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Celebrating our Asian diversity…

Sonia Dhaliwal, Canadian Indian

How did you end up living Whistler? And what do you do here?

My name is Sonia Dhaliwal and I grew up in an Indian family (Sikh). About 5years ago, I was living in Vancouver, and looking for a change of scenery. I love snowboarding and I had always thought about moving to Whistler, so I finally did it. I have two jobs in Whistler: part time for The Keg (restaurant) and full time working remotely for BCIT.  A lot of this work involves projects related to employment, training and education, and career development. Much of my current works involves bringing BCIT education and training opportunities to our community here in Whistler, as well as working locally with Lil’wat Nation to provide training and awareness for employers around their culture, history and traditions.

How do you think being Asian has coloured your life?

Growing up, I would sometimes go to the temple with my parents. Having a Sikh background has exposed me to spirituality and always having faith in the background of my life has impacted the person I am today, and I am thankful for that. If there is a wedding or any Punjabi style event, I wear Punjabi style clothing, make up, and a lot of jewelry, which is always fun!  

What specific parts of your Asian heritage do you try to keep?

I am Canadian born, and I have Indian born parents. When I attend a family wedding or event, I will sometimes wear Punjabi styles clothes if the wedding is Punjabi style. The food and traditional celebrations are very relevant in my family. We follow the traditional events before and after a wedding.

Food is another thing we’ve kept. My mom always cooks a lot of delicious Indian food regularly, and during “Diwali.” During the Diwali, we see our family and friends, go to the temple, and houses are often lit up with candles.

Last but not least, my spiritual roots are something I keep close to my heart, even though I don’t go to temple often today. I think if there was a temple in Whistler, I’d visit more often.

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There has been a significant increase of hate crimes against Asian in Canada since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. How has that affected you personally?

When I hear news related to Anti-Asian hate crimes, it brings me a lot of sadness and disappointment. Especially when I saw there were people being rude to elderly Chinese people. It hurts my heart and I wonder how this person would feel if the same was happening to their elderly grandparents.

We are all built the same on the inside as human beings. The differences between all of us is what we look like on the outside, where we come from, and our variety of cultures, traditions, and ways of living. And these varieties we have are beautiful and should be celebrated, not hated on.

Why is it important to recognize/celebrate Asian Heritage Month? This year?

I think it’s important to celebrate Asian Heritage Month, because we can share our beautiful cultures with everyone. We should celebrate our differences, not hate it. When sharing our culture, we can also educate people on different Asian heritages. For example, when someone says Asian, people commonly just think about one country, however this is not true. It’s the same with different skin tones. A white or lighter tone doesn’t mean a person is from the US or Canada, they might from German or England. A lot of people doesn’t realized there are so many different countries and cultures coming from Asia.

I believe we all have a lot of unconscious biases. One of the ways to bring these to light is to talk about the different cultural dynamics we have and celebrate all our differences, especially here in Whistler where we have such a diverse group of people living and working.  

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