Martin C. Barry
The Himalaya Seniors of Quebec continued a theme begun several months ago, with a third conference/seminar held at the William Hingston Centre on Sept. 29 on discrimination and racism and the possible impact they have on people living in highly multicultural and ethnic Park Extension.
While the previous events invited public officials as well as others to come forward and speak on the topic, this time scholars and persons with educational or academic backgrounds, as well as a few local officials, expressed their views on the potentially sensitive topic.
Longtime Park Extension resident and PEYO vice-president Perry Calce, who is also attached to Concordia University’s School of Community and Public Affairs, referred to racism and discrimination as “nothing else than ugly walls that are there to separate us.
Barriers to overcome
“I believe that we are all the same,” he said. “There’s only one race and it’s the human race. We all have the same needs, we all believe the same way, we all want the same thing: for our children to be happy.”
Rose Ngo Ndjel of Afrique au féminin said discrimination does indeed exist and there are avenues within the public system to draw attention to the problem, while finding solutions to the problem in individual cases. “We do not close our eyes to problems like this,” she said, noting the importance of dealing with racism and discrimination when necessary.
Who hasn’t known racism?
Allan Siddiqui posed the question: “Is there anyone among you who has never been the victim of discrimination?” As no one answered, he suggested the experience is very common, especially among minorities. Muhammad Zafar suggested that racism and discrimination are not in fact very complicated when you get down to it.
“We want everyone should become like we are,” he said, suggesting that perceived differences between people cause some to discriminate. “So that is why we should respect others. That is the main thing. If I am born into a Muslim family and I say everyone should be Muslim then this is wrong. Everyone has their own religion.”
All potentially racist
Gloria Fernandez of Cuisines et vies collectives Saint-Roch suggested that racism is practiced by virtually all people. “It comes from both sides,” she said. “We should respect each other. For many years, we at Cuisines collectives have practiced a great openness and respected people’s customs and traditions.”
Other speakers who shared their views included Paramjeet Singh Bawa of Park Extension, Rosalie Di Lollo who is the interim executive-director of the Centre Génération Emploi on Parc Ave., Elizabeth Dembil who is the executive-director of Carrefour de Liaison et d’Aide Multi-ethnique (CLAM), local city councillor Mary Deros and Borough Mayor Giuliana Fumagalli.
About Himalaya Seniors
For the last twenty-two years Himalaya Seniors of Quebec has played a vital role in uniting and building bridges between the various South Asian, African and Latino communities in Park Extension, while fighting against racism and discrimination in order that all should live like brothers and sisters as one united family.
The most recent event included speeches, workshops and a question period. A few moments were observed mid-way through in remembrance of people who have recently been suffering from the changing political situation in Kashmir, India. Refreshments were also served and everyone was welcome.