Celebration time for Ethnocultural Council of Manitoba

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At a time when police-reported hate crimes are on the rise in Canada, multicultural Manitoba is thumbing its nose at the haters in a big, happy way.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 04/12/2018 (1396 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

At a time when police-reported hate crimes are on the rise in Canada, multicultural Manitoba is thumbing its nose at the haters in a big, happy way.

On Thursday night, an alliance of cultural groups that’s grown in size and diversity since forming this summer is celebrating strength in numbers. Hundreds of members of more than 30 cultural and ethnic organizations that make up the Ethnocultural Council of Manitoba are gathering for an event dubbed Stronger Together.

It’s a Folklorama-flavoured celebration for new and old groups who’ve banded together to share ideas and resources and to have a united voice, said event organizer Reuben Garang of Immigration Partnership Winnipeg.

Members of the Manitoba Ethnocultural Council Nour Ali (from left), Jennifer Chen, Othello Wesee, Reuben Garang, Muuxi Adam, Rose Kimani and Wanda Yamamoto will celebrate the province's diversity Thursday at a community celebration. (John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press files)

The council is made up of long-established organizations such as the Japanese Cultural Association of Manitoba and the African Communities of Manitoba Inc., and newer groups such as the Kurdish Initiative for Refugees and the Yazidi Association of Manitoba, Garang said.

The Ethnocultural Council of Manitoba formed in June, and one of its first initiatives was to get out the vote in the October municipal election. The council worked with Immigration Partnership Winnipeg on the Got Citizenship? Go vote! campaign that played host to workshops for new voters and a Winnipeg mayoral forum.

“This is a good thing for the community, for the city, for the province and the country,” said Garang, adding the groups are learning about each others cultures, sharing information and helping each other with integration.

“One of the values of the council is being open to diversity within the group itself,” he said. “There are minorities within the groups.

“Youths, women and people of different sexual orientations will have a voice. This is a cross section.”

Thursday’s event at Canad Inns Polo Park is a chance for the local ethnocultural community to unite and celebrate their accomplishments. Many ethnocultural groups are doing a lot of informal, unpaid after-hours work helping newcomers resettle, said Garang, who knows from first-hand experience as a leader in the South Sudanese community.

“When offices are closed, we are there to provide services,” he said. “If a new family comes and wants to see a doctor for an emergency at night, they will call people from their communities.”

He pointed to the Yazidi Association of Manitoba as one such group. Its director, Hadji Hesso, who came to Canada as a refugee 18 years ago, has been helping many of the 302 Yazidis who arrived as government-assisted refugees in the last two years.

“For our communities to be integrated, they have to be part of the bigger community,” said Hesso.

Many of the recent Yazidi newcomers who escaped genocide in northern Iraq don’t feel safe yet, he said, adding the council is working to build trust among communities.

“You need to trust others to integrate into the society here,” said Hesso.

According to the latest numbers available from Statistics Canada, in 2016, police reported 1,409 criminal incidents in Canada that were motivated by hate, an increase of three per cent than reported the previous year.

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Legislature reporter

After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.

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