Cyclists roll into Surrey schools with message of respect and diversity

NEWTON — Hundreds of Surrey students left school Thursday with a simple request at the top of their minds – make friends with kids from a different heritage or culture.

"If you’re brown, go make friends with someone who is Caucasian or Asian," Ken Herar encouraged the packed gymnasium at Newton’s Khalsa School. "Our country is going to get even more multicultural as the days go by so make sure you are connected to your community and other Canadians."

Herar is the founder of Cycling4Diversity, an eight-member team of cyclists that brought its message of respect and equality to two Surrey schools on May 21. Herar started Cycling4Diversity in 2010 after he found out he was not welcome at a certain Christmas party because he was South Asian.

Now in its fifth year, the initiative has visited about 100 schools throughout B.C. During this year’s four-day tour, Cycling4Diversity brought its message to 16 schools in 11 different cities in B.C., including five in the Okanagan and two Khalsa schools in Surrey.

Cycling diversity
Students welcome team members from Cycling4Diversity to their Khalsa School in Newton on Thursday. (Photo: BEAU SIMPSON)

"They were excited to have us," said Herar. "Hopefully they can take that message and spread it into their homes and communities because we struggle with diversity in some Lower Mainland communities.

"If we’re all going to live together, we have to make it work."

Anne-Marie Sjoden is Cycling4Diversity’s executive director. She encouraged students to say hello to kids they might not usually talk to.

"You kids in Grade 7, maybe you could introduce yourselves to the younger kids and let them know who you are," she said. "If you see someone sitting in the corner being very shy, why don’t you go over and introduce yourselves?

"Would you do that for me?" she asked the students, who replied with a resounding, "Yes!"

On Monday, after the tour wrapped up in Abbotsford, Herar told the Now that the tour’s the main message resonated with students – mainly, that  regardless of our heritage and religion, we are all Canadian.

And like a true Canadian, Herar closed the interview using an analogy close to this country’s heart – hockey.

"We should all have Caucasian friends, we should all have friends from different backgrounds and we should be playing hockey in the streets with all those people," he said. "It’s not just East Indians vs. the white team. We’re all on the same team here in Canada."

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