Celebrating our diversity

2018 Multicultural Community Champions celebrated in Vernon at the Sunshine Festival.

The 2018 Multicultural Community Champions were officially introduced to the public at the Vernon Sunshine Festival on Saturday. These newest Champions were nominated by the public earlier this year and are being acknowledged for their commitment to supporting their culture and diversity in our community.

Annette Sharkey, Executive Director of the Social Planning Council of the North Okanagan says the program, now in its third year, recognizes the many and varied contributions of these individuals to our community such as education, inclusiveness, cultural diversity, economic benefits, and volunteerism.

“What gave us the idea for it the first year was that we knew there were these amazing people in our community doing all kinds of volunteer work, doing really brilliant things in their career and we wanted the opportunity to really highlight all of our community’s cultures and what they were doing in our community and that diversity is a strength,” said Sharkey. “A lot of these people are very humble and doing their work in the background and that can be intimidating to ask someone to come forward and tell their story. We just feel really honoured that people are interested and willing to nominate and have people come forward and share what they do.”

The goal of the Multicultural Community Champion program is to celebrate diversity by highlighting the contributions of local residents. Sharkey says the purpose is two-fold.

“We want to honour our first people — it’s important to acknowledge the cultures that were here before colonization, honour our indigenous peoples and help the community understand that they are champions sharing their culture and being generous with their stories,” she said. “We also wanted to look at people coming from all over the world and settling in Vernon as well because the immigrant story is one of courage. The idea is to have the community learn about the cultural richness that we have in Vernon.”

The 11 individuals named as 2018 Multicultural Community Champions include: Aly Aly and Lynn Aly, Aurora Munro, Frank Marchand, Janice Ouchi Buick, Lane Brewer, Lin Tsan, Min Sidhu, Paramjit Singh Janda, Ruby Sharma, and Val Richards.

Criteria for the nominees was that they be connected to a diverse cultural background, contribute back to our community through entrepreneurship, career, stewardship, mentorship or volunteerism, and are willing to share their cultural story publicly.

The funding for this initiative was provided by the Province of BC. The Social Planning Council is the host agency for the Vernon Local Immigration Partnership Council as well as the Thompson Okanagan Respect Network.

Following the public ceremony, champions were celebrated with a luncheon at Eclectic Med Restaurant. Here, North Okanagan MP Mel Arnold congratulated champions and thanked the nominators.

“It’s amazing to be recognized by your peers and by the community,” said Arnold. “To come to an event like this and see the culture that we have in Vernon — our Sikh community, our Chinese community, our Korean community, our Indigenous community, our Metis community — it’s impossible to name everyone, but to see all those cultures come together in the same room and appreciate each other is rare in this world. There’s not many countries in the world that you would see that so we are fortunate to have that sort of recognition here in Canada and here in Vernon.”

Profiles will be submitted to the Morning Star throughout the year. Each month, we plan to publish one of the champion’s stories. Stay tuned.

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