PRAIRIE PRISM — A newcomer from Eritrea presented an African coffee-making demonstration, as well as discussing traditional foods with those attending Prairie Prism Sept. 30 at the Cathedral of the Holy Family in Saskatoon. A celebration of culture and diversity held to mark Culture Days, Prairie Prism was organized by the Saskatoon Refugee Coalition working with a number of partners and sponsors. It included entertainment, displays, arts and crafts demonstrations and food from around the world. (Yaworski photo)
Prairie Prism event highlights diversity of province
By Kiply Lukan Yaworski
SASKATOON — A celebration of diversity, featuring music, artwork, crafts, food and stories from around the world was held Sept. 30 at the Cathedral of the Holy Family in Saskatoon.
The hall and meeting rooms of the diocesan cathedral were filled with activity as hundreds gathered to experience Prairie Prism, initiated this year for the first time by the Saskatoon Refugee Coalition as one of many Culture Days events held across Canada Sept. 28-30.
Elaine Harder, chair of the Prairie Prism organizing committee, said she was delighted with the response to the lively, multi-faceted afternoon event. “This is wonderful,” she said during remarks to the crowd, in which she testified to the growing multi-cultural diversity of the prairie city.
“I feel blessed to count among my friends a growing circle of people from many different parts of the world whose cultures and traditions are different than my own. It brings an indescribable richness to my life and to my beloved country, my province, and my city,” Harder said.
“It is this richness of diversity and this sense of belonging that all of us on the planning committee wanted to highlight and focus on in this afternoon during this culture days,” she said.
The afternoon opened with Helen-Smith McIntyre of the Saskatoon Refugee Coalition acknowledging the welcome that the indigenous people of Canada gave to newcomers who first came to this land, and the harm often done to First Nations people by the colonizers.
“I may welcome you here and I may welcome you to Canada, but my people too were welcomed here and cared for by First Nations people,” she said. “I am deeply grateful for that, and also deeply regretful for the lack of hospitality that we have shown in turn.”
She also noted that many of those who come to Canada as refugees today are indigenous peoples of other countries, who come seeking protection and safety.
Smith-McIntyre presented a ceremonial gift of tobacco to elder Mike Maurice, who welcomed participants to the Prairie Prism event on behalf of First Nations and Métis peoples.
“Please feel welcome here, in your new home. Enjoy what we have to offer you,” Maurice said. “We offer you friendship, kindness and support whenever you need it. Don’t be scared of us, and we won’t be scared of you either.”
The elder encouraged everyone to work together, especially in building communities that cherish and care for children.
During the program, greetings were presented by member of Parliament Kelly Block, Saskatchewan MLA Rob Norris and Saskatoon Mayor Don Atchison, as well as by Cornelia Laliberte, chair of the Saskatoon Cultural Diversity and Race Relations committee.
“Since the Second World War, Canada has provided refuge to over one million refugees, and as a Canadian I am proud of this compassionate tradition,” said Block. “Events like this allow all of us to enjoy and celebrate the cultural diversity that exists in our city and connect with people of different cultural backgrounds as we continue this proud tradition.”
Norris noted that across the province there were more than 200 Culture Days activities held on the Sept. 28-30 weekend. “It reflects and reinforces that culture matters. It matters to Canadians, and it matters to people of this province,” he said, noting that Saskatchewan is growing and changing.
“Across the province are communities that are increasingly diverse, dynamic and cosmopolitan, and multicultural, and they are inclusive. They are made up of people who have been here a very long time and they are also made up of newcomers,” Norris said.
Activities during the afternoon also included a chance to sample food from many cultures, information booths about different cultures and community services, as well as displays of braiding, African coffee making, embroidery, henna tattooing, origami, sari wrapping, ukulele, and weaving. A children’s corner offered face painting and crafts. In another room, storytellers told stories from Myanmar (Burma), Afghanistan, Trinidad, Nepal, Costa Rica, Philippines, Africa, India and Canada, including First Nations stories.