Three Abbotsford organizations and one individual took home awards at the 17th annual Fraser Valley Cultural Diversity Awards.
The awards were held Thursday, March 12 at Abbotsford’s Quality Inn, with eight organizations or individuals being recognized in six categories.
The event went ahead with several precautions in place including mandatory hand sanitizing stations at food stations. Sanitizer was also available at the podium for presenters and nominees while attendees replaced handshakes and hugs with elbow taps, fist pumps or folded hand greetings.
Manpreet Grewal, director of Multicultural & Immigrant Integration Services at Archway Community Services, acknowledged that this may be the last public gathering for the foreseeable future and thanked those who choose to remain home as needed.
“Our current situation with COVID-19 highlights how we all are connected globally and live in an interdependent world. The wellbeing of one part enhances the conditions of all or vice-versa. With incidents of racist actions based on COVID-19 happening already, it becomes even more important to bring everyone into the fold of inclusion and caring,” Grewal said. “I applaud all our nominees for their continuous efforts in building a safe and equitable society for all and all our guests who have come out to support them and make it an energized evening.”
Returning emcee Free Lee quipped that listening to speaker, JR Larose, a former BC Lions player, would be the closest attendees would be getting to pro sports in while.
Larose shared his deeply personal story of growing up among abuse, addiction and trauma but being able to rise above his circumstances to provide a different life for his own children. He encouraged attendees to get to know each other’s stories to really understand each other. Ranjit Singh provided the evening’s entertainment with his self-described Indo-Canadian Folk music.
Since 2003, community members have nominated businesses, programs, initiatives, schools and leaders that build inclusive and diverse communities in Abbotsford, Mission, Langley and Chilliwack. Archway Community Services presents the event in partnership with the Mission and Chilliwack Community Services as well as the Langley New Directions English Language School.
Donald W. Strangway of Abbotsford, Champion of Diversity – Donald W. Strangway grew up in Angola and what is now known as Zimbabwe. In 1970, he was practicing in BC as a surgeon where he had the opportunity to work with First Nations and learn from their customs. After retiring in 2014 and moving to Abbotsford, Strangway became involved with the United Church, Abbotsford Interfaith Movement and Interfaith Refugee Project. He is a dedicated volunteer helping sponsor and settle refugee families, tutoring newcomers in English and volunteering with grief support programs.
Sabastien Onyemaobi of Mission, Youth Champion of Diversity – Sabastien Onyemaobi, better known by his middle name of Obi, is a prolific volunteer contributing over 1700 hours within his Mission school district. He has helped organize different cultural events and volunteered as an announcer, anthem singer, and awards manager for a variety of organizations. He worked as Constituency Assistant with his local Member of Parliament and was a member of their core campaign team for re-election. He was recently nominated by five community leaders to be a part of the BC Youth Parliament.
Gladwin Heights United Church of Abbotsford, Mission, Inclusive Environment – Small Organizations – Gladwin Heights Church demonstrates intentional inclusion of all classes, races, sexes, ages, abilities, sexual orientations and gender identities in their worship services, outreach activities and events. They ensure their building is accessible; collaborate with other faith groups; and support other agencies in their caring for Abbotsford’s youth, homeless, street entrenched and individuals with addictions.
Fraser Valley Regional Library of Sardis & Chilliwack, Inclusive Environment – Medium & Large Organizations – The Sardis and Chilliwack Libraries make sure they are accessible to the entire community by being open seven days a week as well as providing digital services and outreach programs. They provide free materials that remove barriers associated with education, technology, culture, economics and physical disadvantages. They also offer Conversation Circles for newcomers, cultural celebrations and First Nations storytelling.
Fraser Valley Bandits of Abbotsford, Marketing – The Fraser Valley Bandits market their games to a diverse community through collaborations with a wide array of regional and provincial media outlets in English, Punjabi and Japanese. Their Community Champion Initiative connects sponsors with local charities to provide free tickets for those who face barriers in accessing pro sports and entertainment.
Bakerview Music Academy of Abbotsford, Innovative Initiative – Small & Medium Organizations – Bakerview Music Academy teaches children from a wide variety of cultural backgrounds and builds cross-cultural friendships through making music together. Students not only learn how to play music, they also learn about the origins of each piece which teaches them appreciation for music from around the world. In 2017, Bakerview Music Academy hosted a public fundraiser, called Mosaic of Culture which included music and traditional dances from around the world.
Willowbrook Safeway Extra of Langley, Innovative Initiative – Large Organization – Willowbrook Safeway Extra is committed to building a diverse workforce and an inclusive environment for employees and customers. They launched their Sensory Friendly Shopping experience in March 2019 in partnership with Autism BC. Once a week, the lights are turned down and noise is kept to a minimum to provide a safe space for people with autism and other sensory issues to shop. The initiative has been adopted by other grocery stores across Canada.
Molson Coors of Chilliwack, Effective Human Resources – Molson Coors supports diversity within their company by actively hiring employees who represent their community. Women and visible minorities each make up nearly half of the leadership team and Molson Coors provides opportunities for all employees to grow and move into positions across the world. By ensuring diverse candidate, effective hiring practices, ongoing support, diverse teams and leaders, and unlimited opportunities, Molson Coors in the Fraser Valley is proud to say that their HR strategies are fostering growth within their employees and our communities.