And so it begins yet again. This year it will be a far more low key response on the part of those involved. It is really hoped that we can make some progress, progress that will make this a truly inclusive celebration of COMMUNITY.
The PPM got the ball rolling with Simon Schachner sending the following off to the papers and the Empire Days Society. A story came out in the Daily News today Funding trumps protest as threat to Empire Days and my letter in response appears after Simons.
May 12, 2010
Dear Nanaimo Empire Days Celebration Society,
On behalf of the Popular Participation Movement, I would like to acknowledge allthe hard work your committee and volunteers have done to make the festivities ofEmpire Days possible. Having attended the event for many years, I can attest tothe spirit that the parade brings out in our community. Nanaimo is indeed a cityworth celebrating.
Still, many in our community are uneasy with the society's continued emphasison the British Empire at the heart of the festivities. We hope you can appreciatethat this criticism is not radical. In fact, it is consistent with what the British havebelieved for over 50 years. Recognizing that Empire Days does not reflect theplurality of history, the United Kingdom abolished Empire Days in 1958 in favourof a more inclusive event: Commonwealth Days. We hope for a similar changeto come to Nanaimo.
It's difficult to understand why the celebration society would object to a change inname that is more respectful of our history and diversity. After all, the societywas founded as an organization committed to the "heritage of Nanaimo and thefuture of its young people." Given that we are a growing, evolving community ofmany origins and histories, Empire Days is simply out of touch with the truth.
As our annual efforts to raise public awareness of this issue have been rather effective, we are not planning a counter-event or any such interventions this year. We hope that the society will have the courage to respond to the community’sconcerns and transform the name and focus of Empire Days into something respectful of the experiences of all people of Nanaimo.
I would like to meet with you to discuss this matter further. Members our groupwill gladly assist with an effort to develop a more inclusive direction for thesociety. We appreciate that this is your busiest time of year. We will not betroubled if a meeting has to wait until June.
Please do not hesitate to contact me at your earliest convenience.
Simon Schachner, Organizer
Popular Participation Movement
May 14, 2010
To the Editor:
Re: Funding trumps protest as threat to Empire Days
The whole point this year is not to get into a war on words with the Empire Days Society but to sit down and have a rational discussion. While the PPM has been vocal the last five years organizations like the Multicultural Society and people like me have been pushing for a change of name for much longer. This will be my only letter on the subject this year.
We all realize the hard work the Empire Days Society and Lions Clubs do to arrange the events and parade each year, we honestly commend them for their efforts. The point is all this could still be accomplished with less controversy, and stigma attached to it, under a different name.
As an Advocate for Social Change and Community Activist I am the first to agree that cuts to gaming grants have had a negative effect throughout the non-profit sector and there is no absolute guarantee, as yet, that even with a change of government the monies lost will be reinstated.
Personally I see an opportunity here. If we look at these events as a celebration of COMMUNITY, not Empire, then something as little as a name change could result in bringing the very people opposed to the table in helping organize and raise funds in the future. While I can’t speak for the others I for one would be willing to make that commitment. Let us truly celebrate community through inclusiveness.
Gordon W. Fuller
604 Nicol St Nanaimo, BC V9R 4T9 Ph: (250) 754 6389
Cell: 797 0531 e-mail: http://firstname.lastname@example.org