December 18, 2018
As cultural diplomacy enters public and political discourse more frequently, governments can be seen implementing visual arts, music, education, language, and even cooking programs that celebrate their country’s soft power and increase amity with other nations. Similarly, numerous initiatives and funding opportunities over the years have demonstrated the ways in which the Canadian federal government strengthens foreign policy, cultural diplomacy, and promotes Canadian culture on the world stage.
Canadian citizens, too, are presented with opportunities to participate in cultural exchanges. For example, by attending festivals and celebrations across the country and learning about the cultures that make up such a multicultural and diverse nation, Canadian residents can immerse themselves in a new and exciting cultural setting and improve communication and comradery with one another. Therefore, as we prepare to enter the thick of Winter, here is a list of events that will have you already looking forward to next Summer:
Caribana takes place in Toronto, Ontario, and is one of the biggest Caribbean festivals in North America. Caribana welcomes participants and spectators from Caribbean descent and beyond to celebrate its unique and vibrant culture. The event began as a three-day event, but now boasts three weeks of related events and activities throughout the month of August for residents of all ages to engage further with Caribbean culture. This includes the Carnival Village at Regent Park, a steel pan competition, and creative workshops that teach youth how to express themselves in new ways. Even the CN tower lights up in Caribbean colours to kick off the festivities. That said, the grand parade, complete with music, colourful costumes, and great excitement, is where much of the popularized action takes place: Caribana’s million-plus attendees includes both Canadians and international visitors who wish to see the magic happen in real time.
Richmond Night Market
The Richmond Night Market is held every summer and gives BC residents a taste of Asian cultures through food, merchandise, entertainment, as well as additional cultural cuisines and goods. The Market welcomes over one million visitors during its nearly six-month operation, is the largest night festival in North America, and is even said to be comparable to the authentic markets in Asia, which are held at night to beat the daytime heat. With over half of the city’s population being of East Asian descent, the Richmond Night Market not only connects Asian-Canadians with their heritage, but it also provides other British Columbians (primarily those living in the Richmond and Vancouver areas) with an immersive experience that celebrates an international culture.
Manito Ahbee Festival
Indigenous communities organize many events across Canada at which they share with attendees the arts, dress, customs, and sacred rituals of their distinctive cultures. One such gathering is that of Manitoba’s Manito Ahbee Festival. Every May, a number of events and celebrations take place at the Manito Ahbee Festival, including the Indigenous Music Awards, International Pow Wow, and the Indigenous Music Conference. Additional events also showcase the dance, artwork, and heritage of Indigenous culture. The Manito Ahbee Festival is open to non-Indigenous visitors who, before attending, can visit the website and learn best practices (how to best behave at sacred gatherings such as the Pow Wow, for example) for remaining respectful and appreciative of the communities’ customs and practices.
Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day, or, Fête nationale du Québec, is a special holiday honouring Saint John the Baptist. French-Canadians celebrate the holiday with various festivities across the country on June 23 and 24, with Montreal being the largest of its kind. Drawing attendees in with the main parade, concerts, fireworks, and a huge bonfire, the event celebrates the Francophone culture, while also welcoming both French and non-French speaking residents of different nationalities and ethnicities. Indeed, its exciting events and lineup of things to do make Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day an enjoyable way to discover what Francophone culture is all about.
The Institute for Cultural Diplomacy explains that anyone can be a cultural diplomat, connecting with different cultures and participating in various forms of cultural exchange. Through these exchanges of language, religion, music, and cuisine, the interactions that take place through social and cultural gatherings are examples of everyday cultural diplomacy. Enjoying an authentic Asian braised pork dish, swaying hips to a dancehall tune, appreciating Indigenous art, or waving the Fleurdelisé at a festival can potentially take one out of their comfort zone and expose them to new ways of living. And perhaps most importantly, it can create better understanding and appreciation for those who may be different from them.
By: Raven Wilkinson