Where are we?

¡°DIVERSITY & Vancouver¡±

Finding answers at the Laurier Institution


by Margaret Dorazio-Migliore   Photos y Myungsook Lee



  Read More... DIVERSE special

Read More... Culture Section


































The Laurier Institution strives to get people thinking about issues in a deep way, rather than in a superficial manner. One strategy has been to bring in wonderful keynote speakers, like John Ralston Saul, who have either researched a specific topic or have something special to say.     

In April 2009 John Ralston Saul gave the Annual Mutliculturalism Lecture titled, ¡°The Aboriginal Peoples and New Canadians: The Missing Conversation.¡± He spoke to an enthusiastic, capacity audience at UBC¡¯s Chan Centre. ¡®Imagine so many people turning out for an academic lecture!¡¯ Bev exclaims. She explains that people definitely have an appetite for discussion about diversity and Canadian identity.

Saul¡¯s well-received lecture is based on his best-selling book, A Fair Country: Telling Truths about Canada (Penguin 2008) in which he argues that Canada is a Métis nation. That is, Saul thinks Canadian history demonstrates our strong links to Aboriginal people, links far stronger than those with Europe. UBC Community Affairs says: ¡®He suggests that we are a nation heavily influenced and shaped by aboriginal ideas of egalitarianism, a desire to resolve conflict with negotiation over violence and a commitment to maintaining a balance between the individual and the group.¡¯ (http://www.communityaffairs.ubc.ca/ multiculturalism.html)

Bev and Farid talk excitedly about John Ralston Saul, noting that his work encourages people to think in a different direction. Farid tells us that 3.8% of our Canadian population is composed of Aboriginal people (1st Nations, Inuit, and Métis) and, according to Saul, it is their approach, not a European approach, which has shaped us as Canadians. The Aboriginal way of relating to strangers is an acceptance of outsiders who are invited to eat together ¡®around the same bowl¡¯ and rivers are a way to connect, not, according to European traditions, a way to divide.

The Institution is building on its Dialogue of 2005 (¡°What is the Future of Multiculturalism in B.C.?¡±) and its highly successful multi-media series, Diversity/Vancouver, for its Diversity Summit 2010. The Institution wants a presence when the world is focused on Vancouver, as it hosts the Winter Olympics and the Vancouver Paralymics Games, to help showcase a model of diversity that works by being inclusive.

 Staff are also busy revamping their website by November 2009. Podcasts of all previous Multiculturalism Lectures will be posted there, and the successful Online Forum should be promoted within the year.

The Online Forum aims to uphold one of the Institution¡¯s core values: the unity of Canada. It will use technology to enhance harmonies and address concerns within the community. As Farid notes, the community will be invited to suggest topics around which discussion can take place. Then, he says, ¡®We¡¯ll open it up!¡¯

Bev believes there is still controversy in society over the value of cultural diversity. Some people think it fragments society, fracturing it into separate groups struggling against one another. While people at the Laurier believe it does exactly the opposite: ¡®It brings us all together because we respect one another and our diverse cultures.¡¯ She also notes that not only is Canada becoming more and more diverse, we depend on immigration for our workforce, so promoting integration is highly important.

Canada is a model other countries can emulate and Bev tells us that, ¡®a lot of countries come to study what has been happening here in diversity. It¡¯s not perfect, but we are way further ahead.¡¯

We have come a long way, but Vancouver¡¯s demography has changed. In the 1960s there were about 70,000 people of Chinese ancestry in Vancouver, for example. But the so-called ¡°visible minorities¡± are no longer minorities; they are the majority. Although it has been difficult for some people to accept, there are many positive changes occurring in the workplace and elsewhere in Vancouver. People are adapting to new, culturally diverse relationships and Vancouverites, according to Farid and Bev, are open to discussing areas of tension.

There¡¯s also a warning sounded. Although we have come a long way towards cultural inclusiveness, there¡¯s always the danger of slipping back into old ways so it¡¯s a time for ¡®monitoring and vigilance,¡¯ especially given recent setbacks in terms of equity and human rights, such as the disappearance of the British Columbia Human Rights Commission.

Bev worries that as immigrant groups become very large, they will become ¡°ethnic silos¡± whose members need not venture outside their own boundaries for anything. Although recognizing the importance of ethnic communities for support, Bev wants to see new immigrants mixing with the general public, and education is needed to facilitate more mutual interaction.

 The Institution also welcomes what Farid refers to as the I-generation or ¡°tech-savvy¡± youth. In addition to face-to-face talks and forums, ¡®Technology allows us to broaden our reach—especially to the younger generation,¡¯ he says. The Institution has access to all kinds of experts and, ¡®Our new website will allow live streaming, video input, and international scope¡¦. So it¡¯s very exciting!¡¯

Information is available on The Laurier Institution¡¯s website regarding membership, talks, online forums and other ways in which people can participate in supporting its goals for inclusiveness and Canadian unity. Its address is: www.thelaurier.ca

In closing, Farid offers a poetic analogy suggesting that cultural diversity is like the variety in a lovely garden and a steppingstone to unity and harmony:

¡®When you think about a garden, the different flowers within that garden make it so beautiful. Because of that diversity, we come together to create a very beautiful picture. We in Canada are a perfect example of this diverse garden, unique in the world, in that we have developed something where we don¡¯t look at each other as different but as similar.¡¯ (The end) Go to previous page




DIVERSE 5th Issue

We are pleased to announce that DIVERSE 5th issue, Summer 2011 has been released.  

12 Diversity in Canadian Workplaces What are the obstacles to a better form of ¡°diversity¡± in the workplace?

- Open Door Group

- BC Workplace Diversity Inclusion Awards

6 BC¡¯s Diversity through 30 portraits



2 ThePower of Exchange A Historic Collaboration between Germany¡¯s

Premiere Art Collections and Canada¡¯s First Nations

28 Ezra Kwizera  Born in Uganda to Rwandese refugee parents, Canadian Musician and genocide  survivor speaks on the art of  forgiveness and of adapting to Canadian culture

42 Dana Claxton  

The Mustang Suite: Questioning mobility, freedom and autonomy 


24 Gung Haggis Fat Choy in Vancouver, BC: The Diversity of Canada      

38 Denise Brillon Breaking barriers in the fashion world



32 Pysanky¡¯s Resurgence

Joan Brander¡¯s contribution to the renaissance in traditional

Ukrainian egg art


10 Publisher¡¯s Note

27 Benefits of being a bilingual writer

31 Canadians come in all differences



35 News Briefs on Multiculturalism

36 Publisher¡¯s Picks


You Can Order Here.

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    DIVERSE......"Each person is born into a unique culture. All deserve respect.¡±