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Comment: Signs of a paradigm shift to more diversity and inclusion for South Asians

A commentary by a lifelong Saanich resident.
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Adithi Bariki dances during the Gordy Dodd music festival during the One World Celebration at Centennial Square on Monday. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

Reflecting on some events from the past week, I’ve come to the conclusion that there may just be a paradigm shift to more diversity and inclusion for South Asians on the South Island.

First, my youngest daughter and I attended this year’s Victoria Day Parade, which was full of the always amazing school marching bands and Shrine clowns. However, it seemed there were more floats included from various ethnic communities. What really stood out for me was that the parade’s ambassador was Gordy Dodd of Dodd’s Furniture. If you don’t know him, he is a local philanthropist who has gone over and above to support the community.

Following the parade, we skipped over to Centennial Square for the inaugural One World celebration, where again, we saw Gordy Dodd as the key representative. In addition, we were greeted by many other local South Asian community members supporting the cause and ready to participate in the day’s events.

When speaking with other community representatives, I was surprised that they were the ones initiating conversations about Indian culture, Indian dancing, foods and their love for South Asians in their close circle of friends. It had become normalized in their minds.

At the event, my daughter bumped into a new classmate — a young white girl who was so excited to see my daughter you could feel the positive energy. She was a newcomer from Ukraine and had only been in Victoria for three months.

I quickly asked to meet her parents to see how I could help these new immigrants.

A feeling of privilege consumed me, I’ve never felt more Canadian, and I had this overwhelming sense of belonging.

Following the One World celebrations, I was asked to attend an event for a political party’s local riding association. That day it became very clear I haven’t been paying enough attention to the significance of the president and her background — a South Asian woman, dedicated to what she believes is helpful community support.

At the event, I met many people from different cultures, including leaders from Victoria’s African and Muslim communities. Again, I found myself discussing the beauty of my home in Saanich and the positive stores of raising my three daughters, while offering help to those who are new to this place.

Following that event, I was to meet my parents and representatives of the local Hindu community to celebrate a certificate of merit for my dad — the president of the temple — and the Hindu temple executive. The award was offered by Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes, and it acknowledged the efforts of the group toward supporting all those in need in the community.

To top it off, Minister of National Defence Anita Anand was invited to meet the community and witness the certificate offering, and graciously she accepted. There I was, with my family watching my mom and dad being recognized by the mayor while the first South Asian female minister of national defence watched on. A very powerful moment.

I will note that all of this was happening with the backdrop of a very hateful memory. This same weekend we saw emails from Premier John Horgan and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recognizing the awful acts of those who spoke out against a “Hindoo invasion” when word came of the Komagata Maru steamship from India in the spring of 1914.

I know there are and will continue to be days of sadness and hate in our community due to racism and exclusion. I felt it personally not long ago when I was verbally accosted for being a Hindu.

However, this week was a time to feel proud. A week to feel happy that there are positive steps being made towards inclusion.

It needs to be acknowledged there are many local, supportive people who should be thanked for their efforts toward diversity and their openness to learning about other cultures and faiths. This learning will continue to build community and these communities will be better for all.

For what it’s worth, thank you. Thank you to those who have welcomed me and are welcoming others to join us in this amazing place.

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