Saturday, November 28, 2015

Cycling4Diversity is proud of team member Harjit Sajjan, Canada's new defence minister

November 27, 2015 · Updated 9:28 AM

The members of Cycling4Diversity are extremely proud of Harjit Sajjan, who has been cycling with us for the past two years and has been appointed Canada’s new defence minister.
This is what he shared with me before he got involved with C4D off one of our Facebook chats a few years ago, and speaks volumes of his character.
Sajjan said, “I am very impressed with your efforts and unique approach. I command one of the most diverse regiments in Canada, and I am passionate about positively changing people’s perception of diversity.”
I couldn’t think of a better response from someone in his position to lead our nation with the strife we currently face around the globe. In the two years Harjit was involved with C4D, he not only changed people’s perceptions, he left a lasting impression with everyone he touched building on our message of inclusion.
I had the opportunity to meet my good friend Jaspreet Anand, who owns SippChai on Townline in Abbotsford. He started his first annual SippChai Charity Calendar that will benefit many local organizations, and was kind enough to put members of our Cycling4Diversity team in May 2016, along with many other organizations such as Abbotsford Youth Commission, Cyrus Centre, The Salvation Army and Abbotsford Arts Council, to name a few. The calendars are selling for $10 and he is hoping to sell 10,000 calendars.
If you ever walk into Mission McDonald’s late in the evening, you’ll be sure to bump into Don Warkentin, who is always busy with his writing and music as visitors munch on their burgers and fries. He’s an avid reader and world-class gardener, along with his late wife Hilda, who passed away a few years back.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Warkentin at McDonald’s a few months back and he shared an interesting story about his childhood. The kitchen table is where we learn to care about people who may be different than us. Growing up in Abbotsford, he spoke about being a young child and his mother asking him to deliver a pie and bread to the Mitchells, who lived across the street.
He puts it simply, “Nobody trusted them and they trusted no one.”
As he approached the door that evening, and he remembers it fondly, Mr. Mitchell would take his gun off the wall and yell “who is it?” As he would open the door slowly, Mitchell would see little Donny with food and would welcome him inside. He describes this valuable lesson from his mother as, “We have to learn to care.”

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Cycling4Diversity featured in the Surrey Now

Choosing friendship over fear in Surrey

SETTLING IN SURREY: Choosing friendship over fear

Reverend Kimiko Karpoff, right, and Darshan Mann are greeted by Muslim women following a Friday prayer inside  the Surrey Jamia Masjid mosque on 72nd Avenue. - Amy Reid
Reverend Kimiko Karpoff, right, and Darshan Mann are greeted by Muslim women following a Friday prayer inside the Surrey Jamia Masjid mosque on 72nd Avenue.
— Image Credit: Amy Reid
MULTICULTURALISM: While Surrey may be recognized for celebrating its diversity in ‘grandiose’ ways, without personal connections to neighbours from different walks of life, it’s ‘so easy to fear each other’

FINAL IN A SERIES: In Surrey, 40 per cent of residents are immigrants. With this series, we look at the challenges they face as they struggle to build a new life here.

Us and them. Can that really change?
With a large and continuously increasing immigrant population in Surrey, it’s an undeniable challenge to connect people from the various places of origin and religion that call this city home.
“I don’t think it’s a destination. It’s a journey,” mused Minister Will Sparks with Northwood United Church as he took part in Surrey’s first Interfaith Pilgrimage. The event was put together to honour victims of terrorist attacks in Paris and Beirut and to foster understanding between people of different backgrounds.
For Sparks, that journey began after 9/11.
“I wanted to reach out to my Muslim neighbours because I knew that they were vilified based on extremist actions. Much like today. I realized that I didn’t have any relationships,” he said. “That was the impetus to say this is not OK. It’s not OK to not know your neighbours, it’s not OK to not cultivate relationships with neighbours and people of different faiths. That’s what kind of kicked me into high gear.”
According to the minister, it’s important to make those connections.
“It’s so easy to fear each other. We can’t be doing that.”
When a community is connected, they can come together in times of pain and crisis, said Sparks.
“You have the relationships to rely on and you can make a call. You can say, ‘How are you doing?’ to your Muslim neighbour,” he said. “There’s a lot of things going on out there. A lot of suspicion, a lot of fear, a lot of reaction. What can we do to put other messages into the mix that are more loving, less fearful? For us, that’s where this is coming from.”
Surinder Jabal, president of the Brookside Gurdwara that participated in the event, praised the Surrey Interfaith Council for organizing the walk.
“It’s for peace,” Jabal noted as he helped put out tea and snacks for those participating in the march. “It’s good to know each other. If you don’t know what activities are all about, then we live in fear. It’s better to have an understanding.”
Timothy Favelle of Port Moody brought his children, four-year-old Nathan and two-year-old Mercedes, to the event to explore a variety of religions all at one.
“We’re First Nation spiritual, sort of, but we’re Mennonites,” he said outside the Newton gurdwara.
“This is a great way to break down walls and division in people,” Favelle said of the event.
A true melting pot of cultures, the march was pulled together in a matter of days. People of many faiths and backgrounds turned out, from Atheists and Mennonites to Sikhs and Bahá’ís.
The roughly 20-kilometre trek began at Northwood United Church in Fleetwood, then stopped by Brookside Gurdwara and Singh Sabha Gurdwara, ending with the “pilgrims” participating in a Friday prayer at the Surrey Jamia Masjid mosque close to the Surrey-Delta border.
The women put on headdresses before entering the mosque on the second floor. They take in the prayer from the above, separate from the men, who enter on the main floor.
There were looks of confusion in both of the rooms as the men and women entered. Even throughout the prayer, there were glances out of the corners of eyes, some more obvious than others.
But after learning who the “pilgrims” were and what they were doing that day, that curiosity turned into welcoming for many.
Hugs were shared by strangers and many hands were held.
The Muslim community expressed gratitude to the organizers of the event and to those who participated.
“We are so appreciative,” B.C. Muslim Association president Daud Ismail told the crowd. “People who are committing these cold-blooded crimes, they are cowards. In the name of humanity, I think we should all come together.”
While Friday’s event was unarguably an example of acceptance and cultural integration, can that be said about the other 364 days of the year?
Some say no.
Ken Herar, founder of Cycling4Diversity, says more needs to be done to connect people of different cultures in Surrey and other multicultural cities.
The issue of isolation between cultures is something Herar hears a lot about from residents through his job as a columnist for Abbotsford News.
“Abbotsford and Surrey are very similar, with large Indo-Canadian populations,” he said, “and I was hearing about it a lot. I decided I want to do something. What can I do more than just being a columnist? I wanted to do something on a larger scale.”
So in 2011, Cycling4Diversity was born. The group bikes to schools to encourage people to make friends and connect with people outside of their ethnic communities.
The first bike ride for diversity took place from Mission to Victoria and it’s happened every year since, visiting almost 100 schools over that time.
During their stops, Herar, along with eight other cyclists, spread a message of acceptance and celebrating diversity.
“We share examples of diversity and the struggles we still face. And we do it as a team. We have police officers, teachers, just normal people,” he explained. “We share examples of what we need to do. For example when we visited the Khalsa School in Surrey earlier this year, I told them, ‘When you leave these walls and you’re in your communities and neighbourhoods make sure you connect with people outside your community.’
“If you’re brown, go make friends with someone who is Caucasian or Asian.”
Growing up as a kid in the ’80s, Ken Herar recalls playing hockey with people of all colour.
Today, he looks at sports groups directed at specific ethnic communities and wonders why there is such segregation.
“That is not the way we should be doing it,” he said. “When I played hockey, we represented our town. We didn’t have small leagues where we had ethnic groups.”
Herar said events that focus on integration between ethnic communities are great, but that embracing other cultures needs to happen more often, not just at events like the Interfaith Pilgrimage and Surrey’s award-winning Fusion Festival.
“We’re not seeing change. I think it’s here to stay, actually, so we just have to be aware of it and just keep building awareness,” said Herar.
“We’re not saying people should give up their culture or traditions, but let’s talk to our neighbours.”
Asked if ethnic communities are integrated enough in Surrey, Herar said, “We’re not. I think we can do a lot better yet.
“When we’re more integrated with each other, I think the differences that divide us that cause racism, you see less of that and people are more accepting of each other,” he mused. “When a community is more integrated people are not saying, ‘Those people,’ or, ‘That’s how they do it.’ I hear a lot of that.”
According to Herar, we’re “practicing diversity within walls” right now.
“Meaning when we go to festivals or functions, we do it there, and by the time we leave, everything is back to normal again. We need to break those walls down…. Diversity should be practised everyday.”
He said misunderstanding other cultures can lead to frustration and racism.
“People phone me and say, ‘Ken, these types of people don’t hold the door open for people.’ So we have a lot of different issues all the time. I think we can do a lot better,” Herar said.
Even within cultures, struggles are present.
“South Asians are also upset to a certain degree that newer immigrants should be doing a lot more in terms of integration,” he explained. “So it’s not a white and a brown thing, it’s also struggles within the community that we see.”
Where does the solution lie? For Herar, it all begins with friendship.
“Go for supper, make friends outside your culture, invite people from outside your ethnic community to your home,” he urged. “The feedback I get is this is not happening.”
He said he rarely sees youth from different cultures walking down the street together.
“I’m not saying it never happens, but we should be seeing it more,” said Herar. “For how big our community is, I should see a lot more of it. Hopefully people can change.”
David Dalley with the Surrey Interfaith Council was one of the organizers of last week’s pilgrimage. He, too, believes a connected and understanding community can be achieved through friendship.
“It’s that simple,” he said, smiling.
Make a friend outside of your ethnic or religious community, he urged. “Sometimes we can get carried away with big grandiose ideas, whether it’s big events or big shows. Those are all important but I really think it just comes down to friendship on a one-to-one level.”
They both urge people to forget the “us and them” mentality.
Interestingly, Dalley said the word “refugee” is now bothering him and it’s because that mentality is now seemingly connected to it.
“It used to be a word that evoked empathy and a connection and a desire to help and give a hand. And now it seems like the connotation has switched and it feels like there’s a negative cloaking around it. It struck me, how weird that the word refugee is bothering me. Can’t we just use the word human?” he asked.
“There are some humans coming. And they’re hurting.”

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Mission City Mayor Naranjan Grewall legacy continues with the awarding of The World from the 100 Year Journey South Asian Gala

 COLUMN: Grewall’s remarkable legacy continues

Tok Herar, Jati Sidhu and Ken Herar holding up The World, which was awarded to Naranjan Grewall. -
Tok Herar, Jati Sidhu and Ken Herar holding up The World, which was awarded to Naranjan Grewall.
— image credit:
On the Spot by Ken Herar
I recently bumped into a former local transit bus driver and he shared one of the best diversity stories I have heard in a long time. At times we hear of all the negative when it comes to riding transit, but this one touches the heart on what our community is truly all about.
He did not want to disclose his name and said when he was driving transit around town there was an elderly Sikh gentleman who would ride every day just so he could better his English, while sitting around other riders on the bus.
He would purposely sit in a seat where he could hear people speak. This is the kind of community I want to belong to.
Now that the election is over and the country has spoken, the ashes of Trudeaumania have risen again in the Fraser Valley. Pierre and his son Justin have a unique relationship here in the Central Fraser Valley. It was in 1968 that the federal Liberals last sent a person from the Fraser Valley to Ottawa under Pierre Trudeau’s red wave that swept the nation.
His name was Jerry Pringle and he did one term for the Abbotsford area.
Forty-seven years later Trudeau’s son Justin would carry the red flag again in the Valley and send Jati Sidhu, who recently captured the Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon riding on Oct 19.
You have to give credit to Sidhu, who ran in 2000 in the Dewdney-Alouette riding, which is part of the new riding. He also ran a few other times for political office and narrowly missed being elected.
It is that perseverance and staying in the political game that makes winning a reality, similar to Abbotsford Coun. Moe Gill, who ran several times for a seat on council and now has served close to 20 years in public office.
All of this shapes our future, just like when Naranjan Grewall became the first South Asian to be elected to public office in Canada in 1950.
He was awarded with ‘The World’ in the Pioneer Category at the 100 Year Journey at the South Asian Gala on Oct 3 in Vancouver.
He also became mayor of Mission City in 1954 and later ran for the CCF in 1956.
The award will reside at the Centre for Indo-Canadian Studies and Mark D. Evered, president and vice-chancellor at the University of the Fraser Valley, accepted the honour on his behalf that evening said: “I am pleased to accept this honour on behalf of the communities served by the University of the Fraser Valley. Naranjan Singh Grewall’s pioneering leadership in Mission and his service to our province have been an inspiration to many.
“Tonight’s event is about remarkable journeys, but it is also about remarkable legacies. Mr. Grewall’s legacy includes those next-generation Indo-Canadian leaders who have continued to play such a vital role in the development of the Fraser Valley.
“It is those next-generation leaders who have also guided and supported the establishment of UFV’s internationally recognized Centre for Indo-Canadian Studies, our chair in Canada-India business and economic development, and our campus in the Punjab, linking Mr. Grewall’s birthplace and his adopted home. We continue to be inspired by his leadership, and remain indebted to him.“
I remember doing all the research back in the mid 1990s and showcasing his life on many occasions and presentations during the past 20 years; otherwise, it was pretty much archived information.
He played an important role in our community and country. On the way home on Oct 3, my father – who knew him well and helped him on his campaigns – shared with me that he was glad I was committed to sharing his story all this time.
Naranjan Grewall; Moe Gill; Jati Sidhu; Kelly Chahal, who became the first South Asian female to be elected to Abbotsford city council in 2014; and former Mission mayor James Atebe, the first African to be elected to the District of Mission, have all become political changers in the valley for the future generations who may consider running the game.