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Multiculturalism focus of Yorkton woman's volunteer work

Recently honoured with Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Medal for volunteer work with Multicultural Council of Saskatchewan.
Darlene Stakiw was honoured with a Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Medal for her years of volunteer work with the Multicultural Council of Saskatchewan.

YORKTON – A Yorkton woman was the recipient of a Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Medal which was received through the Multicultural Council of Saskatchewan.

A gathering and presentation was held for Darlene Stakiw on July 19 at the Godfrey Dean Art Gallery in honour of her 40+ years of dedicated volunteer work in the province and community.

"It was nice to be recognized," said Stakiw in an interview with Yorkton This Week, adding, "I think my husband and my kids were happier about it than I am."

Since moving to Yorkton in 1967, Stakiw has volunteered with 12 different organizations in the city and province.  From sitting on the board of the Yorkton Arts Council as President to sitting on the board of the Multicultural Council of Saskatchewan, she is no stranger to volunteering her time.

"I'm still involved," said the Hafford, Sask import.

Stakiw said that multiculturalism has been her passion since a young age.

"I grew up in a Ukrainian community — my dad was very interested in other cultures — he was a teacher," said Stakiw, "we always had our discussions and we had all the magazines — I grew up with National Geographic and those kind of things — it was just something that I was always interested in."

"Social studies was always one of my favorite classes because we talked about other countries," said Stakiw, "I loved it."

Stakiw, a retired Psychiatric Social Worker with a degree in Science and Biology and Educational Psychology, said she was inspired by her father and his friends for their efforts to bring multiculturalism to the public.

"A friend of my Dad's was very involved in setting up Folk Fest in Saskatoon — his other friend ended up being a senator in Ottawa — Paul Yuzyk," said Stakiw, "he was the person who was instrumental in passing the Multiculturalism Act for Canada."

Yuzyk was well known for calling on the government to recognize multiculturalism in Canada's Parliament and predicted that multiculturalism would become a model for other nations of the world dealing with immigration and integration issues, according to a biography about the senator on

As for Stakiw, her time with MCoS saw her bring the subject of racial discrimination towards Indigenous Peoples to the forefront.  Working with different schools in the community, Stakiw helped to bring light to a subject that didn't have any shone on it during that time.

"One of the things I really was proud of was that I started to bring in — on March 21 which is the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination — what I started doing was bringing in speakers," said Stakiw, of the initiative she undertook during the 1990s.

"Every March we would bring in speakers from the Indigenous community," said Stakiw, noting the speakers talked about their upbringings in residential schools as well as the violence directed towards their communities.

"Nobody was talking about that kind of thing back then," said Stakiw, "I was involved with the schools a lot — I was bringing people into schools talking about anti-racism and that sort of thing."

"One March we had Indigenous artist Brian Marion ... he's from around here — we had set up a whole month of Brian's art — we worked with the Friendship Centre at that time."

Marion, who passed away in 2011, was a Canadian Aboriginal artist originally from Kamsack.

"All the schools were coming," said Stakiw, "Brian would be there and he would talk about his Indigenous culture and his art and what each meant," said Stakiw, adding, "that was one of the most successful things that went on here."

Stakiw said she feels things have gotten better in regard to racism and reconciliation in the 30 or so years since she first helped to bring speakers into schools.

"I think we're better — I really do — I've thought about that a lot — we talk about that a lot — because at least people are acknowledging things happened ... people are starting to want to learn and that's important.  I think that's a really good thing."

To go along with her work in schools, Stakiw said she help to bring a multicultural health conference to the city after attending one in Regina.

"It was for the Yorkton District and we had over 200 people come to this conference," said Stakiw.

Stakiw that things like the Yorkton Business Improvement District's June Days is a good example of how far we've come as a community.

"It really nice to have people who are proud of their cultures to show everybody else, 'hey, we've got cultures too, we'd like to share them with you'," said Stakiw, "they want to share."

Stakiw said still finds herself volunteering with multiple organizations and when asked how long she plans to keep going, she replied with "forever."

"You meet so many great people from all walks of life when you're involved in anything, but in multi-culturalism especially," said Stakiw, "you meet people from every part of the world, and make friends with them, and have fun with them."