Acknowledging diversity — warts and all – Manitoba

August vacation days of sunshine and water play are upon us, and in Winnipeg, we can top them off with an evening trip abroad.

While many fortunate people are off at the cottage or on vacation, those of us who are still in town can tour the world vicariously through Folklorama, the annual festival that celebrates our diverse cultures. Perhaps it’s a souvlaki and coffee at the Greek pavilion, or a taekwondo demo along with bulgogi at the Korean pavilion, but we can experience aspects of travel affordably by going from one pavilion to the next. 

A group of refugees and asylum seekers in Winnipeg chose to use the opportunity to ask for others’ help and support.

These men from Ghana chose to stand outside Folklorama venues, asking people to sign a petition. They want people to know about the discrimination, violence and police harassment they have faced. They want others to acknowledge the lack of rights for LGBT people in Ghana.

They’re pointing out that things aren’t OK in their home country, even as some of them still express love for Ghana.

Folklorama’s response includes an expression of disappointment: 

“It is disappointing that individuals find themselves in a situation where they feel the need to use our celebration of culture and diversity, one that has maintained a long-standing apolitical policy, for their own political purposes.”

I’ve attended Folklorama events in the past. However, this public response dampens my enthusiasm for the whole enterprise.

How is it that we can hop from country to country to celebrate culture and diversity, and ignore the fact that in some countries, people are killed because of their sexual orientation? Are LGBT issues concerning one’s physical safety really only “political” in nature?

If that specific threat to people’s love and autonomy wasn’t enough, one has to wonder where this “disappointment” approach ends.

Something better

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