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Renfrew County showcasing diversity with new multi-cultural event

The Town of Renfrew hosted the county’s first Cultural Exchange event Saturday, an opportunity to showcase the region’s diversity.

The event was held at the myFM Centre. It include international food vendors, interactive activities and info sessions and locally crafted items.

“Who you’re seeing here as participants in Cultural Exchange are the people who make up our community, these are local vendors,” said Jodi Bucholtz, manager with Local Immigration Partnership Renfrew and Lanark, and one of the event’s organizers.

Some of the diverse cultures featured Saturday included Jamaica, India, Taiwan, Thailand, Pakistan, Chile and Indigenous Canadian.

Bucholtz says the event was an opportunity for Renfrew County – which is predominantly white – to experience who its residents share a community with.

According to the 2021 Canadian census, just 3,430 people, or three percent of the county’s population identify as a visible minority.

“There’s an importance in making sure that those who don’t look like the majority of us in the Ottawa Valley can see themselves in our communities,” said Kate Monahan, one of the event’s organizers.

“In Renfrew, maybe we don’t have all of those cultures represented,” “But if we think about it from Arnprior to Pembroke, we do actually have organizations involved.”

One of the vendors in attendance was Shahnaz Nisar, owner of Biryani House in Arnprior.

“I just moved from Pakistan one and a half years ago. I realized that there are less restaurants in Arnprior. So, I opened my own restaurant and it’s Pakistani cuisine,” Nisar said.

Nisar says exposing her Pakistani dishes to a community not used to the cuisine took time, as she attended Sunday markets in order to grow a following before being able to open a restaurant.

“My customers are majority white people, as compared to the Asian community,” Nisar said, referencing the fact that her client base may traditionally include more Middle Eastern customers if she was located in a more diverse area.

Regardless of who she is serving her food to, Nisar adds that she is happy for the exposure to the rest of the county.

“Oh, I really love it. When I saw my flag here, it was a very big thing for me,” she said.

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