Using the power of activism

‘In our diversity lies our strength, which has built and nurtured our existence in Canada’

Darlo Gong, Randy Cairns, Carmen Cairns and Daniella Cairns, all from Mission, attended the opposition to racism rally, held at Vancouver city hall last weekend. Approximately 4,000 people were in attendance. Submitted Photo

Ken Herar


With all the recent discussion on what occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia, all I can say is I am deeply disturbed and concerned. What can we take from this human tragedy where Heather Heyer lost her life and two police officers died in a helicopter crash while monitoring the crowds?

It’s our activism that protects and preserves what is fundamentally and inherently our connection to our own common humanity.

In our diversity lies our strength, which has built and nurtured our existence in Canada for the past 150 years. When it is challenged and threatened, it is our activism that enables us to put our actions together – which is more powerful than any words – and our diversity again shines and reminds us we have more in common than we differ.

Activism reminds us at this point and teaches that no one is better than the next person based on skin colour, religion or creed. Our time on this ground is limited and how we want to be remembered for our actions is much more valuable than anything that is hateful and divisive.

Sometimes, we all need to step back and review our performance, and how the surroundings affect us.

Nick Cooper, shared his story how he did just that.

“I was a racist. I was born in East London, England in 1970 – a culturally diverse city but at the same time a segregated city. In East London, everyone was poor and poverty fuelled ignorance. With all people fighting for their little bit of life, people kept to their own racial communities, stewing in their own racial beliefs. It wasn’t a far stretch to becoming involved in hate groups in my teens, graduating to more serious racism as I grew older, but sadly not wiser.

“However, everything changed when my wife was in labour with my daughter. As we faced a traumatic birth, I watched a black nurse and an Indian doctor saved my daughter’s life and suddenly I didn’t see race anymore. I saw human beings. This was the beginning of my journey back from hate.

“Diversity is love and respect for human beings. Diversity is knowledge – educate yourself on what you don’t understand. Embracing diversity is the solution to racism.”

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Last weekend, a rally was held at Vancouver City Hall to counter protest, which was supposed to be an “Anti-Islam” rally.

Four-term Mission school trustee and Cycling4Diversity member Randy Cairns and his wife, daughter and family friend, Darlo Gong, all showcased their activism to put the priorities straight.

Randy explains, “there were only a handful of protesters from the other side that showed their faces. The rally was generally peaceful and non-violent. It’s important to stand up for human rights and our diversity. As a school trustee, we teach the principles of inclusion, kindness and acceptance in our school system. That is something we can be extremely proud of.”

It is through activism that I have met several outstanding members from our community through Cycling4Diversity and in other civic areas. Recently, myself and Rick Rake did a South East Asian story telling with a fabulous group of musical artist at the Mission Folk Music Festival.

Group head Jennie Bice said, “It was such an enormous honour, and pleasure, to be a part of the Canada 150 collaboration project between the Mission Folk Music Festival and Harrison Festival of the Arts. Our group was offered the unique opportunity to explore the relationship between culture and landscape as it pertains to the area between Mission and Harrison, north of the Fraser River. Through storytelling, music and dance, we touched upon many histories of this area, from our varied perspectives within the group’s many backgrounds. It was profoundly moving to share our personal cultural stories, and bring them together in a performance that unified rather than divided.”

Mission resident Ken Critchley was passionate about bringing his diverse neighbourhood together and sharing his story. “There is nothing like a great meal to bring neighbours together. And those of us living in the Lower Mainland have the added bonus of our culturally diverse communities. A block party becomes a feast from around the world and, let me say, it is hard to beat international cuisine right outside your front door.”

Rake has been working hard planning for Festival of Light: Diwali on Oct. 11 at the Clarke Theatre. He has been asked to serve on the six-member planning team, seeking security and first aid services for the large crowd.

Rake, Mission Local Immigration Partnership coordinator and chair of the organizing committee for Diwali, was recently on the Mission Folk Music Festival stage with me and others to share culturally significant stories about Mission as part of the Canada 150 project.

This free event, which runs from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., features a free ethnic buffet dinner, live multicultural entertainment and a marketplace where patrons can purchase goods or visit community booths.

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