Safe Harbour seeks help

Offers a place to go for people who feel discrimination

Safe Harbour coordinator Jassy Maghera hopes other businesses in the community will join the program to help those feeling discriminated against in Maple Ridge.

It’s good to know there’s a place to go if you’re not having a good day. If you’re feeling picked on or discriminated against, the Safe Harbour Respect For All program ensures there are more than a dozen places in Maple Ridge where you can stop in, catch your breath and maybe make a phone call.

The program operates in the same way as the block parent program. People in businesses or at social service agencies take brief training sessions on how to deal with people who are upset and ensure there’s a place to sit down and make phone calls. Stickers are put on to the door or window, telling the public it’s a Safe Harbour.

“It’s a temporary refuge, an immediate safe place,” said Jassy Maghera, with Family Education and Support Centre.

“They know they won’t be judged. They won’t be mistreated there, that’s a place that they can go to.”

Maghera said people can face any type of discrimination because of their race, sexuality, or physical ability. In Maple Ridge, seniors and the homeless face discrimination.

While case of discrimination may be far and few between, a public facility or business that has the Safe Harbour sticker also shows that it’s a welcoming place to enter or shop.

“It just shows that they have policies and procedures that are inclusive and welcoming to anyone.”

Some of the Safe Harbour locations are the Maple Ridge Leisure Centre, both libraries in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows, public health units, and Service B.C. Benjamin Moore Paints on Dewdney Trunk Road is one of the private businesses participating.

Maghera said discrimination isn’t a common issue in Maple Ridge, although there are pockets where it surfaces.

“We’re definitely a smaller community. Our immigrant population isn’t as large as other communities. We do get calls, but it’s not something that happens on a frequent basis,” Maghera said. “It’s definitely there, it’s a little hidden in pockets here and there.”

Community programs aimed at eliminating discrimination and dispelling stereotypes are helping.

Currently, there are 21 Safe Harbour locations in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows. Training, involving about two hours, is being offered Feb. 10 and 24.

The Safe Harbour Respect for All program is run by the Family Education and Support Centre and is funded by the federal and provincial governments.

However, the future of that funding isn’t secure.

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