When Bela Ravi, the president of the Multicultural and Folk Arts Association, moved to Sudbury some 25 years ago, she said if she saw a person of East Indian descent, she knew them, and if she didn’t know them, it was because they were new to town.
That isn’t the case in 2022, she said during the Diversity Day event at the Grace Hartman Amphitheatre in Bell Park on July 30. Thanks, in part to the federal Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot project, the Nickel City has seen an influx of new cultures and new residents in recent years.
With these changing demographics can come some pushback from people uncomfortable with change, which makes sharing a message that Canada, by its very nature and history, is a country that celebrates the differences between people, Ravi said.
“The message (of the day) was very good,” Ravi said, offering a reminder that being accepting to diversity isn’t solely about race — it is also about “culture, faith, body shape, disability” and more.
The influx of new, non-white faces has resulted in some friction, Ravi said. At the event, she spoke with a person with, just the night before, had been subject to a racist tirade at a convenience store. Early this month, a video featuring a man hurling racist insults at a patron of another convenience store was investigated by police and resulted in charges.
Ravi said she has been receiving calls from immigrant parents as well, regarding challenges their children are having in school in Sudbury.
These are all examples, she said, of why learning to celebrate differences rather than fear them is so important.
“When it comes to racial problems, it’s education that we need,” she said.
Ravi spoke at the event, as did Mayor Brian Bigger, who brought a message of welcome.
The special guest at the event was Christopher Mark D’souza, an author, motivational speaker and equity and human rights strategist.
He said encouraging people to be more understanding of one another’s differences, and not to fear those differences, is a big part of what he does. Working sometimes with DancingFire.events, D’souza works with schools, organizations and corporations on how they can make positive changes to be more inclusive of everyone.
But it starts with children. “Kids are sponges,” said the author of “Why Are All the Taxi Drivers…?” (which has been turned into a stage production by YES Theatre in Sudbury) and other books for children.
Part of what he does is demonstrating “the impact language can have on the world around us,” in both positive and negative ways.
And while the message was important, the event was also about having fun. There were crafts, cotton candy and swimming to be had as well.
The Greater Sudbury Public Library was on hand for story-time for families. Staff from the Art Gallery of Sudbury hosted an afternoon craft session, too.
Representatives of the Wordstock Literary Festival and Latitude 46 were also on hand.