Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Reflecting on South Asian history on the 125th anniversary of the District of Mission

Black Press columnist Ken Herar will be writing a special, three-part series on the history of the South Asian community in Mission, as part of Mission’s 125th anniversary celebrations.
The stories will run the second Friday of the month, beginning May 12 in the Mission City Record.
Herar, who is born and raised in Mission and comes from a pioneer South Asian family, has written many columns on the life and contributions of his community, during his 22 years as a columnist.
He is reaching out to the public who may have any interesting stories they would like to share as part of this series as the District gets prepared to celebrate its 125th anniversary on June 4 at Fraser River Heritage Park.
“I am excited and honoured about this opportunity about connecting the local South Asian community’s past to its present. History sometimes gets forgotten and its important to connect those valuable dots.,” said Herar.

“There are so some amazing stories and personalities that need to be retold so the generations to follow can be proud of the vibrant and strong diverse relationships that have been built over the past century. Mission is a role model community where diversity is working as the community is constantly changing in its demographics.
“It’s not going to be easy to condense so many amazing stories in three upcoming columns, but I am committed in doing my best.”
Herar, will also be doing a  presentation to mayor and council on Oct. 16 on the ongoing Mission Moments series in conjunction with the anniversary.
If you have a story to share with Herar, contact him at kenherar@gmail.com.

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

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Cycling4Diversity speaks at Kwantlen Polytechnic Univeristy in 2013

Cycling4Diversity set to stop at KPU Surrey and speak about breaking down cultural barriers

May 17 / 2013
Metro Vancouver, BC – Riding through 14 cities over four days, the Cycling4Diversity team will demonstrate that acceptance of different cultures and races has no boundaries. From May 21-24, the cycling team will be riding to and speaking at a number of schools from Victoria to Abbotsford to discuss the benefits of cultural diversity and the importance of eliminating racism. In its quest to encourage students and citizens to expand their circle of friends, the cycling team will make a stop at Kwantlen Polytechnic University's (KPU) Surrey campus on Wednesday, May 22.
"We're excited to be stopping at Kwantlen and sharing in our message of celebrating our cultural diversity and being inclusive during Cycling4Diversity Week in British Columbia," said Ken Herar, Founder, Cycling4Diversity. "Living in a multicultural country we should never stop building bridges and partnerships. The support from all the universities, colleges and public schools has been extremely encouraging. The team is honoured to deliver this important message."
At the May 22 event, KPU representatives will be presenting a donation to Cycling4Diversity and will join Surrey City Councillor Barinder Rasode who will declare May 19-25 "Cycling4Diversity Week."
"KPU is pleased to welcome Cycling4Diversity at its Surrey stop in this year's journey," said KPU President and Vice-Chancellor, Dr. Alan Davis. "We applaud the initiative and commitment of the riders in supporting diversity and equality in all our communities."
Cycling4Diversity began in 2011 to celebrate World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development on May 21, a day proclaimed by the United Nations.
The event will be held at 6:00 p.m. at 12666 72nd Avenue, Surrey.
Kwantlen Polytechnic University has been serving the Metro Vancouver region for 30 years, and has opened doors to success for more than 250,000 people. Four campuses—Richmond, Surrey, Cloverdale and Langley—offer a comprehensive range of sought-after programs, including business, liberal arts, science, design, health, trades and technology, apprenticeships, horticulture, and academic and career advancement. Over 18,000 students annually have a choice from over 200 programs, including bachelor's degrees, associate degrees, diplomas, certificates and citations.

For more information about KPU, contact:
Joanne Saunders
Director, Communications and Marketing Services
Tel: 604.598.6188

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun speaks about his diversity

January 14, 2017 · Updated 1:08 PM

On the Spot by Ken Herar
Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun is someone who has experienced diversity inside and out. It’s inspiring to see the head of our local government sharing his life story that can change how we interact with each other and emphasize that discrimination is not just solely based on skin colour.
Having come from Paraguay to Canada with his family at the age of three and a half, Braun has an amazing story to share. His family knew little English as newcomers to Canada, and that made things difficult at times as they settled in Abbotsford.
I had the opportunity to speak with him over the telephone and he was happy to share stories that illustrate it wasn’t easy for them. He recalls when his mother Margaret made his clothes for him when he was about four and a half when they lived on Bradner Road, he was mocked by other children for being different. Before moving to Brander Road, the Brauns lived in a chicken barn for the first few months.
Braun also remembers running beside his father George while he was cycling, and a car pulled up beside them and spit on his father and said, “DP (displaced person), go home.”
Braun has a lot of empathy for immigrants and refugees. As he puts it, “My parents came with no money.” By the time Braun hit grade school, he was an athlete who excelled at softball, soccer, basketball and track and field. It was also at this time that he had his first diversity experience in Grade 10. His coach, Harry, was South Asian, and Braun has many fond memories of him.
Braun enjoys his visits at the Sikh temples, and members from the community often ask why he hasn’t visited from time to time. He feels he needs an invite and doesn’t want it to appear to be a political gesture; otherwise, he attends on special occasions like Diwali, and gave New Year’s greeting to all three temples.
There are things that can be done to make people in our community more aware of diversity, says Braun, and it should be celebrated and valued.
“When I hear of people in isolation, that bothers me because I know how I felt as a kid.”
With Abbotsford being the third most diverse city in Canada, here’s an excerpt of what Mayor Braun said at his New Year’s greetings at the local Sikh temples:
“Moving into a new year is both reflective and exciting. It’s a time to reflect on the past year … to think about how we have been blessed or been a blessing to others … to think about how we have fallen short, what we have learned and how we have grown. It’s a time to also look forward with excitement and hope for the new year … a new year that is full of opportunities to serve and grow.
“This opportunity for us to have reflective moments is important – it makes us grateful and humble. It helps us to appreciate our fellowship with one another in a community like this, with our families, with our neighbours. It helps us appreciate our faith and the comfort it brings, but also the challenge it sets for us to serve each other and to live in peace and harmony.
“We live in a city shaped by a diverse cultural fabric. This diversity is who we are. It fosters a vibrant and complete community, and it’s something we can all celebrate.”

A response to the above column was received. Name of the writer was left out due to confidently.

Dear Mr. Herar,

I just read your article on Mayor Henry Braun and I want to thank you for this insight into Mr. Braun.  All too often when people reach certain levels of public stature, the real stories are obscured by gossip, half-truths, and ignorance.  Which is why I always try to give people the benefit of the doubt and, whenever possible, get to know them in person and decide for myself.

This is especially true with the Mayor, for I work for the City Parks department and there is so much gossip and misinformation (willful and ignorant), about the mayor.  Also, too often, and this is true for myself, those of us who have had to endure great obstacles and overcome hurdles in life and have actually accomplished a lot, are reluctant, due to our nature, to "toot our own horn".

Again, thank you for your excellent and inspiring article on Henry Braun.


Thursday, December 1, 2016

Racist video discussion on social media is a good thing, say community leaders

Racist video discussion on social media is a good thing, say community leaders

WARNING: 'Shocking' racial slurs and altercation captured on video

By Belle Puri, CBC News Posted: Oct 24, 2016 5:42 PM PT Last Updated: Oct 24, 2016 5:42 PM PT         
An unidentified man is captured on video shouting racial taunts in an Abbotsford parking lot, near a downtown area known as Five Corners.
An unidentified man is captured on video shouting racial taunts in an Abbotsford parking lot, near a downtown area known as Five Corners. (Vimeo)          

Abbotsford community leaders say it's a good thing people are talking about a video that shows a white man yelling racial slurs and offensive language in a downtown parking lot, because it's a good example of unacceptable behaviour
"I think the comments that are being generated are the best part, because it really shows peoples' overwhelming outrage for this type of behaviour," said Allan Asaph, the executive director of the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce.

"I think that's a very positive sign, that as a community, we are saying this is not acceptable."

Social media, said Asaph, is a good way to get out the message that opinions like those of the man in the video will not be tolerated.

Supportive community 

The vast majority of people in the Fraser Valley are supportive of diversity said Ken Herar, founder of the Cycle4Diversity campaign.

"People here in the Fraser Valley believe in diversity. Our community is built on diversity," said Herar.

"This kind of behaviour is not warranted here and that's the message I'm receiving on Facebook and social media."

An unidentified man is captured on video shouting racial taunts in an Abbotsford parking lot, near a downtown area known as Five Corners. (Vimeo)

Incidents not related 

Herar was among several Mission residents who earlier this month awoke to find a plastic bag with a flyer and some rice on their front lawns from the Ku Klux Klan, but he doesn't feel the incidents are connected.

"I asked that question on my Facebook page," said Herar.

"The vast majority of responses that I received from that post on Facebook are that people believe that these are isolated incidents."

Abbotsford police have contacted the hate crimes unit and Crown counsel in their investigation of the incident.  

Thanks to Radical Desi for featuring Cycling4Diversity in fighting racism in the Lower Mainland