Aché Brasil performs at the 2018 Surrey Fusion Festival. The annual event is one of the recipients of federal multiculturalism funding announced at Newton Cultural Centre on Sept. 6. (File photo: Ryan McLeod)

MINTY: Surrey Fusion Festival a fine fit for federal multicultural funding

In Surrey, feds announce $3.5M for events/projects that promote diversity, education and inclusion

By Melanie Minty, arts columnist

Diversity is at the heart of our national identity – so says our federal government.

The Government of Canada not only states their commitment to diversity, they have put their money where their mouth is, so to speak.

Last Friday (Sept. 6) in Surrey, Harjit Sajjan, Minister of National Defence and MP for Vancouver South, did speak out and announced federal investments of more than $3.5 million to B.C. in support of multiculturalism, community activities and events and anti-racism initiatives throughout the province.

In June 2019, the feds announced an investment of $45 million for Building a Foundation for Change: Canada’s Anti-Racism Strategy 2019-2022. This strategy is to help advance the vision of fostering and promoting a more inclusive and equitable country for all Canadians. Sounds impressive, but that is a big chore and challenge. Sometimes it is just human nature to distrust or dislike other humans who do not think, look or act the same way we do. It is sort of like telling a dysfunctional family to love one another. Right?

This funding announced Sept. 6 was disbursed to 47 organizations across B.C. to support events and projects that promote diversity, education and inclusion.

• READ MORE: $3.5M boost for B.C. multicultural, anti-racism initiatives announced in Surrey.

But that is not my story this week.

My story is about the Arts Council of Surrey. The feds made their announcement at Newton Cultural Centre, home to the arts council, among five Surrey-based organizations to benefit from the funding. It was designated for Surrey Fusion Festival.

Arts council president Carol Girardi had this to say: “The Arts Council of Surrey is grateful to the Government of Canada for their generous support of Surrey Fusion Festival. This festival is B.C.’s largest multicultural event and is known as the ultimate celebration of food, music, culture, and the literary, performing and visual arts. Working with the City of Surrey, the Arts Council of Surrey is able to utilize this important funding to continue celebrating our creative diversity.”

So yes, thank you, federal government, for this initiative, and when it comes to promoting diversity, harmony and respect for different cultures, Surrey Fusion Festival gets top marks. More than 100,000 people attended this year’s festival in July, and it certainly was a celebration of the arts and multiculturalism. There is food, dance, art and music from around the world — not just one ethnic group. Get Canadian poutine, and watch bhangra dance and then visit the Canadian pavilion (hosted by the arts council) and learn more about notable Canadians and other fun facts. All in all, this Fusion Festival absolutely defines and exemplifies what this new federal strategy hopes to accomplish: promote intercultural acceptance and awareness of all cultures and traditions. It is amazing.

I’m not done yet praising the arts council for their contribution to the Surrey Fusion Festival. We in Surrey are famous for this festival, just in case you missed that fact. In January this year, Surrey Fusion Festival was honoured with the 2019 International Award for Best Festival at the Special Events Magazine gala in San Diego. So, we have official recognition that it is the best and, even better, it is free for all to attend. No admission charge. It is for everyone, and about everyone who lives here. I think it truly represents and presents the very heart and soul of this new federal initiative. The Arts Council of Surrey is volunteer-power at its best.

While not everyone, apparently, is in favor of diversity and multiculturalism as a good thing, I am voting for the continuing efforts of the Arts Council of Surrey and events like Surrey Fusion Festival. We can celebrate our differences, speak different languages, have differing styles in clothing. Personally, I feel if you can’t dance in it, don’t wear it – but that is just me. The Arts Council of Surrey accepts and celebrates who I am and what I contribute to the community and opens the doors for education and understanding. It’s called respect. What a concept.

Melanie Minty writes twice monthly for the Now-Leader. Email her at melminty@telus.net.

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