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:

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