My latest Edmonton Sun column: Extending the Heritage Festival spirit

Consider this, if you will, as Cam’s Challenge.

On Monday evening, under sunny skies and a crimson sunset over the mighty North Saskatchewan River — right, Environment Canada? — volunteers and staff of this year’s Edmonton Heritage Festival will trudge through Hawrelark Park to start the massive operation of tear down.

Tents from the 100 countries and 71 cultures will be folded and taken for safe storage until next year.

Stages, too: in fact, 25 of them, which supported singers, and dancers, who performed traditional entertainment from countries around the world, will be rolled down the road and out of the park onto Groat Road.

When the last piece of garbage is picked up, when the last tent peg is tugged out of the ground, and when that final inspection is completed, slaps on the back, hugs, hearty and meaningful handshakes will be aplenty.

Those four magical and enthusiastic words after every successful event will be declared, as is always the case.

“See you next year.”

And then the tireless teardown team will head their separate ways with so many memories of the festival.

New friends.

New customs learned.

And, of course, new favourite dishes never tried before.

Perhaps the most singular splendor Heritage Days so compassionately embraces — besides collecting needed food for the Food Bank of Edmonton — is how it brings us together.

We don’t utter hurtful and uncalled-for racial slurs. Rather, we engage with wide curiosities — and appetites, of course — to learn about others.

Our pride comes across in volumes when we share the heritage from which we come. In doing so, then, we are giving valuable information to others on our beliefs, ceremonies and cultures.

Such openness lends itself to the potential opportunity of working together … to come together, in unison, for the good of our community so we all have the unlimited potential as caring friends and neighbours.

Despite where we come from.

If it only were only that easy.

In doing some minor research, we find a Statistics Canada report from 2015. The report’s finding are, indeed, staggering: hate crimes in our country were up five per cent from the year previous.

Dig a little deeper and the numbers are even more alarming. Almost half of the 1,362 hate crimes were motivated by race.

Alberta? Wish you didn’t ask.

A 2017 newspaper story said police responded to 139 hate crimes in 2014. The next year, the numbers were the same, but, unfortunately, in a different order: 193.

And, it was one of the highest increases in Canada.

I admit the material is a few years old. Yet, it needs to be recognized with paramount reflection.

It’s a vast contrast to what the Heritage Festival promotes and celebrates.

We look forward to the 2019 festival when, once again, we gather as citizens with different backgrounds.

Not different perceived agendas.

Let’s hope the spirit of the festival rings loud and clear throughout the following dozen months to keep our community safe.

Challenge accepted?

Advertisements