Kamloops Immigrant Services (KIS) in collaboration with Kamloops North Shore BIA held their 12th annual Walk to Embrace Diversity last Thursday, coinciding with the United Nations Day for Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Participants gathered at the historic Wilson House (115 Tranquille Road) and marched up Tranquille Road from the Kamloops North Shore BIA office to partake in a multicultural open house at the KIS office, featuring international foods and performances.
In response to the recent mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand, the walk was prefaced with a heartfelt statement from Jennifer Thompson on behalf of Kathy Sinclair and solemn speeches from criminal justice and human rights lawyer Bill Sundhu and Dale Bass on behalf of mayor Ken Christian.
“The United Nations proclaimed the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in 1966, every year, March 21 is recognized as a day where the international community can come together in an effort to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination,” said Sundhu. “We condemn nationalist populism and any form of racial superiority ideology that advances exclusionary or repressive policies and practices that harm individuals or groups on the basis of their race, ethnicity, national origin and religion or other related social categories.”
On behalf of the Muslim Islamic Association, Muqsit Faruqi shared a few words on the recent shootings and the value of events like the Walk to Embrace Diversity.
“These events are important to show that as a community we care about certain issues that are far too prevalent in our world these days; we are here because we care about putting an end to racism and discrimination,” he said. “We are all human, we are born the same way, we all need the same things to survive and live and we all die.”
“No matter the colour of our skin, we bleed red and all end up in the ground, let’s remember that the next time we act on our biases towards someone that is different from us,” Faruqi added.
Kamloops Immigrant Services along with TRU World and 51 other organizations in the Thompson, North, Central, and South Okanagan regions are members of the Respect Network, a regional network to support communities advocating against racism and hate, supported by Embrace BC. According to France Lamontagne, executive director of Kamloops Immigration, the original idea behind the diversity walk was thanks to the Respect Network.
“It started with the Respect Network, which is about four organizations coming together (one per region) from the Okanagan,” she said. “It’s a regional kind of group of people assisting each other, sharing success stories, sharing new approaches to help newcomers arrive and settle.”
Lamontagne adds that the Diversity Walk is made possible by the B.C. Multiculturalism Grants program, an initiative to help organizations with projects work to improve cultural interactions, reduce barriers and remove discrimination.