Richmond World Festival helps build a critical mass to counter xenophobia

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      When the Richmond World Festival was created in 2015, it seemed like it was ideally suited to the times in Metro Vancouver.

      The festival showcased the rich diversity of the region. Entertainment and various exhibits reflected the world within our own community.

      The first annual bash in Minoru Park was a one-day event, capped off by a performance by Matt and Kim.

      Since then, it's grown to a two-day festival every Labour Day weekend.

      Last night, it wound up with a free performance by Magic! in front of a packed crowd.

      The previous night, the headliner was recent Juno winner Lights. Her show was also free in Minoru Park.

      There's a perception of Richmond as a heavily Mandarin-speaking city. But in fact, the 2011 census revealed that there are 77 nonofficial languages spoken there.

      Richmond also has a thriving multicultural history.

      It was home to a large Japanese-Canadian fishing community before its members were interned during the Second World War. Punjabi immigrants helped build the city's agricultural industry and created Terminal Forest Products.

      The city still has fine Indian restaurants, including the Ismaili-owned Ember Indian Kitchen, where I dined last night.

      Of course, Indigenous people have been on Lulu Island for thousands of years.

      In the recent book On the Line: A History of the British Columbia Labour Movement, author Rod Mickleburgh tells the story of how in 1900, Japanese, Indigenous, and whites all went on strike in the fishing industry, which was centred in Steveston.

      The companies' attempt to drive a wedge between them initially failed.

      "Nikkei, white and Indigenous fishermen all rejected the canners' ultimatum; never before had so many, across all races, held out for so long to force a better price for the fish they caught," Mickleburgh writes.

      Eventually, however, the divide-and-conquer tactics worked after a higher offer was made.

      Nowadays in an age when Donald Trump specializes in us-and-them politics, the Richmond World Festival has become a refreshing antidote to growing xenophobia.

      It started as a simple idea—bring people together in a park to celebrate different cultures and end it with a musical bang.

      Since then, it's blossomed into something even more important: two dates on the calendar when we can all push back, in a fun way, against disturbing global trends that most of us never anticipated back in 2015.

      For that, Mayor Malcolm Brodie and his council deserve credit from those who value the region's diversity.

      That's because they're promoting greater intercultural appreciation.

      In the process, the City of Richmond is helping to build a critical mass to resist those who peddle in hate, division, and small-minded thinking.

      It's worth celebrating when you reflect on all the ethnic conflicts taking place in other parts of the world.

      Below, you can see some photos of this year's Richmond World Festival, where global cultures continue to come together in peace and harmony.