News Local

Carman group explores multicultural event options

Emily Distefano, The Carman Valley Leader


Carman-Dufferin residents have met twice over the last few weeks to explore the possibility of hosting a multicultural event this year, but while the idea was well received it may never happen if enough people don’t volunteer to organize it.

Susan Mooney gathered the first group together in the basement of the Memorial Hall on January 31 to talk about hosting a family event showcasing the different cultures that make up the community in honour of Canada’s 150th birthday.

Inspired by a letter to the editor calling on communities to celebrate Canada 150 in their own, personalized ways, as well as the success of her hometown’s Culturama event, her work with the Boyne Regional Library Initiative meant to help connect people in the community, and conversations with friends like Rita Bisht, who also attended the meetings, Mooney thought a multicultural “community party” would be a great idea for this area.

Similar events have cropped up in Winkler, Morden and Altona over the past few years.

And while Carman used to host a Multicultural Day at the Dufferin Historical Museum, it was canceled in 2014 due to a lack of volunteer help.

At a quick count, there are at least 25 different cultures represented in Carman and Dufferin, including Morocco, Germany, El Salvador, Australia, France, Russia, South Korea, Egypt, the Philippines, Syria and more.

That first meeting drew about a dozen enthusiastic people who voted unanimously that some sort of multicultural event should happen this year. Participants discussed hosting a family-friendly, day or evening event complete with cultural food, entertainment, and children’s activities, with the goal of celebrating the area’s diversity and giving different people a chance to get to know each other better.

On February 15, though, the second meeting only drew five people – including the reporter. So whether anything actually ends up happening will depend on whether people in the community are interested in making it a reality.

Starting the conversation

Those who are interested in getting something started can contact Susan Mooney, Rita Bisht or Mohamed Ouihya.

But beyond planning for a single multiculturalism event, Mooney, Bisht and Ouihya hope to start a conversation about how this community can welcome the growing number of newcomers who come from across the province, the country and the globe.

They would like to find ways to celebrate the area’s growing diversity, make connections between old and new residents and strengthen the sense of belonging here for all residents.

Bisht said she hopes starting this conversation spreads more awareness and understanding of the diversity in the community and the ways in which that diversity can enrich everyone.

For her, that means finding opportunities to share the things people from different cultures do, the traditions they have or the festivals they celebrate.

“That way they feel like a more involved part of the community,” she said.

Mohamed Ouihya, who has lived just outside Carman for around 15 years, said it’s as much about giving back as it is about showing other newcomers that they are welcome too.

“I think that the culture, it’s the way how we live,” he said. “And we live here. We want to share our experience with other people.”

And he said it is important to show other newcomers that they are welcome and not alone or isolated.

Carman-Dufferin Economic Development Officer Tyler King attended both meetings as a consultant. He said showcasing the area’s multiculturalism is a benefit to the community as a whole.

“As a Town and RM, I think that it’s important for us to recognize the importance of being inclusive and recognizing everyone that’s a part of our community,” he said. “We are all citizens of this community. We all make up the dynamic of our community, the uniqueness, the fun of where we live.”

If you are interested in exploring the possibility of a 2017 multicultural event, or if you are interested in talking about different ways to connect people in the area, you can contact Rita Bisht at 204-880-0550 or Mohamed Ouihya at 204-745-1934.