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