By Ken Herar
The Cycling for Diversity tree that was planted at Griner Park in Mission on the morning of May 18th, was unfortunately damaged by vandals. The Ginko Biloba, is an evergreen native to China, which has potential medicinal properties and a shade tree. When the District of Mission notified me a few weeks ago I had just driven past the park a few hours before and looked over at my friend and said: Where’s the tree?. I thought maybe the District moved it to different location within the park. When I received the call, they told me vandals pulled the tree out of the ground and laid it on its side with its roots sticking out. We’re all shocked someone would do such a thing. I had a chance to visit the tree and its being closely monitored by a tree specialist. What we’ve been told is that the diversity tree will rise again very soon. I am not jumping to any conclusions as to why someone would do this cowardly act, but rather stay committed to our message of building an inclusive environment. People, who decide to destroy our symbols of cultural diversity will not succeed.
Getting back to my August 18th column (Keep turban queries respectful) this was my exact message that I was trying to deliver. If you can’t respect our cultural differences in our communities, they’re other options you may want to consider. This column was not about the various colors of turbans, but more on how we interact honestly we each other on cultural issues. When I said in my column: “If you don’t like the ethnicity in our local community, consider relocating.” Please, let me elaborate for a moment. In my 16 and a bit years as a columnist, I have met some amazing supporters of cultural diversity and yet on the other hand I met some vocal haters. Everyone’s thoughts and opinions are welcomed. But, what I’ve learned through my experiences is that often the haters cannot be reasoned with. If they are not willing to deal with they’re underlying cultural issues and are unhappy in their current communities and can’t function as a whole then maybe they should consider relocating. There is nothing wrong or hurtful suggesting such a move. For example, many years ago, I went to a North Vancouver gas station and later spoke with an attendant. He told me in our brief discussion he used to live out in Abbotsford. He shared that he and his family were being isolated by some of the cultural differences in area and for the children’s future they had to relocate. He was being polite and genuine in his concerns. This is my very point. If you don’t like where you live, instead of becoming hateful and abusive, take this example as something you should consider.
To add to this discussion, I took all my emails, I received up to date and shared them with a local friend. Only a few eyes have seen these responses. Sarina Derksen of Abbotsford, who shares an interest on diversity discussions took the time to read the hundreds of emails I have saved. She said: “I was touched by the number of people who took the time to reach out, share personal stories and thank Ken for his tireless commitment regarding the important topic of diversity. At the same time, I was shocked and saddened by some of the most vile and disturbing emails that I have ever read. I would have never imagined someone writing such angry comments to another individual regarding a matter that is intended to unite rather than divide.”
It is troubling to see how hateful individuals are when hiding behind a keyboard. It is obvious there is still much work to be done in the area of diversity. We must continue to encourage honest, thoughtful dialogue within our communities, said Derksen.
Ken “Kulwinder” Herar is a Mission-based writer and a winner of the champions of diversity award for his columns in the LINK newspaper and other Fraser Valley newspapers. Herar can be reached at [email protected] or view his blog at http://www.kenherar.blogspot.com