Friday, April 22, 2011

There is hope for federal Liberals in the Fraser Valley..

Pounding pavement and painting police cars

Who says Abbotsford has always been politically blue?

Looking into the history books, the 1960s and '70s federal elections were always a three-way battle between then Social Credit, Liberal and the New Democrats. Only a few thousand votes separated each party from victory.

In fact, Abbotsford elected a Liberal member of Parliament to Ottawa in 1968.

Gerry Pringle served one term from 1968-1972 as the Fraser Valley East representative. He was later defeated in 1972 and 1974 by long-time Social Credit and Progressive Conservative Member of Parliament Alex Patterson, who regained his seat from Pringle.

I applaud candidates from all political stripes, who let their names stand for public office. Many people talk about it, but very few actually follow through. Little appreciation comes along with the enormous responsibilities.

I had the opportunity to experience this firsthand and go door-knocking with one of the federal candidates. For the most part, people were welcoming when we came to their door. Looking back, we only had one bad experience, where the lady basically slammed the door in our face. Little did she know, I reside a few doors down. If candidates come to your door, take the time to meet and greet them, and ask questions. It's a fabulous opportunity to be politically engaged face- to-face at your own door step with the candidate who may be representing you in Ottawa.

Looking for perfection can be nearly impossible in politics. Finding a candidate who best represents you is a much better method. There will be someone for everyone on the ballot May 2. In public life almost everything can be fair game, including one's personal life.

It's occurring more frequently and candidates are being fired or forced to resign for silly behaviour. Mandeep Bhuller, who is the Liberal candidate for Pitt Meadows/Maple Ridge/Mission, recently had his drinking and driving conviction from 2003 thrown into the spotlight. Speaking with Bhuller recently, he expressed sorrow for the incident and claims he has learned from it.

"I am humbled that my friends, supporters have stood with me despite my mistake. Liberals believe that mistakes should result in help, not prison. Liberals believe that people can, and should, make amends, but should also have second chances," said Bhuller.

"I decided to run despite my DUI because I think our riding deserves an MP, who believes in these values."

Driving past the political colours on our streets, notice any other changes around town? Speaking with Abbotsford Deputy Constable Rick Lucy, he shared some interesting insights into these changes.

In 2005, it represented the 50th anniversary of the Matsqui/Abbotsford Police.

To mark this special occasion the department decided to have two cars appear with a 'retro' black and white look.

Lucy said: "At around this time, there was also some discussion about updating the overall appearance of our marked vehicles. Our awareness that a number of policing agencies in North America had been returning to the traditional black and white colour scheme, combined with the public feedback on the black and white cars that we had patrolling the community, had us embark on a design review based on a black and white scheme."

"The end result was the decaling [much of it reflective] and black and white markings that now exists on half or more of our marked fleet. We will continue to phase in the 'new' look as marked vehicles require replacement, so that cost is not a factor."

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

Friday, April 1, 2011

Speaking with Christina Reid from MSA Museum

Are South Asians creating a cultural chasm?

"Diversity would be working better if East Indians participated more within the community."

As much as I hate to admit it there is some validity to that point. For multiculturalism to survive in Canada and to be an effective government policy for future generations, there has to be equal participation from all people.

Unfortunately, I have heard it too many times: that we're working in separate silos and those walls are getting harder to penetrate.

Abbotsford in many ways is leading this discussion as evidence by the many brilliant groups of individuals working diligently to address this issue.

When we examine cultural divide issues, they not only exist within mainstream society, but also within ethnic communities. For example, the South Asian comedy show incident in Abbotsford where the police cancelled the popular show in addition to making a few arrests.

This particular incident raised comments from various members of the South Asian community. For example, I heard comments such as this: "It's the newer immigrants from India that are ruining it for the rest of us."

It's loud and clear that the cultural divide within the South Asian community is also growing parallel with the mainstream. Being born and raised here my values are often different than someone coming from India.

I don't speak fluent Punjabi and some members from my community find that hard to believe. Not all members from the South Asian community are the same, as one might believe. There are South Asians who have been here for several generations - more than 50 years.

Then there are families who fit somewhere in the middle with 20-30 years of Canadian residency, followed by the newest group who may have been here less than 20 years. Consequently, members maybe at diverse stages along the Canadian experience spectrum.

There was a time decades ago, when you could fit everyone in the same room. This has become virtually impossible now as the community continues to grow.

I heard an interesting fact: If South Asians all came together and were to form their own city in Canada it would be the third largest city in our nation.

South Asian leaders should take a closer look at these subtle divisions and attempt to address them in order to create unity, understanding and respect not only within the South Asian community, but the larger mainstream of Canadian society.

Christina Reid from the MSA Museum contacted me about an upcoming event they are hosting at the Trethewey House on May 14. They've put together a program to answer the following question: "If you were a pioneer who had just arrived to Abbotsford 120 years ago, what skills would you [need] to have or learn to survive here?"

The idea is for the public to be invited to the site, which we will have set up as a working homestead for the day, and to have people who are engaged in the activities that would have taken place when our pioneers were settling. Reid is requesting for more South Asians participation to gain insight.

"I have tried in many different ways to provide opportunities for participation for the Indo-Canadian community. It has become painfully obvious to me that when we ask for Indo-Canadian participation at our events, we invariably ask for Bhangra dancers and demonstrations of how to wrap a turban," said Reid.

"Now is the time to decide if you want Canadian culture to be one that includes your ethnic heritage, or if your heritage should be something that sits isolated in a part of town where only those kinds of people live.

"There are no streets named for Sikh pioneers. There are few donated artifacts from Sikh families in my collection, and no photos."

Many settlers were here long before the Anglo-Saxon/German/Dutch-Scandinavian families who do have streets and schools named for them.

"Typically speaking, we all know that Indo-Canadians live in our community. But if you all were sucked up into a gigantic vortex and disappeared tomorrow, how would the next generation know you had ever been here?", Reid asked.

n Ken Herar is a columnist with the Abbotsford-Mission Times.