On the Spot by Ken Herar
Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun is someone who has experienced diversity inside and out. It’s inspiring to see the head of our local government sharing his life story that can change how we interact with each other and emphasize that discrimination is not just solely based on skin colour.
Having come from Paraguay to Canada with his family at the age of three and a half, Braun has an amazing story to share. His family knew little English as newcomers to Canada, and that made things difficult at times as they settled in Abbotsford.
I had the opportunity to speak with him over the telephone and he was happy to share stories that illustrate it wasn’t easy for them. He recalls when his mother Margaret made his clothes for him when he was about four and a half when they lived on Bradner Road, he was mocked by other children for being different. Before moving to Brander Road, the Brauns lived in a chicken barn for the first few months.
Braun also remembers running beside his father George while he was cycling, and a car pulled up beside them and spit on his father and said, “DP (displaced person), go home.”
Braun has a lot of empathy for immigrants and refugees. As he puts it, “My parents came with no money.” By the time Braun hit grade school, he was an athlete who excelled at softball, soccer, basketball and track and field. It was also at this time that he had his first diversity experience in Grade 10. His coach, Harry, was South Asian, and Braun has many fond memories of him.
Braun enjoys his visits at the Sikh temples, and members from the community often ask why he hasn’t visited from time to time. He feels he needs an invite and doesn’t want it to appear to be a political gesture; otherwise, he attends on special occasions like Diwali, and gave New Year’s greeting to all three temples.
There are things that can be done to make people in our community more aware of diversity, says Braun, and it should be celebrated and valued.
“When I hear of people in isolation, that bothers me because I know how I felt as a kid.”
With Abbotsford being the third most diverse city in Canada, here’s an excerpt of what Mayor Braun said at his New Year’s greetings at the local Sikh temples:
“Moving into a new year is both reflective and exciting. It’s a time to reflect on the past year … to think about how we have been blessed or been a blessing to others … to think about how we have fallen short, what we have learned and how we have grown. It’s a time to also look forward with excitement and hope for the new year … a new year that is full of opportunities to serve and grow.
“This opportunity for us to have reflective moments is important – it makes us grateful and humble. It helps us to appreciate our fellowship with one another in a community like this, with our families, with our neighbours. It helps us appreciate our faith and the comfort it brings, but also the challenge it sets for us to serve each other and to live in peace and harmony.
“We live in a city shaped by a diverse cultural fabric. This diversity is who we are. It fosters a vibrant and complete community, and it’s something we can all celebrate.”