Mutual Respect – restoring common ground

Mutual Respect – restoring common ground

As my family celebrates our 30th year of being Canadian, I am deeply disturbed by the set back that we are currently experiencing; the gap that has been widening among the members of our wonderful and historically nurturing community, the atmosphere of divisiveness, the fearmongering about ‘other’, the sense of entitlement, the hate . . . and yes . . . the racism . . . and in how fellow Canadians regard each other, treat each other and feel towards each other.

In the past, I had felt a certain uneasiness about ‘imposing’ behaviours on people . . . such as political correctness, and although “multiculturalism” surely had short term benefits in curbing some of those attitudes, I always worried that over-sensitizing would only send those with insecurity about defining Canadian identity and values, and their resentment of the unknowns, into hiding below the surface and denial of their true emotions. The idea of equity, diversity, anti racism and all the different names we gave it was a good start, but it should have been supported by a plan and a list of measurable objectives . . . to address the core problem and gradually building on the goodness in every person . . . I call it Mutual Respect.

That may have been what prompted me, in 1991, to launch Cross Cultures magazine … a safe space for exchange of information towards promoting mutual respect through knowledge and better understanding of the different cultures and faiths of Canada.

It is all about knowing each other, you always hear someone say “I know a Muslim”, or, “I know a ….”, once that barrier is overcome, people see the ‘other’ as a human and the labels get dropped.

This brings me to my current campaign … I am very excited about the Mutual Respect project. Our approach covers culture / ethnicity; faith / belief; male-female parameters; gender self identification; discrepancies in social status (education / income / poverty); changing attitudes with regard to authority (politicians / civil service) etc.

The current population of this Region is over 500,000 (in 2016 it was 535,154) who have come to Turtle Island from many countries of diverse cultural backgrounds and faith beliefs, and have so far managed to enjoy a fairly safe and caring community in spite of the turmoil that is happening in the world around us and the rise of white supremacy.

To maintain and nurture this neighbourliness and live together in harmony and mutual respect we, at Cross Cultures, feel an urgent need to exert a renewed effort to sustain and build on those good foundations.

There is growing support for this project from many levels – individuals, educators and academic institutions, ethnic and faith communities and grassroots organizations.

As a first step towards a more open discussion on the Mutual Respect, a prototype of a plaque with the theme
of the indigenous medicine wheel / four directions and the wording:

Our Region embraces
we are proud of our diversity
and are stronger for it

was unveiled during our 17th annual commemoration of the UN International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination at the Kitchener City Hall. This has evolved into a monument / rock not a plaque to match its natural surroundings and is being designed by local indigenous artists and will eventually be installed at the entrance of Kitchener’s Victoria Park somewhere around the Clock Tower.

This Mutual Respect project will involve a concerted effort such as interactive roundtable discussions, town hall events, etc. and depending on the audience we are engaging, it may require full or half day seminars.

In addition to the publication, Cross Cultures have organized the region’s annual commemoration of the U N International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination for several decades now.

As well as regularly facilitating roundtable, interactive dialogue series, town hall gatherings, panels, debates and events … to discuss a wide range of topics in a very sincere, frank, inclusive, intellectual informative -while mutually respectful – atmosphere, towards dispelling the misinformation and the myths surrounding “other”.

We also partnered with various entities in the community over the years to have a SeasonS of Light where each faith, spirituality, religion … shared the light in their particular path, and we made a special point of holding this in December which is, among other occasions, Christmas. I am not familiar with too many people who want to call it a holiday .. I used to say “I have yet to meet”, but one year I got an email setting me straight that the writer of the email objects .. but we all know that he is in the rare minority.

Another bi-annual Gala brings together in one room heroes from every field, there are no awards, we honour contributions from all, and we just have a happy festivity.

Cross Cultures have been doing all this in print and in the community since 1991 and are well positioned to facilitate open minded discussions on mutual respect.

In order for this to be meaningful and effective, the dialogue should start at the grassroots, whereby all are heard and included.

Please help us lead your group in this conversation


Gehan AF D Sabry