This weekend, there was an unusual sight at LunarFest on the north side of the Vancouver Art Gallery.
A uniformed Vancouver police officer was tapping a hand-held drum while surrounded by artifacts, maps, and cultural reminders of Mauritius.
The country is comprised of the main island of Mauritius and includes the islands of Rodrigues, Agalega, and St. Brandon in the Indian Ocean, about 2,000 kilometres off the southeast coast of Africa.
It turns out that this officer, Const. Darren Ramdour, is the only person on the force who traces his roots back to Mauritius. The former resident of London, England, is a member of the VPD's diversity and Indigenous relations section.
"I'm trying to spread unity," Ramdour told the Straight. "I'm trying to learn about different communities and I'm trying to spread what I learn within the communities and within the department. The more we know, the richer we are as a person."
Mauritius was a French colony until the islands were transferred to the British following the Napoleonic wars. According to Ramdour, the British abolished slavery and instead brought workers from India.
"They went to Mauritius, Fiji, Guyana, and Trinidad," he said. "That's how Mauritius ended up with a huge population of Indian people.
"They were generally poor people that went to Mauritius to work and find a better life," he continued. "They didn't know that they were never going to come back to India. It was a one-way trip."
He noted that families were often separated, with brothers ending up in colonies in different parts of the world, working as labourers.
The islands were once home to the dodo, a flightless bird that's now extinct.
The population is nearly 1.3 million and it's multiethnic, comprised of people of Indian, African, British, French, and Chinese ancestry.
Ramdour said that the largest number are of Indian origin, and include Hindus, Muslims, and Christians. He estimated that about four percent of the population is of Chinese heritage.
"The national dish is Chinese food," he noted.
Ramdour added that Mauritians are proud of the way they've embraced diversity, with many speaking French and English fluently.
This point was also emphasized by two friends at LunarFest who immigrated from Mauritius to Canada with their parents.
"It's very multicultural," Girish Toofany told the Straight. "When you go to school, you learn about every single culture that is on the island. You develop an appreciation for what other people are doing."
Satyam Seeratun echoed this sentiment, telling the Straight that everyone on the island of Mauritius commemorates each other's cultural holidays.
"When there's the Chinese festival going on, we have days off so everyone can get together and celebrate."
Ramdour shared a little-known fact about Mauritius—it's where Justin Trudeau and Sophie Grégoire Trudeau spent their honeymoon.
Maclean's magazine reported in 2005 that Trudeau was taking Sophie to "a destination somewhere in Africa that not even the bride knows".
"She was quite pleased when I told her to bring lots of bathing suits,” Trudeau said at the time. “It’ll be a combination of beach and adventures.”
The sandy beaches and sunny weather are also popular with Bollywood film producers, who've often used Mauritius as a location. And Ramdour revealed that he learned Hindi while watching some of these movies as a kid.
But Ramdour pointed out that like everywhere else, climate change is taking a toll on Mauritius.
"The cyclones are stronger," he noted. "The sea levels are rising."
The VPD constable also revealed that that Mauritius is the richest island per capita in Africa. And he said it's the only African island where people of Indian ancestry, rather than those of African origin, are in the majority.
The country obtained its independence in 1968.
"It's a democracy, a republic," Ramdour added. "It's a great place."
He said that being a Canadian is not about forgetting where you came from. And he worries that without reminding youths of their cultural origins, there's a risk of this being diminished over time.
"It will be a shame for people to lose their identity," Ramdour said. "Being Canadian is all about where you came from. So we need to continue to teach and show people what we are, where we came from—and we're also Canadian. I think that's what's so amazing about this country. We have people from all over the world."
He described himself as being in a very fortunate position and expressed the hope that more people from Mauritius join the VPD in the future.
"I try my best to do good," Ramdour said. "That's what all police officers do. They are here to do good. I enjoy what I do and I enjoy spreading the word."