Martin C. Barry
Music, dance as well as some very thoughtful comments were on the order the day during the second instalment of the Himalaya Seniors of Quebec’s two-part conference to raise awareness and start people in the local cultural communities talking about racism and discrimination.
Following the organization’s first session, held on July 5 at the William Hingston Centre in Park Extension, a second was scheduled for July 26 in the same place, but with more emphasis on music and culture this time around.
Learning with culture
“Today we are here to find a way which might bring better understanding about our cultural communities,” said Himalaya Seniors president Vathany Srikandarajah who delivered opening remarks.
“Traditional music, dances and clothes offer a better picture to understand our culture than just a language could. Park Ex has always been a place rich in many different cultures and heritages.”
Deros addresses crowd
Among those addressing the participants on the day’s topic were Park Extension city councillor Mary Deros. “You know, a couple of weeks ago we had a meeting in another room and we talked about racism and discrimination,” she said.
“We share in the different cultures through events. It’s a culture for sharing.” Regarding discrimination, she continued, “we don’t see too much of that here in Park Ex. We’re all from different parts of the world and we all share.
Be ‘friendly,’ she said
“When you’re out there and you’re walking down the street you see people from different origins,” added Deros. “Why not say hello?” she suggested. “Say bonjour, hi, and make contact because it makes people happy.
“When you greet people it breaks down the walls and we all become friends from the same family. It doesn’t matter what colour, what origin, what differences we have: what counts is that we are human. We are all brothers and sisters, and this is an example that I give all the time.”
Racism real, said MNA
Also addressing the crowd, Laurier-Dorion Québec solidaire MNA Andrés Fontecilla noted that his party has been dealing extensively since the provincial election last October dealing with issues involving discrimination and racism used against many in Quebec’s minorities.
He said that he and QS remain “highly critical” of the current Coalition Avenir Québec government, which drafted Bill 21, the legislation banning anyone wearing a religious symbol from working in many key government jobs.
Criticizes CAQ gov’t
“The actions of the government are having a particular impact on the communities living here in Park Extension,” Fontecilla said. “In many instances, we have become the targets for racism and discrimination.
“Many of our brothers and sisters have also been victims of hateful attacks. Quebec is not racist, although unfortunately there are racists in Quebec. What we want is a society that is just and equitable.”