Video offers insight

Langley’s Karen community was honoured through film, and in person, on the afternoon of Jan. 18 in Fort Langley.

A video screening of the short film, The Karen Culture, took place at the Chief Sepass Theatre at Langley Fine Arts School.

Edited by Angel Burgueno, the 20-minute video documents how the Karen people have integrated into the Langleys, and offered insight into their culture and heritage.

The Karen are an ethnic minority in their homeland and have been persecuted by the Myanmar (Burmese) government for years.

A little more than two decades ago, Thailand set up temporary refugee camps and due to overcrowding and its effects (crime, poverty, health problems and more) the United Nations began a resettlement program. About 140,000 Karen ended up in camps.

They have been accepted by Canada, the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, Finland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands. The first families arrived in Langley in 2007.

Among the Karen who have settled in Canada, Langley has gained a reputation as a desirable place to live because of the supportive community atmosphere.

Today, roughly 360 Karen people live in the Langleys.

“I believe we have the largest concentration of Karen in the Lower Mainland at this point in time,” Langley Community Services Society (LCSS) executive director Bill Dartnell told the Langley Advance.

The purpose was to document the culture of the Karen people, not only for those living in the Langleys but hopefully for their children and grandchildren, so “they have a living record on a CD disc,” Dartnell explained.

The film explores the Karen people’s customs such as dance and weaving, as well as why they came to Canada, and their experiences in their new country, Dartnell said.

The film also documents the efforts of Karen seniors as they assimilate into Canadian culture.

“It’s much more difficult for seniors than it is for younger folks,” Dartnell said. “If you take very young people and you teach them a second language, it’s very easy. As you get older, it’s a lot more difficult. And when you come to Canada, as a senior, and you don’t speak the language at all, it’s not only the cultural change, it’s also the fact that you don’t have the skills or the language.”

Dartnell said the Karen people are beautiful, gentle, and kind.

“They are independent, almost to a fault,” he added. “You want to help them and sometimes they want to do it on their own. They are wonderful people to deal with. They are very family orientated.”

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