Representatives from the Russian community in Edmonton say the decision to exclude the Russian pavilion from this year’s Heritage Festival is a violation of human rights.
Earlier this month, the Edmonton Heritage Festival Association (EHFA) said it had decided to not feature Russian culture at the festival due to safety concerns, saying it’s received several threats and was advised by police that extra security may be required if the pavilion was included.
“This decision of the EHFA board is deeply disturbing – by excluding individuals based on their ancestry or place of origin, the event organizers are perpetuating stereotypes, reinforcing divisions and limiting the free expression of cultural identity,” the Russian Heritage Cultural Development Association (RHCDA) said in a statement.
“Banning individuals from participating in a cultural event based on their ancestry or place of origin should be considered a violation of human rights.”
The EHFA said it had received the statement from the RHCDA and would for now refrain from making detailed comments.
“However, we want to assure our community and stakeholders that the matter is being taken seriously,” the EHFA said.
“We deeply value the contributions and perspectives of all groups represented in the festival, including the Russian heritage community.”
The RHCDA is a diverse group of Canadians who respect and have an interest in Russian culture, language and traditions and whose volunteers have ancestral roots in Russia, Ukraine, India, China, Italy, Switzerland and Brazil, the organization said.
“We are a Canadian association, not connected to the Russian government in any way, and we have never been supported by the Russian government in any way,” the RHCDA said.
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The organization said it wants to stay away from politics and focus on inclusion.
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The statement went on to say the Russian community – the target of the threats – was being excluded, while it didn’t see any action taken towards the organizations and individuals making the threats.
The annual heritage festival features more than 100 cultural groups that share hundreds of cultural dishes and crafts and perform shows on 40 stages. Hundreds of thousands of people from across the province attend the festival each August long weekend.
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The RHCDA said it has been a part of the festival since 2007.
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