Diversity Planning Seeing Results
It has been a couple years since the Saskatchewan German Council (SGC) began the diversity planning process. Although the board and staff were not sure what to expect, the focus on diversity 1'las opened the door to some creative and inclusive ways to engage broader interests in German heritage.
This past year, SGC has launched a series of well-attended ethno-cultural cooking classes known as Culture in the Kitchen. The classes bring together the cooking knowledge and practices of two different cultures - German and another cultural background - to share food, ideas, stories, customs and best of all ... an opportunity to get to know one another.
"It's an opportunity for participants to come together to learn about another culture," says Gabriele Waidelich-Harrison, executive director, Saskatchewan German Council. "Through their cooking, they learn about different practices passed down in different cultures, but they also see the similarities. Through talking and sharing, people walk away with a new understanding about the diversity of individuals in their community."
Basically, each class brings together two local cooking experts, one of which is of German heritage, and the other is from another cultural heritage. So far, the program has hosted Chinese, Vietnamese, Norwegian, Brazilian and Nigerian cooking experiences.
"Many participants are eager to stay involved. There is a connection made and many want to come back to do it again or indicate an interest in other SGC activities."
SGC also partnered with the Office of the Treaty Commissioner (OTC) to offer Indigenous Awareness Training sessions, which while open to the public, were attended by many newcomers. "Being immigrants ourselves," explains Waidelich-Harrison, "we recognized that it was important for people living here to have a better understanding of the province's history and Indigenous peoples."
The presentation led to two interview articles in SGC's Postillion magazine: one featuring Harry Lafond, former chief of Muskeg Lake Cree Nation, and current executive director of OTC in Saskatoon, about his German heritage, and another interview article with Lyndon Linklater, OTC presenter, about his invitation to Germany to speak about Indigenous culture. "There is a huge interest in Germany about Indigenous culture and ceremonies," says Waidelich-Harrison.
For the past few years, SaskCulture has been supporting diversity planning in provincial cultural organizations. After participating in diversity planning sessions, several Eligible Cultural Organizations have moved forward to determine the steps needed to make their organizations more inclusive.