Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Accusing people of a bogus sexual assault is not how we should promote diversity.

          (Above) Composite drawing of the alleged suspects. 

Columns: What Can We Learn From Bogus Sexual Assault Allegations?

By Ken Herar. As of last week, the truth has come out regarding the sexual assault allegation that was reported last February against a 19-year-old female in Abbotsford. It’s very unfortunate that our local community had to fear that two individuals were on the loose due to these false allegations.
The 19-year-old victim said she was walking along the sidewalk at about 7 p.m.
when she saw a newer-model white pickup truck pass her twice as she headed
east toward a bus stop.
Two South Asian men allegedly were inside the vehicle. As the woman approached
the intersection, the male passenger exited the truck, grabbed the victim
and pushed her into the rear seat of the truck. The driver parked the
vehicle a short distance away and both men sexually assaulted her. She
was then pushed out of the truck and onto the ground in a parking lot
in the area of Gladys Avenue.
The Abbotsford Police issued a statement last week reporting that this
story told by this young woman was not true. I wrote a column earlier
this year on this story urging people with any information or
knowledge of these suspects to come forward for the public safety of
our community.
This is part of what I expressed in my column on Feb 23rd.
“I’ve been hearing various comments over this past week regarding this
incident. Many have been very supportive regarding what this woman has
endured, however, others people’s comments have the potential to
divide the community. Here is what one person said on Facebook: “Time
to start deporting these people that are not born in Canada & strip
them of Canadian citizenship or send them to jail for 99 years if born
here.” I responded with this: That’s a pretty racist remark to make.
Sorry to say. Not everyone of color is always an immigrant or a
criminal. Think about it. At the end of the day, there are good and
bad in all races. When we speak about diversity, one of the things we have
in common is that we all stand up against those who commit criminal
acts and believe in public safety.”

It’s very unfortunate that our local community had to fear that two
individuals were on the loose due to these false allegations. I know
people are stating that this young woman needs to be punished and
charged. Lets remove ourselves from these negative feelings. First of
all, the Abbotsford Police did a tremendous job in investigating and
being diligent in trying to find these suspects. Our diverse
population, including the South Asian community stepped forward to
lend their support to locate these suspects.
We may never understand the reason why this young woman did what she
did in making up this story or why she felt the need to accuse South
Asian men as being the culprits. I recall a time in 1989 of a similar
case where a young woman accused a South Asian man for attacking her
in Abbotsford and it turned out to be false. Being a brown person, I
can say it was not a very nice feeling listening to some of the
comments and assumptions.
I hope this individual receives the help she needs.
False accusations against a certain race or culture can hurt and
divide an entire community.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Friends are great, racism remains.


Friends are great, racism remains

I find it very interesting when people say: 'My son or daughter has a South Asian friend, actually he/she has two. They come over all the time, I don't see any racism issues out there.'
Let's take a closer look at this way of thinking. It's encouraging to see that parents are excited and proud that their children have friends from other races.
However, just because their children have a couple of friends from different nationalities doesn't mean racism doesn't exist in the community.
Without pointing fingers at anyone, parents and their kids need to have an understanding that having any friends of a different cultural background is a step in the right direction. It's not how many you have, it's the quality of the relationship and the trust in that friendship.
In saying all this, I'm trying to be encouraging and positive, but shed some light on the bigger picture.
Whether it be in a restaurant, on a sports field or at birthday parties, our diverse communities are functioning in enclaves. It's going to take a larger group effort than a handful of people to build an inclusive community.
I recall a time before I arrived at this paper when an editor and a publisher from a different newspaper instructed me to focus only on South Asian issues.
Back then, I had been writing for an extensive period of time and was quite surprised to hear these people telling me what they thought was good for the community.
I expressed to them that this was the wrong direction to be taking. In our conversation, I shared that balance is the key in how we approach diversity.
Being South Asian, people sometimes assume that I'm going to focus on South Asian issues. I've always wanted to change this assumption.
Just because I'm South Asian doesn't necessarily mean that every column I write is going to be geared towards my own community.
Don't get me wrong, I'm very proud of my South Asian culture and my community's accomplishments, but it's more than that.
As our diverse communities continue to grow locally, I'm not here to just promote one specific culture, I'm here to build bridges of dialogue throughout our communities and to encourage intercultural relationships.
This has been my passion and this is how I want to be remembered.
I experienced an interesting situation a while back. A group of us were all sitting together around a table and a few of our friends starting speaking in a different language and some who were present became offended.
They felt left out because they couldn't understand what was being said. When is it appropriate or not appropriate to speak in your mother tongue?
First of all, you should always ask the people around you if they're okay if you have to switch briefly and speak your own language.
If they're not, then you should wait until later. If English is not your first language, generally people are understanding about the situation.
Let's all be reminded that we need to be aware of those who are among us and how we might be affecting them.
- Ken Herar is a freelance columnist writing for the Abbotsford-Mission Times. Contact him at: kenherar@ gmail.com.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Cycling4Diversity 2012 cake kindly donated by Abbotsford Safeway.

Members from the 2011 Cycling4Diversity team.

                                                          Photo taken by: Deesh Sekhon

Left to Right: Ken Herar, Alexandria Mitchell, Bill MacGregor, Sukhi Dhami, Rick Lucy.  Little boy is Sean Sekhon. Missing in picture: Rick Rake.
Cyclist who also took part: Chris Siggers, Pat Peron, Langley City Coun Dave Hall and Coun. Rosemary Wallace.
Picture taken at Canada Safeway in Abbotsford on May 18th at 430pm.

Members from the 2012 Cycling4Diversity team.

                                                         Photo taken by: Netzah Garcia

From left to right:  Rick Lucy (red jacket), Raj Patara, Sarina Di Martino, Sheldon Carvalho, Ken Herar, Sukhi Dhami, Bill MacGregor.
Missing in picture: Kulwinder Dhillon, Harpreet Singh, Netzah Garcia, Dwayne De Souza and Deesh Sekhon..
Cyclist who also rode: Abbotsford Coun. Dave Loewen, Abbotsford Fire Fighter Dave Balzar, Langley City Coun. Dave Hall and Coun. Rosemary Wallace.

Picture taken on May 23rd 2012 at Best Western on North Rd in Coquitlam 7:15am.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Riding again for diversity

Remembering good friends..

C4D ride was a shining example

Cycling4Diversity starts May 2012

Cycling4Diversity ready to roll in 2012

Proclaiming thanks, without proclamation

Awareness and remembrance

Let's focus on seniors

Walking the walk with diversity

Reflecting on Cycling4Diversity journey 2012

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Cycling4Diversity in the Mission Record 2012

Cycling4Diversity: A closer look at a British Columbia Proclamation.

Cycling4Diversity in the Province newspaper 2012

Celebrating 17 years as a columnist in Abbotsford/Mission and remembering Lloyd Wilson.


Old e-mails and older friends

I met up with someone I know recently, and he said: "I left the community a number of years ago and moved back and it was nice to see that you're still writing in the paper."
Furthermore, it's actually going to be 17 years this month that I started out as a columnist.
Yes, it was the summer of 1995 when I approached the former editor of this paper, Gord Kurenoff, about an opportunity as a columnist.
When I was given this voice, I thought it was going to be for a short period of time. I didn't realize 204 months and hundreds of columns later, I would be still sharing in a discussion with you in celebrating our cultural diversity and writing about some of the issues that we currently face.
What I've learned over the past two decades is that diversity is not only about celebrating our differences but it's actually about creating relationships with each other.
I dug out an old box where I've kept all my e-mail responses I've received from readers.
Let's just say it clearly goes into the hundreds, and I'm proud to say that if he or she was not being racist in their response, I was more than happy to return their e-mail.
Flipping through the pages of e-mails, more than half of them had encouraging words about our local diversity and a small minority have raised some concerns, which I have raised from time to time. Striking that balance of listening and learning and, more importantly, being honest is the approach that I have carried.
People always like to assume that I'm an expert on cultural diversity.
I like to remind everyone that I don't have all the answers, and you know what, nobody does.
The issues around cultural diversity are always evolving and changing constantly. Just when you think you know it all, you're put to the test.
Putting myself in these trenches, if I didn't have the answers, I have certainly tried to find someone who could be a voice on the topic.
Life is sometimes based on the opportunities that are given to us. I have tried my best and thank everyone on this special occasion.
I received an e-mail a month ago from Kris Foulds from The Reach Gallery containing a picture that was published in the newspaper of my father and the Abbotsford badminton club.
It was dated February 16, 1972. One of the team members standing in the back row was Lloyd Wilson.
A long-time local lawyer and sportsman was a competitor on and off the court. I recall as a young kid in the '70s and early '80s going to the tennis bubble in Abbotsford with my father and older brother and watching them play in the Wilson Cup, which he sponsored.
The Wilson Cup tennis tourney was highly competitive and drew some of the best.
I was sad to be informed when I was flipping through the paper last week that he had passed away on June 18 at the Menno Home in Abbotsford.
- Ken Herar is a freelance columnist who can be reached at: kenherar@ gmail.com.