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We Must Tackle The “Cultural Divide” Now Or Polarization And Racism Will Continue To Haunt Us

BY KEN HERAR

Being a columnist for bothAbbotsford community and theSouth Asian LINK newspapersfor the past 18 years, and focusingon cultural diversity andracism issues, I wanted to sharemy story from a Fraser Valleyperspective being one of themost diverse regions in thecountry.I was stopped the other day andwas asked as to why I wouldpromote multiculturalism in aPunjabi School during an essaycontest I was promoting andspeaking about.I replied: “The main reason thatbrought me to this fine schoolwas not only to promote multiculturalismand this contest, butto share in a discussion withsome bright minds on findingways that the South Asian communitycould be more inclusivewith mainstream society.”I told the class that the “culturaldivide” in Abbotsford is growingquickly and we all have aresponsibility to be part of thelarger community when weleave through these schooldoors each day.I shared examples of how tomake it happen, like invitingkids from outside our own ethnicityto their homes for eventslike birthday parties.Lastly, I told them they have aspecial role and part of theequation in creating an inclusive,diverse society. I concluded withthis thought: “We all have itwithin us. We just have to discoverit.”Another friend shared how sheand her family went back toMontreal for a few weeks in thesummer and found the city to bevery integrated and friendly.Much more than here, shenoted.”People are very separate fromeach other in the West,” shesaid, adding that her daughtercame home crying one daybecause at school South Asiankids wouldn’t play with her.For as much as I don’t like toadmit it. I know these examplesare real. As someone sharedwith me a few years ago: “Ken,when I come to Abbotsford, Ican feel racism.”This is the exact reason why Itook my message to the SouthAsian community.The main reason why the “culturaldivide” in Canada has continuedto grow is because wehave allowed it to, and our electedofficials have paid very littleattention to the matter.In the next 20 years, ifCanadians do not tackle orchange the course of action, thecultural polarization will continueto spread.We’re at a crucial turning pointwhere we can build bridges andstrengthen partnerships withinour communities or face theconsequences of growing isolation.I recall getting gas in North Vancouver afew years back and went to pay the attendantand asked him, it must be nice livingup here. He replied: “Yes, just moved uphere from Abbotsford.” I replied, “that’sa big move.”He said: “I moved my family up herebecause we lived in a South Asian neighbourhoodand nobody would speak tome or my family.”After being denied to go to a Christmasparty in 2010 for being East Indian Iknew something had to be done to highlightsome of these growing concerns.In 2011, I founded Cycling4Diversity,where our team went to schools in theLower Mainland and spoke to studentsabout cultural diversity, racism and inclusion.Cycling4Diversity unites multiculturalcommunities through the sharing ofpersonal experiences, which creates anenvironment of mutual trust and understanding.During Cycling4Diversity Week in B.C.,which is held every May, the C4D teamseeks to foster intercultural relationshipsby encouraging students and citizens toexpand their circle of friends by connectingwith people from various backgrounds,showing respect for differencesand encouraging inclusion in theirschools and communities.Ken “Kulwinder” Herar is a Mission-basedwriter and a winner of the champions of diversityaward for his columns in the LINK newspaperand other Fraser Valley newspapers.Herar can be reached at kenherar@gmail.com orview his blog athttp://www.kenherar.blogspot.com

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