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

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:

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,