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Kelowna finally ready for a change of face

Image Credit: Contributed
December 05, 2013 - 12:24 PM


KELOWNA - The first non-English-language publication in the Okanagan is a likely sign that one of Canada’s least culturally diverse communities is opening up.

The Indo-Okanagan Times is a locally owned, monthly newspaper printed in Punjabi. Publisher Bob Gill started the newspaper in June and recently, an online news site. He says the time is right in the Okanagan for a publication like his.

“It’s amazing how things have taken off,” Gill says. “People are embracing the product. I’m getting emails, I’m getting phone calls, from people saying thank you very much. I think that the time was just right.”

A 2008 report by the Intercultural Society of the Central Okanagan titled 'The Changing Face of Kelowna: Are We Ready?' lists Kelowna as having “the lowest percentage of visible minorities in Canada” and notes "Kelowna stands out within B.C. and Canada with a distinctive demographic profile: older, Caucasian, English speaking and Canadian.” There hasn’t been a census on visible minorities in the Central Okanagan taken since 2006, when the population was 160,560 and visible minorities made up only 5.2 per cent.

But it certainly appears that is changing. Mohini Singh has been a community leader since moving here in 1989. A recipient of the Order of B.C., she is the first Punjabi elected to council two years ago. She says the number of visible minorities in Kelowna has risen noticeably in the last few years.

“At the time I came here the population of visible ethnic minorities was really, really small,” she says. “The statistics then really alarmed me when they said six or eight per cent were visible minorities. I think, since those statistics came out, we have grown, the community has grown and it’s nice to see that.”

Gill says Indo-Canadians are naturally drawn to larger cities like Vancouver. With 2.4 million people and 40 per cent visible minorities, it already has an established culture. If Kelowna is going to diversify, it has to start somewhere.

“There’s not much Indo-Canadian exposure in this area,” Gill says. “If anyone in our culture wants to do any shopping, for instance, they have to go to the coast. I think that’s part of the reason.”

Things are changing for the better, he says, and every week he gets more positive feedback from readers excited to read something from a familiar perspective and language. Having a dedicated media in the Indo-Okanagan Times can only foster that community here.

“One of our reasons for doing this is we’ve seen a gap between the cultures,” he says. “That’s something we’d like to bring together eventually.”

To contact the reporter for this story, email Adam Proskiw at, call (250) 718-0428 or tweet @AdamProskiw.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013
InfoTel News Ltd

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