Guests including Commanding Officer of 419 Tactical Fighter Training Squadron LCol Martin Roesler-Yue, Aerospace Engineering Test Establishment Director of Airmen Personnel Services Maj Rick Quickfall, Mayor of Cold Lake Craig Copeland and Reflexologist Mecell Pilon were at the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination panel hosted at the 4 Wing Theatre on March 21st – Photo by Mike Marshall
The 4 Wing Theatre was buzzing with dialogue as a panel of Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members and other dignitaries and guests joined together on Monday to discuss ways to limit racial discrimination both at work and in the community.
The 4 Wing Defence Visible Minority Advisory Group (DVMAG) welcomed guests in-person and online to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
“It can be a lot of work and even uncomfortable to come out of your comfort zone,” said 4 Wing Deputy Wing Commander LCol Alain Gagnon, who was part of the panel. “It’s not something easy, and sometimes we can make mistakes, but it’s through growth that we can remove these invisible barriers and we are able to grow and increase diversity.”
Joining Gagnon in answering questions and presenting ideas was Commanding Officer of 419 Tactical Fighter Training Squadron LCol Martin Roesler-Yue, Aerospace Engineering Test Establishment Director of Airmen Personnel Services Maj Rick Quickfall, Mayor of Cold Lake Craig Copeland and Reflexologist Mecell Pilon.
“Be a reflection of what you’d like to receive,” mentioned Pilon. “If you want love, give love. If you want the truth, be truthful. If you want respect, give respect. What you give out will always return. Sometimes growth requires a new company, new locations and new mindsets.”
Three topics were examined: Continuum of Anti-Racism, Anti-Asian Racism linked to Covid-19 and Respecting Cultural Diversity and Traditions.
Capt Jesse Fan of 1 Air Maintenance Squadron related a personal story of racism that his family had experienced due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
“Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, statistics say in 2020 alone that there were 1150 cases of anti-Asian racist attacks in Canada. More than three-quarters of these are verbal harassment, getting chewed out on the bus or ranted at in the grocery store. One-quarter of the time, which seems to be against those who are less physically able, you see physical violence like a push or a shove or even a punch.”
“This is a topic that is near and dear to me,” added Fan. “My whole family, being Asian and living in British Columbia, has been experiencing examples of these. My mother is less than five feet tall, she lives alone and she was getting yelled at on the bus, getting shoved early in the mornings at bus stations and so on.”
“One of the things that I’ve struggled with is speaking up,” said Quickfall. “I think that is what needs to happen in this case. If you see it, you need to speak up and say ‘It’s unacceptable’. ”
DVMAG Military Co-Chair Lt Abiodun Abati gave information about respecting different cultures and traditions. Abatis spoke about how a tradition or norm in another culture might not be considered acceptable in another.
“In some cultures, it is an insult to make direct eye contact when you are talking to someone. In the western tradition, when I’m talking to you and not making direct eye contact it can be assumed to be an insult. It can cause a conflict between two people of two different cultures working on the same job. The onus is on the two of them to understand that this is cultural, that they can learn to understand each other and to move on.”
“I have the distinct honour of commanding one of the most culturally diverse fighter squadrons in Canada,” said Roesler-Yue. “We have members from France, England, Scotland, Ireland, Canada and quite a few from Singapore. We have quite a few cultural discussions where we get to talk about the traditions of our homelands. Having that diversity is an amazing thing. One of the best ways we find to support that is through food. We share the food of our cultures and to have it both accepted and enjoyed brings us all joy.”
“Our role as leaders here in the community is to make one that is open-minded and where we respect one another,” added Copeland. “It’s also to assist with multicultural groups who want to showcase their customs and traditions and also to educate everyone in the community, and that’s where we try to have our local city council provide a helping hand.”
“I think coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, we may see struggle as coming together and being cohesive. It seems we’re seeing people become divided in our country and around the world. I’m hopeful we can all work together and I believe that day will come.”