Why some cultural festivals are more worthy than others

Pradip Rodrigues

Whenever I read any story online, I never fail to scroll down to the readers’ halalletters below because it gives you a sense of how people really feel about the issue. Take the news report about the Ontario provincial government earmarking over $145,000 to some popular cultural festivals in the Peel Region. Ontario’s Tourism department has a total budget of $19 million to boost festivals and to grow the economy. Carrassauga, got $30,848, the Halal Food Festival, $45,000, the Muslimfest $40,055 and the Port Credit Busker Festival which to me is highly entertaining and attracts thousands of very diverse people from across the region ended up with a mere $24,246. Now one comment below the article drew attention to the fact that ethnic cultural festivals got way more in funding that the Busker Festival. It didn’t escape my attention either. But since I don’t really know what calculations were used to arrive at the funding amounts that have been granted to these festivals, I am not about to be a cynic wondering if this had anything to do with ethnic vote banks. Perhaps the funding decision may pass the smell test after all. What would really be interesting to see which festivals cornered the most funding and which didn’t make the cut.

More funding for festivals in small towns

There are Garlic festivals in small towns like the Stratford Kiwanis Garlic festival which attract health food buffs and encourage families in the GTA to take a drive into the countryside and help the local economy. Wonder if they would qualify for much funding. If for example such festivals in small towns got better funding, they could advertise themselves better, have great entertainment and draw in many more thousands of people which would benefit the local economy.
I mean, if the Halal Food Festival is deserving of $40 K in funding then perhaps a Hindu Vegetarian Food Fest could also be a worthy cause.

Perhaps there needs to be a new festival-Canadafest

If Muslimfest could get funding, why not a Christianfest, sorry that would be against the spirit of multiculturalism. Perhaps a festival that would promote integration of newcomers into Canada called Canadafest a celebration of all things Canadian would be the need of the hour.
It could be a sort of a roadshow showcasing everything good about this country and civilization. There could be Canadian food cooking demos. A section devoted to introducing sports like Curling, Baseball and Hockey. New immigrants and others could watch and try to understand the popular sports in the country. Skating, Skiing etc could be demonstrated as well. Young South Asians could consider baseball which is in many ways quite similar to cricket, think Million Dollar Arm.
There could be a section where Parks Canada could run a workshop on camping in the great Canadian outdoors, teach newcomers and the uninitiated how to pitch a tent, build a campfire and other campsite etiquette. Ethnic minorities are conspicious by their absence at campsites and many are averse and fearful of the outdoors. There could be Canadian music, arts and stuff that would celebrate the richness of this country that so many immigrants have come to partake.

Festivals should also celebrate Canadian culture

Over the years, millions of dollars have been shoveled into organizations that exist simply to keep alive the traditions and cultures of other countries. While it is wonderful that Canada’s newcomers never forget their origins and culture, it would be superb if the newcomers could also spend a day at a festival where they could understand appreciate all things Canadian. Celebrating diversity and culture seems to be worthy of tax dollars if they are important to a large number of new Canadians. This is the kind of thing that breeds resentment among mainstream Canadians who see this as shameless pandering.

Pradip Rodrigues started out as a journalist at Society magazine, part of the Magna Group in Mumbai. He wrote extensively on a variety of subjects. He later moved to the Times of India where he was instrumental in starting the now defunct E-times, a television magazine. He conceptualized Bombay Times and became its first assistant editor where he handled features and page three. Since coming to Canada in 2000, he has freelanced for newspapers and magazines in India and written autobiographies for seniors.

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