By SARAH VEENSTRA
On the evening of Feb. 27, the final Syrian refugee of the 25,000 the Liberals planned to bring in, landed on Canadian soil. The moment marked the end of phase one of the Liberals’ resettlement plan for Syrian refugees in 2016.
It was the perfect occasion to kick off Conestoga College’s Cultural Diversity Week which is presented twice a year by Student Life.
The opening ceremony, which was held on Feb. 29, commenced with a speech from Student Life programmer and chair of the event Laura Black, followed by a performance from Fusion Girls, who choreographed a dance for the occasion.
The event, which was held until March 4, offered numerous activities including Qigong Moving Meditation on Wednesday and henna tattoos on Thursday.
“The main activity this year was the displays by Campus Service Learning Projects and it’s something I was excited about,” said Black. “We’ve had students working on these projects for over a month now. They’ve each picked a culture and have researched it and are able to talk about it while having the information on display. They also have an interactive activity at each table and there’s lots of variety. From food sampling, to writing in different languages, to actually participating in sport activities, it just depends on the culture.”
Another part of Cultural Diversity Week is the film Human, which will be screened for different classes at several of Conestoga’s campuses.
“We screened the film for the first time last year and it went so well, we knew we had to do it again,” said Black. “It’s an internationally acclaimed film with an international movement. It has different human stories answering the same questions from across the world. It’s an opportunity to pose questions and think critically about how we, as humans, have progressed over the years. It makes you wonder if we’re really that different. It’s a really interesting piece.”
Started approximately nine years ago, Cultural Diversity Week aims to celebrate the cultural differences in our society, something that Canada, as a country, prides itself on.
“It really started by wanting to welcome and build an inclusive campus for everyone,” said Black. “It’s expanded beyond that. We’re getting a larger influx of international students, refugees and immigrants, so it’s really important that we celebrate it and keep it growing at this point. This event is a great way to showcase that and get everyone involved in the discussion. It creates dialogue between different communities. Going somewhere new can sometimes be isolating and people, especially if they’re homesick, will try to find people who come from that same culture. But this is an opportunity to break out of those comfort zones and bring cultures together.”
Celebrating diversity and learning about heritage is something that one student admits she can appreciate first-hand.
“I was born in Canada but my mom wasn’t,” said Margaret Tavares, a first-year computer programming student. “She came to Canada from the Philippines when she was 29. Growing up, it was very obvious that I was Filipino. Some of the foods that we ate were odd to some people, stuff like that. Then last year, I was able to travel to the Philippines for the first time with my mom and meet her family for my cousin’s wedding. It just opened my eyes to the culture and it made me understand some things about my mom that maybe I didn’t before. Learning about other cultures creates an open-mindedness that I think everyone could use a little more of.”