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

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

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Parm Sidhu: Abbotsford Airport (YXX) expects growth to come in the near future

The Abbotsford Ariport (YXX) is the gateway to the Fraser Valley where diversity takes off and lands connecting Canadians from around our country. Half a million passengers use YXX and 2016 is proving to be the strongest year yet. It seems like whenever I look into the horizon there is a Westjet flight in the area.  Having traveled through the airport on many occasions my preference for most of my Canadian travel destination is YXX if the connections can be made.  Leading the way is Parm Sidhu, Airport General Manager, who has worked for the city for the past 21 years forecasts a bright future for our growing airport.
Sidhu, who is an Abbotsford Senior grad has worked in several jobs within the city since in 1995 like: Skate sharpener, Ice Man, Airport Duty Officer and Terminal Manager, just to name a few.  He explains, having a competitive business model is the key to the airport world, which is changing fast due to technology.  He said, “keeping up on general technology trends impacting airlines/passengers, airports and aerospace companies is a challenge, as what works in our industry today, may not work tomorrow.”

There is a growing diverse culture at YXX, which is a reflection of the 1,500 people that work on the airfield, 16 work directly for the airport and the balance for the partners on the field. Partnerships are the key as growth in the surrounding communities continues, especially in the Southern region of the Fraser, as Sidhu mentions.  Currently, they are three major carriers that workout of YXX to service travellers. 

Close to 75 million has been invested since 1997, and one of the short-term goals are to secure more daily domestic service to Ontario and then to attract more international service from YXX.
As the population continues to grow south of the Fraser, YXX is positioned well for growth, with goals to attract new flights including daily year-round service to Ontario as well as trans-border and international flights.   Also, if you ever get to visit or drop off travelers at YXX you’ll find the experience to be first class right from the ticket personal, security and the janitors.  Walking through the terminal you will also find a hidden gem located near the Westjet ticket office, the Water Clock that once was home at Sevenoaks from 1991 to 2000. Speaking about diversity, an interesting program is held every March out of YXX for young girls and women to meet outstanding females in the aviation and aerospace industry and free flights are offered for eligible candidates called: “The Skies No Limit- Girls Fly Too”.  The Abbotsford Airshow, will be held from August 11-13 next year  and is always a wonderful opportunity to meet experts in the field from across the globe.    

Sidhu said, “It’s been an amazing journey, it’s truly been a great partnership with the employer that has invested in me and allowed me to grow my career in the town I grew up in. It’s truly been a partnership.”

Monday, November 7, 2016

Is racism on the rise in Mission/Abbotsford?

Is racism on the rise in our community?

With all the recent events that have happened – with the KKK flyer distribution and the shocking racial altercation video from a parking incident in Abbotsford – people are talking on social media and around town. So I asked the question to my Facebook friends: Do you feel racism is on the rise in our communities or are these just isolated incidents?
Well, the vast majority of respondents felt these are isolated incidents and these kinds of behaviours are not welcomed. Yes, respondents were extremely disturbed and had lots to say – and so they should. 
These kinds of actions are not warranted in our communities and when we take a closer look around we’ll find diversity is what makes our community unique. It is  proven time and time again and we are better because of it.
My family, unfortunately, received a KKK flyer on our driveway a few short weeks ago. We are a pioneer South Asian family from Mission and are very proud of our hometown. This form of recruitment by this group is not what we need to further our discussion on diversity for future generations.  
Many have commented that the KKK flyer was unorganized, being tossed in the middle of the night at people’s driveways or possibly by teens. I say think again. 
Watching a few YouTube videos, it’s an old Klan tradition to throw flyers out at night at people’s driveways for recruitment purposes, calling it a “Night Ride.” I was correct when I first saw the flyer initially looking like some kind of recruitment drive.  The Klan has had activity in the past in Mission and this action should not be taken lightly. Whether they exist or not, we just don’t know for sure, but the divisive message can have long-term effects with people who may be vulnerable and who may gain an interest in other white supremacy groups that are active in the Lower Mainland.
In regards to the racial video that surfaced from Abbotsford, which went viral, it is something as a collective community that we are not proud of. Abbotsford/Mission being one of the most diverse regions in the country is something we can truly brag about. Diversity is a fragile concept and things can change quickly. Remaining calm and not encouraging further violence is essential in this matter. 

Good for the person doing the videoing to have the higher ground in this horrifying ordeal. I just can’t imagine what he went through and no one deserves this kind of treatment. Gugan Kaur Sidhu from the Fraser Valley Human Dignity Coalition said: “I want to emphasize the importance of reporting these incidences to the police and or the FV Human Dignity Coalition. Having a record of the discriminatory incidences taking place in the Fraser Valley helps secure funding for anti-oppression work and advocate appropriately.”  The Coalition encourages those that were negatively affected by this incident or any other discriminatory incident to contact the Fraser Valley Human Dignity Coalition. 604.859.7681 ext. 270