Thursday, March 29, 2012

Focusing on seniors and diversity. Congratulations to the Fraser Valley Indo-Canadian Business Association on their 25-year milestone





It's time we focused on seniors

Last week, I had the opportunity to speak at the Abbotsford Learning Plus Society, located at the Abbotsford Recreation Centre.

Sometimes when we discuss diversity and inclusion, seniors over the age of 65 tend to be overlooked in this dialogue.

In 2001, one-eighth of Canadians were over the age of 65 and by 2026, one-fifth will be over the age of 65, according to a government website.

When I was given the invitation to speak to this club, I thought to myself what a wonderful opportunity to share with a vibrant segment of our growing population.

This was the first opportunity where I've had the chance to speak to a seniors' society.

Many of the questions that I regularly receive on issues of our local diversity actually come from seniors who may not understand the changing cultural demographics in our comm unity.

Some of the key points made in my presentation were that we have a large non-English speaking population in Abbotsford, and to many seniors who came from a different generation, some may have conflicting views.

Also, for some, diversity wasn't even a real concept in their youth. What I shared through my experiences was that patience and outreach are very important tools in how we interact with one another and gain understanding.

I shared that we are at a critical stage in how open-minded we are regarding the topic of diversity. A lot of our focus in the community has been with youth; however, I believe there is a huge opportunity being missed with seniors in addressing how we can encourage different cultures and races to interact.

When driving around Abbotsford and Mission, at times you may notice Indo-Canadian seniors sitting with one another in parks and on benches in the community.

When I see this, the real question that comes to my mind is how can we bring people together? The knowledge and wealth of information that seniors bring is enormous.

We haven't effectively tapped into this market and it has been ignored far too long.

With more intercultural networking and activities, such as Abbotsford Senior Plus, we will see a positive change.

When I looked around the room that morning, I would have liked to have seen more of a multi-cultural mix of faces. Language, education and wealth should never be a barrier in how we interact with one another.

What I also shared was that Canadian culture often gets missed when we speak about cultural diversity. This is an important part of the equation in how we can all relate to one another. One local organization that is doing this and has just reached a 25-year milestone is the Fraser Valley Indo-Canadian Business Association.

I applaud this organization's efforts in reaching out and supporting various initiatives, as well as sponsoring students to reach their full educational potential. What I've gathered when speaking with various members over the years is that much work remains in how we can create effective relationships, and their work is paying dividends.

Nash Gill, president of FVICBA said: "I think over the years we've been non-political and non-religious," he said.

"Our business now is not just Indo-Canadian business, it's just business overall."

- Ken Herar is a freelance columnist writing for the Abbotsford-Mission Times. Contact him at: kenherar@ gmail.com.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Walking hand in hand in diversity








Walking the walk with diversity

At times, it's not easy walking the walk and talking the talk regarding diversity. Sometimes we say things we may regret later on due to ignorance.

One thing is clear, I don't have all the answers. However, I'm always interested in learning, offering feedback and providing leadership where needed.

I've had the following statement said to me many times; "There is one race, the human race." I would like to take some time to expound upon this.

There's some truth to this reference; however, sometimes it's used as a blanket statement and it neglects to delve into the real issues we face in our communities.

Yes, we are all part of the human race, but the issue we still face is that people are categorized and defined by their nationalities, which can lead to stereotyping.

When people use this statement, I believe they have good intentions. But they're not recognizing the different levels individuals are at with their understanding and viewpoints of all people being equal.

We all like to believe that the world is a great place and that diversity is working, but the truth is much work remains for this statement to become a reality.

I've found that in the process of everyone speaking on diversity, we find ourselves focusing more on our differences than what makes us equal. I think this could be a fault regarding the matter.

I've learned that what we should be doing is identifying what we all have in common and what makes us the same, and by doing so, we will then be able to accept and learn to celebrate diversity.

It may take people abandoning the "village" way of life that they have become accustomed to and have brought with them to Canada.

Some new Canadians who hold onto this mind set are actually isolating themselves rather than integrating into the mainstream.

While growing up, I recall when people made reference to the "community" it was understood to be considered one.

Now when we make reference to the "community" there are many parallel "communities" to what we used to refer as the single "community." Is this a good thing?

Only time will tell.

On another note, I have some exciting news. Sarina Di Martino Derksen, executive coordinator of Cycling4Diversity, and I are announcing the second annual ride in celebration of World Day for Cultural Diversity on May 21.

The ride is scheduled to take place May 22 - 25. Again, we will be traveling throughout the Lower Mainland beginning in Mission and ending in Victoria at the legislature.

Di Martino Derksen, who has been busy putting together different aspects of the ride, shared the following: "Once again this year we are scheduled to have a very exciting time in each of the cities we visit."

Currently we're focusing on adding additional cyclists, both for the core team and within each city, and are looking for people to join our dynamic effort, whether it be in the form of financial sponsorship or as volunteers or cyclists.

If you believe in this message, would like to make a difference and be part of this program, please contact us at cycling4diversity@gmail.com.

- Ken Herar is a freelance columnist with the Abbotsford-Mission Times. Contact him via e-mail at: kenherar@ gmail.com.