The 20th annual Fraser Valley Cultural Diversity Awards were held Thursday, March 9th in Abbotsford with organizations and individuals being recognized in eight categories.
Nearly 400 guests enjoyed dinner at the Clarion Hotel & Conference Centre as they celebrated diversity and inclusion in the Fraser Valley.
“It’s very humbling to see such amazing work being carried out by so many of our nominees,” said Manpreet Grewal, Archway Director of Multicultural and Immigrant Integration Services. “It’s been twenty years of celebrating these incredibly beautiful stories.”
Abbotsford Mayor Ross Siemens congratulated the 50 nominees “for enriching our communities by embracing and celebrating the rich cultural diversity that defines who we are.”
Kelly Khakh of Prospera, the speaker sponsor, shared that Prospera was “on a journey to ensure that every member and employee feels like they belong.” Khakh introduced the audience to Aaron Pete, a Chawathil First Nation councillor, entrepreneur and podcast host, who gave an inspiring keynote speech.
Pete spoke about his journey from a food-insecure household with a single mom to finding his way to law school and his band council. He encouraged attendees to see challenges as opportunities for growth and shared how ancestors like his have endured so that the legacy generation could succeed.
“It gives me so much hope that there are other like-minded individuals in this room that have the mindset that we can be bigger than ourselves, that we can contribute to causes bigger than ourselves, and that we can develop a legacy of the Fraser Valley being a place where people are accepted, valued and where hard work pays off and where there’s a community of people willing to support you if you’re willing to put in the work.”
Pete shared that growing up his family was a frequent user of the Chilliwack Community Services, one of the organizing partners.
“There’s nothing more close to my heart than the idea that community matters, that what the individuals in this room do matters, it has an impact. You don’t always get to see the outcome and I hope that I can be a testament to the impact that events like this can be, that the services provided by the nominees can have on individuals.”
Keynote Speaker – Aaron Pete
“It’s very humbling to see such amazing work being carried out by so many of our nominees, it’s been twenty years of celebrating these incredibly beautiful stories”.
“It gives me so much hope that there are other like–minded individuals in this room that have the mindset that we can be bigger than ourselves, that we can contribute to causes bigger than ourselves”.
2023 Fraser Valley Cultural Diversity Awards Recipients
Peter Bailey, Champion of Diversity (Hope)
With a diverse background and firsthand experiences of poverty, Peter Bailey has been involved with activism since he was a teenager. His efforts focus on social justice issues faced by marginalized members of society – such as housing, food security, education, and employment.
He volunteers extensively as a mentor to young students, with Hope Community Services, the Regional Diocesan Council, and ASPECT BC. He also sits on the Hope Inclusion Project Committee, where he serves as part of the Action Response Table, Hope Healthy Communities, Pride, and the Truth and Reconciliation Committee to bring forward the voice of inclusion.
Siemens presented the award on behalf of sponsor Envision Financial and noted the common theme of humility and authenticity among the recipients. “What I see tonight are the strongest threads of our fabric.”
In his acceptance speech, Bailey recognized the remarkable women in his life who have taught, inspired and helped hold him accountable. His company, Free Rein Associates, is currently developing school curriculum to teach anti-oppression and anti-racism which he promised, “is going to change the world.”
Peter Bailey (Left) with Mayor Ross Siemens who presented the award on behalf of sponsor Envision Financial
Lily Renaud, Youth Champion of Diversity (Chilliwack)
Grade 12 student Lily Renaud has been involved in many service clubs, social events, and other activities. She has supported fundraisers for cancer research; food, shelter, and clothing drives; and promoted female empowerment in her school. She helped found the Indigenous Leadership Club at G.W Graham Secondary School.
Renauld volunteers with the Big Brothers Big Sisters Mentorship program, the Girls to the Power of Math Organization and the Youth Advisory Committee in Chilliwack. Her Youth Advisory Committee initiative provides children with access to healthcare products and education that promotes proper hygiene.
School Trustee Korky Neufeld presented the award on behalf of the Abbotsford School District.
“We know that youth are leading the way, and awards like this help showcase the diversity of our community and the commitment young people are making to build an inclusive and brighter future for all,” said Neufeld.
“We really are the future,” said Renaud in her acceptance speech. “It’s all of our responsibility to promote inclusivity and diversity.”
Lily Renaud with school trustee Korky Neufeld representing award sponsor Abbotsford School District
Oui Entertain! Inc., Effective HR Strategies (Abbotsford)
Established in 2010 by newcomers to Canada, Oui Entertain offers event management and experiential marketing including character experiences.
Their diverse staff group represents more than 12 different cultures, languages, and nationalities and their diversity helps enhance the guest experience.
They provide training that allows staff to develop new skills that transfer to other areas in their lives and do their best to support their team outside of work as well.
Oui Entertain! Inc. (Left) with award sponsor Vancity
Abbotsford Arts Council, Inclusive Environment (Small/Med) (Abbotsford)
Established in 1971, the Abbotsford Arts Council acts as a resource for local artists while promoting the vision, creativity and energy of the community through the arts. Their values include safety, inclusion, reconciliation, decolonization, and Indigenization.
Almost all of their events are free to attend – including Jam in Jubilee and Mill Lake Music. They also host the annual Arty Awards, honouring local artists of all practices. They operate the Kariton Gallery which features diverse artists including an Annual Women in Art exhibition and quarterly exhibitions by local Indigenous artists.
“Teamwork makes the dream work,” shared Abbotsford Arts Council Executive Director Eileen Stephens who thanked “everyone who has come before me and thank you so much for everyone who will come after me.”
Abbotsford Arts Council (Right) with award sponsor University of the Fraser Valley
TYDEL Foods, Inclusive Environment (Large) (Chilliwack)
Tydel Foods is a community-based shop in Chilliwack that sells meat at affordable prices and is open to anyone.
In 2022, Tydel Foods provided more than 1,000 free meals. Every week, people gather at the shop to make meals using donated ingredients. Through these collective acts of service, a shared sense of empathy and compassion is nurtured.
Owner, Brigida Crosbie and her partner provide meat and funding towards the shop. Crosbie has been a community advocate for more than a decade with a focus on providing and shelter, clothing and meals.
Crosbie received a standing ovation as she shared her own experience of being “very hungry” while trying to support her two daughters and encouraged attendees that “we can rise above anything.”
TYDEL Foods (Right) with award sponsor Archway Interpretation & Translation Services
Jelly Digital Marketing & PR, Diversity in Marketing (Langley)
Jelly Digital Marketing & PR is an Indigenous-owned agency started in 2014 that celebrates and supports its inclusive and diverse team.
Jelly actively works with Indigenous clients and creators, and advocates for economic reconciliation. Jelly also works with a variety of diverse clients to support initiatives that address things such as fair wages, ethical employment standards, and providing resources for those who are neurodiverse.
Everything we do is guided by five core values,” said Danielle Windecker of Jelly Marketing. “Fairness, prudence, humility, temperance and courage shape our diverse team and they inform the work that we do with our diverse and incredible range of clients.”
Jelly Digital Marketing & PR (Left) with award sponsor WorkSafe BC
Project AIM, Innovative Initiative (Small) (Agassiz)
Project AIM is a female-led organization that provides barrier-free access to incontinence and menstrual products for those in need. Their goal is to provide each client with the specific products that fit their individual needs and preferences. They do this by offering education and access to a range of products, including reusable products.
The award was presented by Chris Brown on behalf of the category sponsor Business Development Bank of Canada who shared that, “Years ago, diversity may have been seen as a risk, actually, for a lot of lenders, but we now know that, in fact, organizations with diverse leadership regularly outperform their peers who do not. Diversity is an advantage, in business and life.”
Miel Bernstein, co-founder of Project AIM, was surprised by the award and shared that when Project AIM started, they looked to many of the organizations in the room, “as leaders, difference makers, and community organizers in Chilliwack for how to change lives.”
Bernstein and co-founder Tiffany Francis have also been surprised by the level of need for incontinence and menstrual products. After starting in 2020 with an $800 fundraiser, they are now on track to give out roughly $40,000 in free products which help people fully participate in society.
Project AIM (Right) with award sponsor BDC
AgSafe Agriculture Association, Innovative Initiative (Med/Large) (Langley)
Agsafe BC is a joint initiative between WorkSafeBC and agricultural and worker stakeholders. Their mission is to create a safe and healthy work environment in BC agriculture through outreach and an active program of education, training and consultation in all regions of the province.
AgSafe endeavors to provide their resources in multiple languages to improve accessibility for a diverse workforce. This commitment also creates employment opportunities for those who speak a variety of languages.
Wendy Bennett of AgSafe thanked award sponsor United Way for their help in providing culturally specific counselling after the flooding of 2021 for farmers and temporary foreign workers.
BC AgSafe Agriculture Association (Left) with award sponsor United Way
TV personality Fiona Forbes filled in as the emcee after long-term host Fred Lee came down with laryngitis. In her closing speech, Forbes said, “I was touched by so many of the stories told on this stage tonight and if you were too, spread the word, tell your friends, support those businesses in your community here.”
Throughout the event, artist Chase Gray drew an intricate Indigenous art piece featuring the Cultural Diversity Awards logo, which was unveiled near the end of the event.
Grewal ended the night by thanking Gray, Pete, Forbes, the sponsors, production team and organizing committee both past and present.
Archway Community Services presents the event in partnership with the Mission and Chilliwack Community Services as well as Langley New Directions Vocational Testing and Counselling Services.
Those who missed the live show can watch it air on Sunday, March 26th at 8:00pm on Shaw Multicultural Channel 4 Vancouver.
2023 CDA Emcee – Fiona Forbes
Musical Performers – The Silk Road