Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Enrique Rempel remembered and Diversity Awards announced

Congratulations, to all the nominees and recipients of The Fraser Valley Cultural Diversity Awards (FVCDA), which were held last week in Abbotsford.
The FVCDA started in 2003 to recognize organizations and individuals that embrace diversity in the community.
Close to 50 nominees were from Abbotsford, Mission, Langley and Chilliwack. Having been on both sides as a nominee and a recipient of the Champion of Diversity Award in 2007, I can only say to all that it should be an honour for you or your organization, whether you made it onstage or not, to be part of such a fabulous evening to recognize worthy causes in our communities.
This year’s recipients were:
  • Inclusive Environment (small organizations) – The Water Shed Arts Cafe, Langley;
  • Inclusive Environment (medium and large organizations) – University of the Fraser Valley;
  • Marketing – Seabird Island Health Services, Agassiz;
  • Innovative Initiative (small organizations) – Spill Ur Beanz, Fraser Valley;
  • Innovative Initiative (medium and large organizations) – Emma’s Acres, Mission;
  • Effective Human Resources Strategies – Correctional Service of Canada;
  • National Employment Equity and Diversity Strategic Plan and Champion of Diversity – Kanta Naik with the Abbotsford school district.

I bumped into a good friend a few weeks ago and we had the most engaging conversation about some of our upcoming Cycling4Diversity events, which he was excited to be part of. A few days later, I was informed that be suddenly passed away at his home.
I was completely shocked to hear this horrible news about Henry (Enrique) Rempel, who, in my humble opinion, was a true Champion of Diversity for our community and helped out our citizens who were homeless. He met with them regularly and bought them coffee and invited them to his home to meet with his children.

Rempel was a highly principled individual who cared about making lives better for people and staying out of the spotlight or gathering recognition.
His wife Katharina said: “He always had a passion to look after people who were marginalized, weak and vulnerable.”
She shared with me that they had a person live with them at their home for a few months who was a recovering addict.
Christine Wiebe has been a long-time volunteer in our community and has served as executive assistant to Abbotsford MLAs Bill Ritchie and Peter Dueck from 1979-1994. She had these inspiring words to say about our local volunteers to bring our diverse community together:
“Each and every contribution by a volunteer is of significance for the betterment of Abbotsford in building our community and bringing people together.
“As you can tell by the award programs, volunteers are respected and appreciated.
“The spinoff from volunteers brings out their professions and talents, and offers the volunteer an opportunity to prove themselves in many ways. In every community there is work to be done.
“What are some of the benefits? Fulfilling dreams, learning something new, sharing knowledge, joy of giving, achievement, meeting sponsors, providing inspiration, laughing, and having fun, just to name a few.
“Volunteering has been a passion of mine for over 70 years, but four years ago I took a look at my bucket list and decided it was time to fulfill some of my dreams.
“Shortly, I will find out how successful I have been and how empty my bucket list will be.”

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Learning more about the Abbotsford Islamic Centre

Assalamualaikum! (Peace may be upon you) I had the wonderful opportunity to attend our local mosque here in Abbotsford where they held a vigil on January 31st for the six victims that were killed at a Quebec mosque.  The attack is being called a “ terrorist” attack by many brought many Canadians together from all faiths.  One thing that is very clear is if you keep an open mind with a purpose to learn it is amazing what can be accomplished. That is exactly what I had in mind to do when this opportunity can up to support our local Muslim community and to see what can be done to break down walls and build further bridges. 
Actually, this was my first opportunity attending a mosque where many visitors were paying their respects to the victims bringing flowers and filling an entire table. Many dignitaries were in attendance: Mayor Henry Braun,  MLA Darryl Plecas, Coun. Kelly Chahal, Coun. Sandy Blue and Abby Police Chief Bob Rich.  All spoke to share their grief and ensure the public that we all stand with our Muslim brothers and sisters and that we have much more in common than we differ. Many leaders from various faiths were also offering their prayers to express our joint commonality.  The Abbotsford Islamic Centre opened in 2009 on Salton Rd and before that the community met at Cedar Park in Abbotsford.
Iman Islam Khokhar, who is a religious scholar at the centre spoke at the vigil and shared some thoughts as to how we can create further dialogue preventing further attacks.  He said: “It is nice to see the discussions between the non Muslim and Muslim communities.  The bigger issue in all of this is Muslims have all Canadian values, and have men and women who serve in all levels of society to protect our nation. It is unfortunate to see that we have just received that recognition.
“As Muslims we are making further efforts to reach out to the greater community and would like to invite everyone to drop by at our open house tomorrow Saturday, Feb 11th from 10-3pm. People, who have questions or concerns should come and meet with members.  There are many misconceptions and one of them are that men and women are not equal in Islam. In reality, women have more rights than men in our culture. For example, it is a man’s responsibility to provide for his wife and children and mother. The women have the right to refuse to work and that is how the majority of Muslim families think.
“If Muslims were violent people they would have retaliated against those who were involved in the Quebec attack. Majority of Muslims are not violent and condone it.”
The 14th Annual Cultural Diversity Awards will be happening on Friday, March 3rd from 6-9pm at the Quality Inn and Conference Centre in Abbotsford. It’s always a fun evening meeting some of our outstanding leaders in diversity. This year’s Masters of Ceremonies is again Free Lee from CBC Radio and the Guest Speaker will be Tamara Taggard from CTV News.  For more information and tickets contact  Patricia Driessen at cda@abbotsfordcommunityservices.com