Cultural diversity promoted by bicycling team

Mainland riders carry message of acceptance, kindness and cultural understanding

Diversity comes in many forms.

Examples in people range from differing sexual orientation and ethnic background to native language and skin colour.

Students at Sir James Douglas elementary listened last week to members of the Cycling4Diversity team, as part of its third annual bike trek promoting the removal of barriers to kindness and cultural understanding.

The group stopped at the Fairfield school on World Cultural Diversity Day, May 21, to talk about the importance of respecting and celebrating our differences.

“I tell my son when I drop him off for school, ‘do something kind for someone today,’” team rider and former high school principal, Bill MacGregor, told the assembled students.

Tour riders and organizers will have visited 14 communities and 19 schools between Victoria and its home base of Abbotsford by the time they return home. The team, with representatives from police, schools, politics and other sectors, also visited Vic High and Royal Roads University during their stop in Greater Victoria.

Ride co-founder Ken Herar said in an interview the idea for the ride came from observing people in his city, including youth, avoid socializing with outside their traditional ethnic groups.

“I thought, more work needs to be done to be inclusive,” he said. “As our immigrant population grows and we welcome the world, we cannot forget that if we sell ourselves to the world, we have to practice diversity.”

The messages put forward briefly by Cycling4Diversity members are not so different than those the children hear and practice on a regular basis at the school, Sir James Douglas principal Teri Wickes said.

“This fits perfectly with our whole focus on social responsibility,” she said, noting that recently the school held an anti-homophobic Rainbow Day.

From an ethnic standpoint, the school has a specialized learning program for the roughly 30 students of aboriginal descent, and promotes aboriginal cultural awareness throughout the school on a regular basis, Wickes said.

To her experience, younger children call each other on the use of racial slurs or ethnic discrimination. “Unlike adults, who might let (comments) slide, with kids it’s not OK right off the bat.”