A new multicultural group based in Steinbach has been busy making its presence felt in the community. Established in mid-2018, the Eastern Manitoba Broad Alliance for Cultural Enrichment or EMBrACE serves as an umbrella organization of diverse newcomer communities coming from the Philippines, India, Syria, French Congo, and the Latin Americas, among many others who reside in the region. The group’s Governing Board is led by founding President, Josie Fast, this writer as Vice President, Saif Aldin of the Syrian community as Secretary, and kababayan Edwin Suebzon as Treasurer.
Suebzon is among the pioneering members of the South Eastman Filipino Association (SEMFA) and was the creative mind behind the acronym for EMBrACE.
On December 18, International Migrants’ Day, the group produced a two-minute video montage which featured ten migrants from various countries speaking about what being in Canada means for them. A notable testimonial came from Rajesh Parekh who came from Mumbai, India and settled in the Pembina Valley. According to him, being in Canada means enjoying “equality, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, integrity and diversity.” He goes on to say that being Canadian means “to help others who are in need and consider everyone as a family, no matter which part of the world they come from.”
On January 8, EMBrACE held a free art exhibit entitled ‘Art Brings Cultures Together’ at the gallery hall of the Steinbach Cultural Arts Centre. The group chose this as their inaugural event due to the power of art in overcoming verbal language barriers and transcending cultural boundaries. Among the exhibitors for EMBrACE were visual artists Kateryna Kryvolap (the Ukraine), Agatha Fuchs (Germany), and Filipino artists Mike Empalmado (Visayas region), Edmund Raguindin (Ilocos region), Jogin Rey Tamayo (Cordillera region), and Filipiniana couturier Clarita Ortega-Nazario (Bulacan).
The exhibit kicked off with a well-attended Opening Night that included the participating artists, the EMBrACE Governing Board, guests of co-exhibitor and nature photographer Julie Yatsko, Cindi Rempel Patrick and Alan Fehr of the Steinbach Arts Council board, and Councilor Damian Penner who brought greetings from the Steinbach City Council. To have a wider audience reach in promoting the event, EMBrACE partnered with community media organizations Barangay Canada and Barangay Manitoba. The exhibit will run until February 28, 2020. Patrons who are planning to visit the exhibit are encouraged to check gallery hours at http://www.steinbachartscouncil.ca/
Speaking for EMBrACE on Opening Night, this writer explained that the art exhibit is in line with creating cultural connections with the community, which is among the group’s four main priorities:
• Cultural connections – sharing cultural holidays and experiences, information campaign about the different cultural traditions, celebrating cultural diversity within the community
• Advocacy and Knowledge-Sharing – identifying appropriate places, agencies, ethnocultural communities; community-based organizations and how they can help; information-sharing workshops
• Recognition and Support from Municipal Government – bringing awareness to municipal governments of the importance of diversity in the community so that municipal planning can incorporate this aspect into their future plans; support and involvement from their municipalities and communities regarding space for community activities, engagement of city representatives within ethnocultural communities.
• Education and Skills-Building – training opportunities for volunteers regarding information on immigration policy, settlement services, employment, volunteer programs that offer certification as Canadian work experience
EMBrACE continues its advocacy with ‘Raise Your Voice’, a workshop organized in cooperation with the Ethnocultural Council of Manitoba – Stronger Together. The activity aims to enable newcomers, immigrants and ethnocultural leaders an opportunity to share their experiences, challenges and successes in moving to Canada. The event is scheduled on Saturday, February 29, from 10 am to 12 noon at Steinbach’s Jake Epp Library.
Interested participants are invited to register by calling 204-392-8488 or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
As for the region’s other ethnocultural groups that might feel unrepresented or disconnected from their local community, they are encouraged to visit the Facebook page of EMBrACE at www.facebook.com/EmbraceMB/ and learn more about their programs and activities designed to establish community connections.
Kris Ontong is an awardee at the 2019 National Filipino-Canadian Heritage Event. He is the presenter of Barangay Manitoba on Facebook, and is the charter Vice-President of the Eastern Manitoba Broad Alliance for Cultural Enrichment (EMBrACE)