Shirin Jawish has lived in Canada for a number of years, but this was the first time she participated in a Canada Day celebration.
Jawish, who is originally from Syria and grew up in Lebanon, moved to Canada with her husband and three children – the family first lived in Didsbury, before moving to Red Deer about a year later.
She had never been able to take part in a Canada Day celebration, until Friday’s gathering at Red Deer’s Bower Ponds.
“It’s really good,” said Jawish, who works as a translation, interpretation and new settlement program assistant at CARE For Newcomers.
“For almost four years I’ve been in Red Deer, but I’ve never come for a Canada Day (celebration).
“Canada is amazing. There’s peace, there’s love – it’s very friendly.”
The Red Deer Cultural Heritage Society hosted the Canada Day event, which featured several activities, live performances and fireworks.
This year, the society partnered with the Red Deer Local Immigration Partnership, which was one site with its Proud to Be Your Neighbour anti-racism campaign.
Through the campaign, there were performances from groups representing a variety of different culture, main stage speakers and a human library, where attendees could learn about the lives and experiences of others.
“The purpose is to create more understanding between all peoples,” said Kristine Bugayong, RDLIP interim program manager.
“For the Red Deer Local Immigration Partnership, we want to use this opportunity to create a celebration for all people, which includes the Indigenous peoples of Canada.
“We believe that in order for us to live together harmoniously, we need to have a better understanding of each other.”
The Proud to Be Your Neighbour campaign “is very granular,” Bugayong explained.
“It’s called Proud to be Your Neighbour because it’s so easy. How do you be a good neighbour? Just be kind to one another, say hi to each other,” she said.
But sometimes it’s not as easy as it may seem in people’s minds “because of all of our perceptions, biases and all of these other things,” she added.
“Our hope by doing these exercises and partnering with the Cultural Heritage Society is to bring awareness of the different peoples of Canada. More than it is about the confederation of the country, (Canada Day) is about where we’ve come from, where we are now and what is our vision of a better tomorrow,” said Bugayong.