MCoS Multicultural Honours Highlights Intercultural Connections
Over 100 people gathered at Government House in Regina on Saturday, November 14th to celebrate and recognize significant volunteer contributions to multiculturalism in Saskatchewan. This annual flag-ship event for MCoS, is hosted by Her Honour the Honourable Vaughn Solomon Schofield, Lieutenant Governor of Saskatchewan. It is always a joyous celebration drawing attention to the both the contributions and importance of volunteers to multiculturalism in Saskatchewan. This event is part of Saskatchewan Multicultural Week, proclaimed annually by the provincial government to celebrate the Saskatchewan Multiculturalism Act.
The formal part of the event took place in Sir Richard Lake Hall which provides an elegant setting for the program and awards. Her Honour and MCoS President, Bruno Kossman, recognized and appreciated the historical and current contributions of Saskatchewan’s indigenous people that are foundations for a respectful and harmonious shared future. In that vein, Her Honour acknowledged that we were meeting on land that is the traditional territory of the Cree, Saulteaux and Métis and part of Treaty 4. It is essential to remember that we are all treaty people – we benefit as a result of the relationship agreed to over 150 years ago.
This year, the recent Paris terrorist attacks and the Syrian refugee crisis and were addressed by everyone who spoke at the event. Anti-racism
education and the importance of fostering intercultural connections were echoed through the speeches. During his greetings, the Honourable Mark Docherty, Minister of Parks, Culture and Sport, aptly summed up the current political and social climate by reciting a quote by Somali poet Warsan Shire from her poem “What They Did Yesterday Afternoon”:
later that night
i held an atlas in my lap
ran my fingers across the whole world
where does it hurt?
MCoS President, Bruno Kossmann, touched on 2015 being the organization’s 40th anniversary and reviewed MCoS programming and achievements. He thanked all volunteers around the province that make multiculturalism a central factor to the vibrancy of life in Saskatchewan. In 2014-15, among MCoS members over 18,200 volunteers contributed over 358,900 hours of time. Volunteers and staff with different cultural backgrounds bring different ways of seeing the world which can contribute to more effective decision-making and problem-solving. He also introduced our 40th anniversary video to the audience who enjoyed the taking a journey in photos from MCoS’ inception to the current day to the music of Andrea Menard.
In the awards portion of the event, it was noted that all nominees were considered for the extent of their involvement in the five multicultural streams of work: cultural continuity, celebrating diversity, anti-racism, intercultural connections and integration. This year’s award recipients are both are incredibly deserving individuals. Particularly, their intercultural connections work facilitating different cultural groups coming together over time to build bridges should be noted. By coincidence and unknown to the committee, they share a friendship built through this very work and exemplary of it.
MCoS Director and member of the recognition committee, Renata Cosic, introduced Janelle Pewapsconias as the recipient of the 2015 Multicultural Youth Leadership Award. Janelle fulfills many roles focused on cultural continuity within her own community of Little Pine First Nation and in Saskatoon – both of which are in Treaty 6 Territory. She is a strong single mother, a well-rounded advocate for Indigenous, social and environmental justice, an up-and-coming spoken word artist, entrepreneur-in-training, volunteer, public speaker and learner of her language. Janelle is the creator of the Neechi Life Games which are anti-racism tools. She participated in the 2014 intensive summer program called “Next Up: First Nations & Métis Youth in Action” (MCoS strategic initiative investment supported this program) where she was a strong leader within the group. Janelle – who is a budding leader and cultural keeper – is an ambassador of multiculturalism who lives out the multicultural values and her volunteer efforts are rooted in all five streams of multiculturalism. (Read Janelle’s full bio)
As an Indigenous person of this land, I recognize that there are people in the distress around the world and I welcome them here with open arms.
~ Janelle Pewapsconias ~ (excerpt from her acceptance speech)
MCoS Director and member of the recognition committee, Muna DeCiman, introduced Jebunessa Chapola is the recipient of the 2015 Betty Szuchewycz Award. Jebunnessa’s life is dedicated to uplifting marginalized ethnic and indigenous cultures in the local and international arena and creating awareness about the barriers to achieving gender, social and environmental justice, and working within and across new media environments. She has participated in many diverse cultural program committees creating space for ethnic communities, and putting the committee organizers in touch with her community members. Jebunnessa’s involvement as a Cultural Connections Coordinator for the last five years with Ness Creek Music Festival is a prime example of cultural diversity and intercultural connections at work in the community. This program has received several investments through MCoS’ intercultural connections program. Her anti-racism and anti-oppression work is extensive and has had an impact on very broad social sectors. She has participated in MCoS’ Arrêt/Stop Anti-Racism youth leadership workshops for the past three years as a facilitator and was able to take the knowledge learned from these workshops and host additional workshops at Ness creek and in the community. (Read Jebunnessa’s full bio)
Volunteering and being able to share my culture with others has made me feel alive again; I have purpose once again in my life.
~ Jebunnessa Chapola ~ (excerpt from her acceptance speech)
The reception portion of the event took place in the Henry Newlands Ballroom, decorated for the Christmas season, providing both an elegant and festive atmosphere for the reception. Guests enjoyed cultural treats provided by Rushton’s Catering. “Cultural Treats in Context” cards adorned every table with explanations of the savoury, sweet and fresh fruit delicacies. The reception provided a chance for socializing and photos that facilitated intercultural connections.
Photo Gallery for 2015 MCoS Multicultural Honours