When Naji Yazdi was a child in Iran, his father told him he shouldn’t play with another young boy because “Iranians, they don’t become friends with people from that country.”
Yazdi couldn’t understand his father’s reasoning and over the coming years, would help him see that people should be kind to everyone.
Yazdi, who immigrated to Canada seven years ago, was among three people from Victoria recognized by the province for their outstanding contributions to combat racism in their communities.
Yazdi’s work with the United Way and the Iranian-Persian Cultural Society is what got him named as the winner of the Intercultural Trust Award.
“I’m excited and happy to have won the award, I feel like now it is my responsibility if I’m in a situation that I have to speak up, it’s not an option anymore I can’t choose to be silent,” he says.
This year’s B.C. Multiculturalism and Anti-Racism Awards were presented through a livestream event on May 27. Priemer John Horgan and Anne Kang, Minister of Citizens’ Services and responsible for multiculturalism, presented the awards to five individuals from B.C. in the categories of Intercultural Trust, Breaking Barriers and Emerging Leader.
Boma Brown, founder of the Support Network for Indigenous Women and Women of Colour (SNIWWOC), was also recognized during the ceremony. Brown says she felt the need to create SNIWWOC because when she was a newcomer to Canada in 2014, she noticed a gap in equitable access to health care for marginalized women.
“I think racism and bias affect people’s access to health care, because unfortunately, we have medical professionals that still have racist ideas of what it means to be a visible minority or an Indigenous person,” she says.
Brown received the Emerging Leader Award.
Steven Baileys with the Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria was also recognized as an Intercultural Trust Award finalist.
“This recognition validates that work that many of us are doing in dozens of communities across B.C. So many good folks work alongside me to ensure that racism and hate are challenged and reduced in Greater Victoria. They all deserve and share in this recognition. When everyone works together to combat hate and racism, of course, we ensure our community is a safer and more welcoming home for everyone,” he says.