Opinion

HERAR: Diversity defined by how we treat others

  - News file photo
— image credit: News file photo

I was told recently that as someone who promotes diversity in the community, why is it that I cannot speak my heritage Punjabi language.

I was taken aback by this comment and to clarify the situation, I am more than capable of understanding Punjabi when someone is speaking it to me, but have more difficulty translating it back in a fluent manner.

I come from a generation of South Asian Canadians who did not have Punjabi spoken at home or at school, which makes it extremely difficult learning it later in life. I love my language of heritage and is something I am pursuing to master. Also, when it comes to my name, I prefer being called Ken or by my real Punjabi name Kulwinder.

But, does that make me less of a diverse person? Absolutely not. Speaking one or several languages doesn’t completely define you as a diverse person. So what makes an individual diverse? It comes down to one common factor which is how we treat others around us, not just how many countries one has visited or how many ethnic foods we have tasted. The language of love is one of the strongest signs of diversity. A person with a open heart and mind is how diversity should be adequately measured.

Diversity is not a puzzle or maze and there is no simple equation because each and everyone of us is at various stages of learning about diversity.

Anne-Marie Sjoden of Abbotsford said: "I love to volunteer in the community and meet so many kind people from all over world. I am always surprised to hear when someone makes racist remarks. Recently, I heard someone refer to an individual's head covering in a demeaning way. I don't see colour, it doesn't matter to me if you're black, white or brown. You're my friend because of who you are, it's that simple.”

Last month, Judy Johnson of Abbotsford visited Africa as part of a local grandmothers group called Abbotsford Gogos. She said: “I was privileged to be one of a group of 22 Canadian grandmothers of the Stephen Lewis Foundation Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign, who visited African grandmothers and the grassroots organizations that support them in Ethiopia, Rwanda and South Africa. It was an amazing opportunity to see the work that the grandmothers and the organizations are doing in the face of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, which is having such an impact on African countries.

“Grandmothers are becoming the experts in their communities, working to support their grandchildren and other orphans, providing home care and support to those affected by the disease and advocating for women's rights and fair treatment.

"At a time of their lives when they had hoped to be taking it easy they are stepping up to fill the gaps left as their children have died.”

As part of her commitment to this trip, Johnson is sharing her stories of the grandmothers, she encountered. If you’re interested in learning more about their work in Africa, feel free to contact her at 604-556-3919.

Ken Herar writes on diversity issues for the Abbotsford News.

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