Sudbury

Diversity celebrated while work continues to eliminate racism in Sudbury

There was cautious optimism and a renewed commitment to eliminate racial discrimination at an event in Sudbury on Wednesday where the city's police chief delivered the keynote speech.

Greater Sudbury Police Diversity Advisory Committee hosts annual luncheon

Sandhya Khurana and Navreet Kudari are both members of the Diversity Advisory Committee with Greater Sudbury Police Service. That group organizes the annual Elimination of Racial Discrimination luncheon for the community. (Angela Gemmill/CBC)

There was cautious optimism and a renewed commitment to eliminate racial discrimination at an event in Sudbury on Wednesday where the city's police chief delivered the keynote speech.

The crowd at the luncheon for the  International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination attracted people from different cultures, backgrounds, ages, and religious beliefs. There were police officers, city councillors, students, and journalists.

It's an annual event organized by the Diversity Advisory Committee with Greater Sudbury Police, and is meant to celebrate the progress the community has made in reducing racism.

Sudbury Police Chief Paul Pedersen says police are trying to build bridges with various groups throughout the community.

Police officers are trained to be culturally aware, he says, but there are also programs in place at Greater Sudbury Police Service to build better relationships with groups like young and Indigenous people.

"It's about breaking down the barriers and showing that behind uniforms we're people. I'm Paul. But on the other side it's our officers learning about other cultures, other traditions and learning how to serve their needs," he said.

Pedersen admits more work needs to be done.

"While we may not be in the newspapers like some other communities or some other countries. It doesn't mean we have to stop working," he says.

Understand, respect those who are different

"Seeing all the diversity around is just amazing and its nice to be able to celebrate," says committee member and volunteer Navreet Kudari at the event.

She says discrimination can start at an early age, so it's important to understand and respect of those who may be different from you.

"It's just about recognizing that [discrimination] exists and not letting it impact wonderful relationships that you can form with people," Kudari says.
Diversity Advisory Committee member Yesmina Estevez stands beside a traditional Hunduras dress on display at the annual Elimination of Racial Discrimination luncheon in Sudbury. (Angela Gemmill/CBC)

We all belong

Volunteer Yesmina Estevez, who moved to Canada from Honduras nine years ago, says despite our differences we all share similar goals.

"What is the main characteristics in between all of us? We all have love. We all have respect and we all belong."

Committee member Sandhya Khurana is originally from India, and moved to Canada nine years ago.

She says in India people are fearful of police, so she is pleased the police in Sudbury work to build trust with various populations within the city.

Khurana says discrimination usually happens when someone isn't knowledgeable about a culture different from their own.

"Educate yourself, become more aware. I think that is the biggest problem. When people are discriminating, they're not understanding certain behaviours or certain cultural rituals and what not. Get yourself aware," she says.

Khurana has helped organize the Elimination of Racial Discrimination luncheon for the past several years .

"It's an opportunity to bring all kinds of people together."

Living in a world that accepts everybody

Pedersen says as various cultural populations grow in Sudbury, police have to continue to work at understanding on an individual level.

"How can I show respect and inclusivity at everybody's house," he says.

"We have to focus on understanding what it's like to come to a new country, how we can allow people to be who they, but still be a part of Canada," Pedersen says.  

"Bringing new people into our community welcoming new people into the community it really is about us all living in a world that we can accept everybody," Pedersen says.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Angela Gemmill

Journalist

Angela Gemmill is a CBC journalist who has covered news in Sudbury, Ont., for 14 years. Connect with her on Twitter @AngelaGemmill. Send story ideas to angela.gemmill@cbc.ca

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