Editorial: Multicultural festival celebrates diversity while uniting community

It’s been said over the past few years that “diversity is strength.” Although a pleasant sentiment, it’s not entirely true. Respect for diversity is strength.

Memories are made at events like the Westman Multicultural Festival.

While many Prairie residents venture south for a week or two of sunshine, heat, beaches and a change in atmosphere, those who are not able to escape Westman’s winter climate can, in the very least, taste what their missing.

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In fact, based on the food, beverages, music, dance and other attractions, one can close their eyes and imagine they are on an African or Caribbean island; touring an Asian or South American community; or experiencing a visit to a European country. All of this with little cost, no flights and the advantage of getting to know your neighbor a little better than before.

The 16th annual Westman Multicultural Festival runs from Jan. 31 to Feb. 2 at venues located throughout the city. This year’s roster of pavilions includes representation from Mauritius, England, Honduras, India, Jamaica, the Métis community, Philippines, Mexico, Scotland and Ukraine. Admission to the festival is free with a wide variety of food and drinks available for purchase at each site.

The festival provides the best opportunity a “stay-cation” can offer. Even public transportation is provided from venue to venue free of charge. In essence, it’s a tour of the world in your own backyard.

Considering the area’s ever-widening cultural demographics, events such as this should only see growth. In fact, organizers of the Westman Multicultural Festival are preparing for this to happen. The organization’s secretary, Gautum Srivastava, told the Westman Journal that a festival containing up to 15 cultural pavilions is within sight.

This trend is not only good for immigrant Canadians arriving in the region, but is a perfect opportunity for long-time residents to welcome new neighbors to the community. Not only do we get to learn about the traditions and lifestyles of people from areas many would have little opportunity to visit, the festival is a perfect opportunity to strengthen the unity required in a safe, healthy community.

Immersed in Canadian culture on a daily basis, new Manitobans get ample chances to learn about those of us born and raised on the Prairies. The festival allows us to turn the tables, giving long-time Canadians an opportunity to experience life through the eyes of someone from another part of the world.

Plus, the more we understand each other, the greater respect we have for one another.

It’s been said over the past few years that “diversity is strength.” Although a pleasant sentiment, it’s not entirely true. Respect for diversity is strength. What truly makes us strong as Westman residents, Manitobans and Canadians is what ties us together; what unites us as a people living in the same part of this country. Strength is a communal atmosphere that allows us to find our shared principles, values and philosophies.

This unity can only be derived by getting to know each other, whatever our traditional or cultural backgrounds. We will always have our differences, but learning more about our neighbor is not only healthy for our own well-being, but the well-being of our community generationally.

There is little doubt things are changing within Canada’s cultural fabric. That will continue. The Westman Multicultural Festival is a perfect venue for many of us to learn about the diverse backgrounds that make up our citizenry while holding onto the knowledge that we are all Canadians.

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