an excuse for her to express her frustration with the increased number of “turbans” within our community.

In Ken’s column he said, “I have a simpler solution - if you don't like the ethnicity in our local community, consider relocating.”
Let us take a close and honest look at what he is saying here. He said “IF” you don’t like the ethnicity in the community, “CONSIDER” relocating. The “IF” is in relation to “IF” this woman can not for whatever reason accept another culture, be satisfied with our ever growing community of Sikh people and other cultures who may wear a head covering or turban, get past her issues regarding this culture and their practices and be content and happy to live in a community with many people who wear turbans......IF she can’t get past her personal issues and possible prejudices and live happily, it MIGHT be better for her to consider relocating to another town where she feels happier.

The same suggestion can be used if you don’t like the rain in Vancouver and can’t live happily amongst all the rainfall then possibly moving to a drier town or province would be a better solution.
If one can’t get past their barriers, there is nothing wrong, hurtful, disturbing or unfair in suggesting that the person relocate to a place that would make them feel happier and more a part of their community.

Telling someone to go back to “their” country is WAY different than what has been “suggested” above by Ken. Telling someone to go back to “their” country is used when one culture, colour or race does not accept another that is different from their own moving into their country or community....it is WAY different from what Ken was suggesting. If one CAN’T get past their barriers, live happily amongst other cultures/races then possible relocation is not a hurtful suggestion.

Ken has met MANY caucasian people that have told him personally that they moved out of Abbotsford BECAUSE of the East Indian population. I have to say, to me this is a double edged sword.....on one hand, good for them for being honest but on the other hand it makes me angry and I find it to be a terrible shame. I personally grew up with many East Indian people who treated my family as their own family....loved us unconditionally and showed great care and compassion. Ken has also met a number of East Indian people that have also relocated because they didn’t like the East Indian (their own culture) amongst them and didn’t want their children going to the same school. I had never heard this before talking with him. Truly Ken has heard it all throughout the years.

Instead of jumping to conclusion and assuming what Ken “meant” - each of you should have taken the time to personally contact Ken and ask for clarification. Everything that I wrote above is because I personally spoke with Ken myself and he explained everything that happened during this encounter. This (approaching your fellow brother, neighbour, friend) is what builds community and relationships....making assumptions and blanket accusations does not move us forward or closer to one another.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Letter writer, Regina Dalton is totally incorrect. Get the facts right, please.

Turban talk sets her head spinning

Editor, the Times:

If Ken Herar is trying to build bridges, his column 'Keep turban queries respectful' (Times, Aug. 18) doesn't do such a good job.

I don't dispute that folks can have their own agendas - it is possible to discern when someone is trying to make a dig with a supposedly simple question. Yet going from someone asking a question, to assuming that the question is loaded, to stating, "People can often see the hate," to adding "if you don't like the ethnicity in our local community, consider relocating," left my head spinning.

And where I hoped I might actually get some answers about the colours of turbans - the variations of which, I, as an artist, truly enjoy - I found myself instead wondering if Mr.

Herar would also "read between the lines" if we ever met.

That concern makes me hope we don't, and it has nothing to do with his ethnicity. But then he may choose not to believe that.

Regina Dalton


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Keep turban queries respectful

Keep turban queries respectful

Recently, I had an interesting conversation with a friend who was curious about why Sikhs wear the various colours and different styles of turbans.

Living in the Lower Mainland, many times in a day you will see turbaned Sikhs walking on the streets, in the malls or maybe at your workplace. This simply shows how far we have come as a nation in establishing our diversity throughout Canada.

As Abbotsford prepares for the centennial celebrations of the Historic Sikh Temple on South Fraser Way from Aug 26-28, this unique anniversary demonstrates our roots and partnerships that have been built over the last century.

Getting back to the conversation with this lady, she stopped me dead in my tracks with her questions about turbans. I have no issues with that. Where I draw the line is if an individual is being respectful in their questioning. Let's just say, she was cutting a fine line at the very least.

Furthermore, she went on to comment that she was surprised to see females and children wearing turbans.

She asked, "Is this something new?" I replied, "no." She didn't sound very happy in her tone. I was left with the impression that she did not like the changing ethnic landscape of our local community.

What I gathered from this short five-minute conversation as I read between the lines was that there are too many people with turbans in our community.

She did not say it but her body language and tone certainly expressed this unfortunate message. The person assisting me in this conversation also felt the same way.

Next time you ask a question about someone's religion or culture, be respectful how you direct the questions.

I understand that not everyone knows why turbaned Sikhs wear different colours and why women and children wear turbans. To tell you the truth, I didn't know the correct answers, either.

That's why I called a friend to assist me. It's good to ask and learn about our ethnic diversity. This is how we build bridges and inclusiveness.

But don't forget to show patience and respect and be genuine in your interest. If you can't do this - don't ask. People can often see the hate.

I have a simpler solution - if you don't like the ethnicity in our local community, consider relocating.

We're all at different stages in our understanding of diversity and that includes me. Discussion and dialogue are some of the best ways to overcome misunderstanding.

Are you in between jobs or looking for that first job in Canada? Fast tracking your soft skills is an essential tool in landing that first job. The Employment Mentors and Skills Connect programs are presenting Nick Noorani, one of the 'Top 25 Canadian Immigrants' and former publisher of the Canadian Immigrant magazine.

He will be presenting the "7 Success Secrets for Immigrants" on Sept. 8 from 9: 30 a.m. to 12 noon in the Jasbir Saran Room, Abbotsford Community Services main office, 2420 Montrose Ave, Abbotsford.

RSVP your attendance to Michelle Spencer at mcmentoring@abbotsfordcommunityservices.com or by contacting 604-866-0257.

- Ken Herar is a columnist for the AbbotsfordMission Times. Contact: kenherar@gmail.com.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Sore legs, but worth the message

Time for reflections

Mike de Jong honors cyclist

Announcement is around the corner

Diversity ride delivers

Cycling 4 Diversity 2011

Raising awareness on diversity issues

Are South Asians creating a cultural chasm?

Another racist attack on a senior man

Pounding pavement and painting police cars

From all four sides of the community

The new beginning of the Intercultural Hub

Proclaiming a resolution evolution

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Deesh & one-year old son Sean Sekhon prepare for centennial celebrations on the steps of the historic Gur Sikh Temple in Abbotsford

100th birthday of Sikh temple to be celebrated

As proclaimed earlier in the year by the City of Abbotsford and Mayor George Peary as the Centenary Year of the National Historic Site Gur Sikh Temple, built in 1911.

Celebrations have been taking place throughout the year and final preparations are currently underway for big weekend, next month.

On Friday, Aug. 26 from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. there will be a start to a three-day weekend prayer service at the Heritage Gurdwara.

Saturday, Aug. 27 from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m., a host of cultural events will take place: Punjabi language competitions, sports competitions, and other events.

On the final day Sunday, Aug. 28 there will be a Nagar Kirtan Procession from the Heritage Gurdwara to Rotary Stadium and returning back to the site, where the unveiling of the Centennial Monument and the Sikh Heritage Museum will take place.

Med Manzanal, diversity coordinator from the City of Abbotsford said: " The whole Abbotsford community should be proud and feel celebratory about the 100th centenary of the Sikh Gurdwara. This is a tribute not just about our Sikh pioneers but a tribute to some great men and women who have opened doors of opportunities for the Sikh pioneers to settle, integrate, and flourish."

Deesh Sekhon, who is planning on attending the celebrations with her twoyear-old son Sean shared her comments.

"To have one of the oldest and longest standing buildings in North America is something all British Columbians can be proud of," Sekhon said.

"The rich history of the Gurdwara reflects how communities have worked together; accepting each other's diversity and celebrating it.

"The celebrations are for every member of our community to be a part of. I plan to come out to help celebrate this huge achievement.

"I think communities are only successful as its individuals; I encourage all members of our community to come out to one of the celebrations and learn about our heritage."

Ken Herar is a freelance columnist with the Times. Contact him at Kenherar@ gmail.com.

Thursday, July 7, 2011




After successfully completing a 200-kilometre trek from Mission to Victoria in late May, Cycling for Diversity leader and Link columnist Ken Herar is already talking about a cross-country mission in 2013.

Herar and his team of cyclists were recently honoured by B.C. Health Minister Mike de Jong in Abbotsford with a provincial proclamation recognizing May 21, 2011 as Cycling for Diversity day throughout the province.

"The ride is all about building partnerships and relationships in our culturally diverse communities," said Herar. "Why not celebrate across Canada . . . so much more work has to be done to build an inclusive country."

In 2012 the Cycling for Diversity team is committed to repeating the ride, but adding more communities along the way.

This year, the ride was heralded with special celebrations by many groups in Mission, Abbotsford, Langley, Surrey, New Westminster, Burnaby, Vancouver, Richmond and Victoria.

"The moment we stop doing this we enable barriers to form between cultural communities," said Herar, adding that next year's ride will build on the 2011 momentum and will include more riders. We did all of this to celebrate cultural diversity and to discuss the issues."

For a comprehensive photo journal on the 2011 ride, click on Cycling for Diversity on Facebook.

The bike that Herar rode was provided by Wenting's Cycle and Mountain Shop in Mission. It is being raffled through $5 ticket sales at kenherar@gmail.com.