An anti-racism group is hoping to get a diverse range of voices when it hosts a community dialogue on global migration to Burnaby.
That means hearing not only from the converted but also from those who are skeptical of immigration, with organizers saying the intent is to reach beyond the echo chamber.
Burnaby Together is a coalition group led by Burnaby Family Life intending to tackle racism and hate in the community, part of the province’s Organizing Against Racism and Hate program.
The group is planning to hold on Feb. 26 a community dialogue described as a “provocative forum on how communities are changing.”
“Burnaby being as diverse as it is, there’s bound to be some tension at one point or the other. We see it sort of manifest from time to time, in terms of there was some sort of white supremacy posters around the library at one time,” said Michel Pouliot, executive director of Burnaby Family Life.
“Sometimes (we get) direct reports of incidents where newcomers are made to feel like they don’t really belong in Burnaby. And I think that you’re watching what’s happening south of the border, and some of that sentiment is reflected here as well.”
With that in mind, Pouliot said the group wanted to have a community forum to talk about what it means to live in a culturally diverse community.
“We often have those events and we bring people together to try to talk about anti-racism and how do you tackle racism?” he said. “What we found is that we tend to always get the same people around the table, and those people are the people that already support cultural diversity already.”
Pouliot said the group decided it needed a new approach to try to go beyond preaching to the choir, and they’re hoping the forum will draw people with a variety of viewpoints on the matter.
The event will work to facilitate those speaking Arabic, Farsi and Chinese languages, said Ana Maria Bustamante a coordinator with Burnaby Family Life.
She added the facilitator, UBC researcher Alden Habacon, will be laying out ground rules, and everyone will have to follow those rules as soon as they’re laid out.
Pouliot said he has confidence in Habacon as a facilitator to ensure a safe environment for everyone involved.
The event will be held at Burnaby Neighbourhood House (4460 Beresford St.) near the Metrotown Skytrain station from 6 to 8 p.m. on Feb. 26.