Bright orange and yellow headscarves floated in the crowd. I was among the crowd who walked from one Gurdwara (Sikh temple) in Mill Woods to another, as part of the Nagar Kirtan parade on Sunday, May 21. The Sikh community of Edmonton and their friends came together to celebrate the spring festival of Vaisakhi and the birth of the Khalsa, the Sikh community.
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The colours, the vibrancy, and the energy were a great demonstration of the cultural diversity within our city and within Ward 11. There are nuances within each culture as well: the subtle accent, clothing, and music that reflect regional diversity. Coincidentally, May 21 is also the UN World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development.
As an immigrant to this country, I deeply understand and appreciate the value of cultural diversity. Not only does it enrich the intellectual, emotional, interpersonal, and spiritual fabric of our society, it also drives economic, social, and cultural development of our communities.
This appreciation has led me to the Edmonton Multicultural Coalition, where I have been involved for the past 3 years as an employee, a volunteer, a researcher, and now board chair. I am drawn to this organization because of its mandate to support civic engagement among newcomer immigrants and refugees, and to bridge ethnocultural communities with mainstream Canadian society in the spirit of collaboration, mutual learning, and sharing.
Civic engagement is an issue close to my heart. After living in North America for a long time, I finally became a Canadian citizen in 2015. Casting my first ballot was a game-changer. It made me fully appreciate the privilege of citizenship and the freedom of living in a democratic society. For many of us, there are barriers to participation, whether it’s employment, housing, food security, language or citizenship status. I believe that city-building affects everyone, regardless of one’s right to vote. Ultimately, it is about creating the appropriate space and means to include people’s voices. And that is why I am committed to building a city with a more engaged citizenry representing people from all walks of life.