The second Saint John International Culture Fest drew hundreds of people on Saturday as people of different cultures came together to celebrate the city’s growing diversity.
Organized by the Saint John Newcomers Centre, the event is meant to showcase diversity, multiculturalism and the contribution of newcomers, according to managing director Mohammed Bagha.
Dozens of vendors were on hand to celebrate multiculturalism and share their belief that it enriches communities.
“I came here a year ago. I’m proud to be a Saint Johner,” said Mohanned Abdelaziz, who is Palestinian. “I feel at home and I want to show my (new) home my previous home where I came from, what’s my background and what’s my whole culture that I am bringing with me.”
Mayor Don Darling was also an active participant in the event.
Darling believes Saint John is becoming one of the most diverse cities of its size in the country.
Both the city of Saint John and the province of New Brunswick have pegged immigration as a key cog in growing the population.
Darling says the province must not only attract newcomers, but also retain them.
“We need essentially to have two Airbus 330’s full of new people coming to New Brunswick every month,” Darling said. “So we’ve got a tall task ahead of us and it starts by making sure that everyone feels welcome.”
The festival did not only showcase the city’s cultural present and future, but also its past.
The black community and Quakers settled in nearby Beaver Harbour more than 230 years ago.
“We’re only an hour away from history being made in 1783,” said Ralph Thomas of the New Brunswick Black History Society.
“The Quakers and the black folks came together and lived in harmony.”
There is a recognition at the festival that different cultures living and working together can, in fact, pay dividends.
“It is also the diverse talent that is coming to Saint John, which is a really competitive advantage,” said Bagha.
New Brunswick will need that advantage if communities in the province want to continue to grow and thrive.