‘BEACON OF HOPE’: Fifth annual Tea Fest celebrates multiculturalism in Manitoba

After all the hysteria over M-103 and Islamophobia, and the erroneous reporting that all of the increased funding for the multiculturalism program was going towards anti-Islamophobia programming (FATAH: Islamist groups eligible for share of $23M in federal funding? | Toronto Sun Corrrection), one example of how some of the funding is being spent.

Very much in the spirit of the former Conservative government’s reorientation of the program to activities that bring different communities together:

Tea was the central figure in a celebration of culture Sunday at the Centre Culturel Franco Manitobain in St. Boniface.

The Islamic Social Services Association, together with the Canadian Muslim Leadership Institute, hosted its fifth annual Multicultural Tea Fest, aiming to bring people together with 20 kiosks of different cultures and faiths serving tea, goodies and sweets, as well as ceremonies and cultural performances.

H. Kasem serves tea during the fifth annual Multicultural Tea Fest at the Centre Culturel Franco Manitobain in Winnipeg on Sunday.Kevin King / Kevin King/Winnipeg Sun

“Canadian multiculturalism is a beacon of hope for harmonious and respectful co-existence,” organizer Shahina Siddiqui, ISSA president, told the crowd. “I can tell you, I’ve traveled across the world on invitation to speak about why we have it so good in Canada, and my response is always multiculturalism.”

Tea Fest is funded in part by the federal government and the province, and forms part of the city’s Islamic History Month Canada (IHMC) activities. Manitoba was the first province to proclaim IHMC in 2013, with MLA Andrew Smith (Southdale) on site Sunday to declare October 2018 as IHMC.

“At a time where politics and the media often divides people, it’s so good to have an event like this one that’s all about bringing people together and showing unity across many different cultures,” New Democratic Party leader Wab Kinew said on stage. “What a great example of Manitobans coming together across cultural lines to do something we all love, which is to enjoy a cup of tea.”

Performances included Bosnian and Kurdish dance, Chinese and Japanese tea ceremonies, an origami workshop and a children’s multicultural fashion show.

Source: ‘BEACON OF HOPE’: Fifth annual Tea Fest celebrates multiculturalism in Manitoba

Winnipeg a leader in fixing Canada’s racism problem

Appears to be a concerted, community-wide effort. Encouraging:

Declaring 2016 the “Year of Reconciliation” for Winnipeg, he announced a host of new initiatives aimed at combatting racism, including mandatory training for all city staff on the impact of residential schools, a promise to visit every Winnipeg high school to address diversity, and a program to foster public engagement in reconciliation. It is a kind of commitment to the issue of racism never before seen by a civic leader in Winnipeg, and one that civic leaders say has propelled Winnipeg to the forefront of the issue in Canada, as other cities begin the tough work of reconciliation.

“On that day [a year ago], this community chose to come together to recognize the existence of racism, and that we needed to work together to better address it,” Bowman said. “On that day, we chose unity over division. We responded to the Maclean’s article with honesty and humility. We knew we could not, and cannot, mend the profound wrongs and injustices of generations and centuries in one year, with a single summit or press conference. But I remain committed to the journey.”

Photograph by John Woods

Photograph by John Woods

Numerous Indigenous speakers and community leaders at the press conference announced forthcoming projects, like St. John’s High School student Sylas Parenteau, who talked about an upcoming march for diversity by 3,000 Winnipeg School Division students, continuing the anti-racism work the division undertook in the last year. Far from a top-down effort, “we’ve been able to drive this conversation down to the individual level, where it really needs to occur,” Bowman said.

Bowman addressed a packed, second-floor foyer at City Hall. Seated with him were many of the same people who stood shoulder-to-shoulder with him last year. Michael Champagne, of Aboriginal Youth Opportunities, and founder of Meet Me at the Belltower, led a smudge; a local imam led a prayer. Proceedings were briefly interrupted by a Somali mother who told media she hasn’t seen her children in the six years since they were allegedly taken by Winnipeg Child and Family Services (CFS). Rather than being promptly frogmarched out by security, she was embraced by Ojibwe elder Randi Gage, and promised an audience with Bowman; Clunis, the police chief, wrapped an arm around her husband’s shoulder. Justice Murray Sinclair, head of the Truth and Reconciliation

Commission, addressed the controversy, acknowledging the “validity” of her concerns, which mirror those many Indigenous people feel toward CFS. “They are an example of what this day is all about—the sense of injustice so many feel about the way that they are treated by society, and their inability to be able to express themselves in a full way, to be able to achieve their ambitions in being part of this nation.”

There were critics of last year’s article in the room at City Hall, too; it remains deeply controversial in the city. But some, like radio host Charles Adler, who found the thrust of it “incredibly insulting,” admitted it ultimately “forced all of us to look into our souls,” and see the problem for what it was: “a human dignity issue,” threatening the future of the city. Instead of racism, Adler, who hosted Bowman’s press conference last week, believes Winnipeg will one day become known as “the capital of reconciliation.”

“At the very foundation of attacking racism there are two things we need to think about,” said Sinclair, a member of Bowman’s new Indigenous advisory circle: “What is it that our leaders are saying? And what is it that our leaders are doing? And to that, I say: Look around. Look at what our mayor has done. Look at the fact that our mayor has stood up, has embraced the ambition of trying to address it in a way that all people of this city are comfortable with who they are, are comfortable with a sense of their future, of who they can be in this society.”

Source: Winnipeg a leader in fixing Canada’s racism problem

Winnipeg: Getting Past the Divide – New Canadian Media – NCM

Third party in a series reporting on the links between racism against Aboriginal people and visible minorities:

The declaration of Winnipeg as Canada’s “most racist city” [by Macleans] has spurred discussions around grassroots solutions that can serve as a starting point for all Canadians.

“Prior to coming to Canada, my only window into the First Nations were from western movies,” shares Shahina Siddiqui, chair of the Islamic Social Services Association (ISSA). “For most newcomers, this is all they know.”

Siddiqui has worked with many ethnic groups in the city and through this experience she realized that the stereotypes of First Nations from western movies were as pervasive as stereotypes of Muslims in Canada – and that the only way to combat them was to open a dialogue. At first, when the Maclean’s article came out, she was apprehensive of the controversial statement it made. “But then I realized that this is an important conversation to have.”

“Accepting a person for who they are and what they are, that can only happen if you have face to face conversation… when you share your stories, when your children play together, when you stand up for each other.” – Shahina Siddiqui, Islamic Social Services Association

Champagne’s reaction was more immediate. “One of my takeaways was relief, that finally we were having this conversation.”

For Siddiqui, the development of community is essential. She says that because newcomers and Aboriginal people have so much in common coming from colonized experiences, it is important to understand and share that.

“Accepting a person for who they are and what they are, that can only happen if you have face to face conversation… when you share your stories, when your children play together, when you stand up for each other.”

With this idea in mind, ISSA runs Conversation Cafes with several of the ethnic and Aboriginal groups in the city, focusing on sharing tradition and histories one on one. Other groups in Winnipeg have begun similar programs with the same goal. Manitoba Educators for Social Justice (MESJ), a group of concerned educators from across the province, hosted its first Salon in which they discussed new strategies to address racism.

Winnipeg: Getting Past the Divide – New Canadian Media – NCM.

Winnipeg rises to a challenge – Macleans – Wells

Aboriginal - Black comparisonPaul Wells on the impressive open response to the Macleans story on racism in Winnipeg. All too rare in Canadian politics:

“Ignorance, hatred, intolerance, racism exists everywhere,” Bowman said. “Winnipeg has a responsibility right now to turn this ship around and change the way we all relate: Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, Canadians alike, from coast to coast to coast.”

Already this was surprising. Bowman was not demanding Maclean’s apologize, or indeed anyone. “We are here together to face this head-on as one community,” he said.  He was careful to note what nobody would deny: that racism exists everywhere, not only in Winnipeg, and that the city is full of people who work hard to combat racism and its effects. But neither he nor the other speakers sought any bogus refuge in the fact that Maclean’s isn’t published locally or that it used nasty words in its article.

Mercredi also emphasized that racism is a big problem that ignores municipal borders, but added: “I want to thank Maclean’s magazine for the story that they did. And to challenge them to follow up with other stories of where individuals and groups have combatted racism in their particular communities and cities and have made a difference in race relations in their communities.”

I suspect we’ll be taking up Mercredi’s challenge over the next few weeks. It was, on the whole, an inspiring and morally serious response from officials who know very well that slogans won’t begin to heal the wounds Nancy Macdonald and Scott Gilmore document this week.

It’s so common to find public officials shifting blame instead of lifting burdens. That’s not the path Brian Bowman and his colleagues chose today. It was heartening.

Winnipeg rises to a challenge – Macleans.ca.

And the report of the press conference:

Winnipeg leaders vow to face racism head-on In response to this week’s Maclean’s cover, Brian Bowman, backed by indigenous leaders, promised to change Winnipeg’s reputation