Six South Asians were elected to the new B.C. Executive of the federal Liberal Party at the 2013 LPCBC Biennial Convention, Hope and Hard Work: from Sea to Sky.  In total there were 536 voting delegates with just over 90% voter turnout.

B.C. Executive:

* Vice President: Manjot Hallen

* Communications Chair: Herman Thind

* Finance Chair: Garry Thind

* Organization Chair: Sangeeta Lalli

* Nominations Chair: Sukhpreet Dhillon

* Campaign Co-Chair: Sarah Sidhu



South Asian wrestlers performed impressively at the November 2 SFU International wrestling event.

Those who came first in their respective weight categories were Sunny Dhinsa (BMWC) – 120 kg, Arjun Gill (SF unattached) – 96 kg, and Jasmit Phulka (BMWC) – 84 kg.

Those who came second were Pardeep Rekhi (BMWC) – 120 kg, Manjot Sandhu (BMWC) – 96 kg, Ajay Gill (Cascades) – 84 kg, and Sukhan Chahal (SF unattached) – 55 kg. (Photos 4-7)

In third positions were Rajan Gill (Miri Piri) – 96 kg, and Justin Basra (Dinos) – 60 kg. (Photos 8-9)



The sign for Allah-Rakha Rahman Street in honour of Oscar-winning composer A.R. Rahman of Bollywood was unveiled in Markham, Ontario, by the internationally renowned Bollywood composer best known in the West for his music for the movie Slumdog Millionaire and Mayor Frank Scarpitti at the Vedic Cultural Centre.

Rahman was in Canada to attend a ceremony organized by the Indian International Film Festival of Toronto  (IIFFT) in association with the local city government.

According to his website’s bio of him: “He has won two Academy Awards, two Grammy Awards, a BAFTA Award, a Golden Globe, four National Film Awards, fifteen Filmfare Awards and thirteen Filmfare Awards South in addition to numerous other awards and nominations.

“His extensive body of work for film and the stage earned him the nickname “the Mozart of Madras” and several Tamil commentators and fans have coined him the nickname Isai Puyal (English: Music Storm). In 2009, Time placed Rahman in its list of World’s Most Influential People.”



Vancouver’s Yellow Cab driver Harjinder Singh returned an envelope containing $10,000 to the passenger who had left it in his cab and refused the $1,000 reward offered to him by the grateful man. Yellow Cab manager Carolyn Bauer clarified that his name was ‘Harjinder’ and not ‘Sarjinder’ as reported by a news agency.

Unfortunately, the only time we generally hear about cabbies is when something negative takes place and the usual stereotype of a South Asian cabbie is splashed in mainstream media, much to the delight of racists.

But Bauer, who’s worked for some 24 years in this industry, said people would be amazed at what all cabbies turn in all the time: wallets with money, cell phones – even antique silverware.

She told me: “These guys work so hard. They are so loving towards their families. And if you see the photos from our lost and found [section], you’re going to go ‘My God!’ Like look at what people leave behind and these guys bring it in.”

She said: “I can’t say enough about them. They work hard. They work so many hours for their families. They take such abuse at times – we all know that … when people are drinking. I know guys that have had knives held to them. I’ve gone to scenes myself personally where I’ve seen guys beat up with blood coming out of them.”



Rashida Samji, 60, a former notary public of Vancouver, was charged with 28 counts of fraud and theft following an investigation into a multi-million dollar ponzi scheme by the RCMP Federal Serious and Organized Crime (FSOC) supported by the Vancouver Police Department that started in February 2012.

It is alleged that between January 1, 2010, and August 31, 2012, about $40 million was obtained fraudulently from over 100 victims.

These charges represent $17 million dollars that was allegedly defrauded from 14 individuals between 2006 and 2012. This is part of a larger fraud that allegedly stretches back to 2003. Samji is a prominent figure in the South Asian community in Vancouver and had attracted numerous investors, according to the RCMP.

On November 6, the 28 charges of fraud and theft were sworn against Samji and on November 7, she was taken into custody without incident while leaving her residence. She was released on a $100,000 no-deposit surety and 13 bail conditions.

Last September, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Laura Gerow certified a law suit against Samji and several financial institutions over the alleged Ponzi scheme as a class proceeding.



A high ranking Punjab police officer of Patiala, Senior Superintendent of Police Hardial Singh Mann, told the Hindustan Times newspaper of India that as many as 40 Canada-based Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) are believed to be part of an international drug smuggling racket involving kabaddi players. The drug ring was allegedly being operated by a former police officer, Jagdish Bhola.

According to the Times of India newspaper: “An Arjuna awardee in 1997 and decorated with titles like Rustam-e-Hind, Bharat Kesri, Bhrat Mal Samrat, Hind Kesri and Vishav Khalsa Kesri, Bhola, now in his early 40s, was serving as deputy superintendent of police (DSP) in Punjab Police when he was found involved in drug trafficking and was dismissed from service in 2002.”

Indian newspapers named some of the kabaddi players from Vancouver and Toronto metro areas. Mann said one of the kabaddi players from Vancouver metro area who is a big promoter of the sport left Punjab a month before police raided the houses of Anoop Singh Kahlon in Mohali and Jalandhar earlier this year.

Mann said that they were investigating whether several players whom these key kabaddi players had taken to foreign countries were used to smuggle drugs.

Mann told the media that the information was shared by the Punjab Police with the Police Liaison Officer in the Canadian High Commission in New Delhi at a high level meeting that was presided over by Hardeep Singh Dhillon, Additional Director General of Police, Intelligence, Punjab.



Three South Asians were among the six who received the Alumni UBC Achievement Awards.

* Salina Dharamsi: Future Alumnus Award

In 2010 she was admitted into the highly competitive accounting co-op education program at UBC’s Sauder School of Business, and was soon identified as a top recruit by KPMG. She completed three work terms as a chartered accountant articling student and in 2011 was one of only two Canadian interns selected to complete a one-month rotation in corporate finance in Johannesburg, South Africa, as part of KPMG’s Global Internship Program. Dharamsi has also been extremely active in her local community. Since being selected as recipient for Future Alumnus Award, Dharamsi has graduated from UBC and is currently enrolled in the Master of Professional Accounting program at the Edwards School of Business in Saskatchewan.

* Muhammad Iqbal: Faculty Community Service Award

In 1996 Dr. Muhammad (“Mo”) Iqbal retired from UBC’s department of Mechanical Engineering after enjoying a distinguished career specializing in solar power. After 30 years contributing to education and research in Canada, he now devotes himself to creating opportunities for disadvantaged communities in Pakistan, his country of birth.

In 1999 Iqbal and his wife, Diane Fast, established the family-based Maria-Helena Foundation (MHF) to provide educational opportunities to disadvantaged children in Pakistan, notably to girls.

* Gurdev Gill: Global Citizenship Award

In 1957, Gill became the first Indo-Canadian to graduate in medicine from UBC and subsequently the first to practice medicine in Canada. As a student, he co-founded the East India Student Association and served as its first secretary. During the 1960s he lobbied government in his official capacity as president of the East Indian Welfare Association. In 1970, the Khalsa Diwan Society, under his leadership, raised funds to build a Sikh temple on Ross Street in Vancouver, an important resource for the Indo-Canadian community. In 1976, Gill founded the Indo-Canadian Friendship Society of BC. From the mid-1990s the organization has set its sights on improving living conditions for rural communities in Punjab. In 1990 Dr. Gill became the first Indo-Canadian to receive the Order of BC. He received an honorary degree from UBC in 1996.



Sukhdeep Kaur Chohan of Hickory Wood Public School of Brampton, Ontario, was the only South Asian teacher to receive the 2013 Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence.

Chohan told the Asian Journal: “Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s words, “Make divine love thy pen, and thy heart the writer,” are the core foundational pillars upon which my teaching practice rests.  I believe that teaching is a divine blessing that allows one to serve children from the heart.”

She added: “That entails connecting them to the world outside the classroom, providing opportunities where their ideas blossom, instilling ideals for serving humanity with compassion (Seva), and establishing a platform from which they can share their voices with the global community.

“By providing an inclusive and inviting classroom environment in which varying learning needs are met, differences are respected, cultural traditions are cherished, and religious practices are honored, it is important for me that each of my students feel acknowledged and loved, thrive in a nurturing environment, and know that their presence in the world makes the world a better place.”



Three South Asians are among the 40 undergrads nationally who have been selected for the 2013 Schulich Leader Scholarships. Each of 40 new undergrads will receive scholarship worth $60,000.  They include Gurman Khera of Surrey’s L.A. Matheson who’s a UBC student. Sarah Khan of Kitimat’s Mount Elizabeth Middle Secondary School in B.C., who’s a University of Victoria student, and Akanksha Joshi of Sugarloaf Senior High School in Campbellton, New Brunswick, who’s a Dalhousie University student, are the other South Asians who have were chosen for the scholarships.

Seymour Schulich, a Montreal-born Jewish Canadian business leader and philanthropist, created the annual awards program two years ago to cultivate next-generation pioneers of global scientific research and innovation in Canada and Israel.  Schulich Leader Scholarships are undergraduate scholarships for students intending to enroll in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) areas of study at a minimum of one of the 20 selected universities. 



Businesswoman Mumtaz Ladha, 60, of West Vancouver, who had been accused of bringing a 26-year-old Tanzanian woman to Vancouver in 2008 as an unpaid maid, was found not guilty on all charges against her.

Ladha had been charged with one count of human trafficking, two counts of misrepresentation and an employment violation under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. A human smuggling charge was dropped because of a B.C. court ruling about the Criminal Code charge.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Lauri Ann Felon found that the young woman’s testimony was not credible and the Crown did not prove that she was coerced into coming to Canada or working for the Ladha family.

The judge noted that Ladha had no reason to hire the housekeeper under the table, but said the complainant had a motive to lie. She ruled that Ladha was generous to the woman, but the woman then took advantage of that generosity. The young woman fled to a women’s shelter in June 2009.



The Surrey North Delta Division of Family Practice, together with Fraser Health, officially opened the South Asian Health Centre in Surrey. The South Asian Health Centre will work with local physicians, health authority services, the community and families to help support people to manage their chronic conditions and improve their overall health. The South Asian Health Centre is located at 6830 King George Highway, offering patients handy access to primary care services.

The centre will respond to patient care needs in a culturally tailored manner that research has shown to be most effective in improving health outcomes for South Asian patients. Research shows that it doesn’t matter where the community is in the world (Mumbai, New Delhi, the United Kingdom or Surrey, BC), people in the South Asian community are twice as likely to have cardiac disease; four times as likely to have diabetes; and more likely to have a heart attack 10 years before people in other populations.

The South Asian Health Centre is a collaboration between Fraser Health and the Surrey North Delta Division of Family Practice.

Advanced Education Minister Amrik Virk, MLA for Surrey-Tynehead, said: “Providing culturally relevant and appropriate care will help patients better manage chronic illness, improve their health outcomes, and help them feel comfortable accessing health services.”



In a historic election of the B.C. Law Society, for the first time ever two South Asians were elected to the Benchers of the Law Society of British Columbia. Pinder Cheema, Q.C., Administrative Crown Counsel, Victoria, and Jeevyn Dhaliwal with Roper Greyell LLP of Vancouver and will serve for a two-year term beginning January 1, 2014 and ending December 31, 2015.

Lawyers elect fellow lawyers to govern them. Benchers are the governing body as well as the regulatory body and the adjudicative body. They also appoint members to be disciplinary members who give advice to other members – and if there are hearings to be held, they sit on those panels.

Pinder graduated with a Bachelor of Arts and eventually a Law Degree from the University of Victoria in 1983. She practiced law as a sole practitioner in Victoria serving clients in French and Punjabi, until she joined the Ministry of the Attorney General in 1989.  Cheema has broken many barriers and set records as the first female Sikh law graduate at the University of Victoria and Queen’s Counsel designation (2002).

Jeevyn obtained her law degree from the University of British Columbia in 1997 and was called to the Bar in British Columbia in 1998.  She has long been active in the legal community, including having served on the Law Society’s Rule of Law and Lawyer Independence Advisory Committee for 2013.  She is a Board member and past President of SABABC (South Asian Bar Association of B.C.)  As a testament to her skills as a lawyer, she was selected by her peers for inclusion in the 2014 edition of Best Lawyers Canada. Her community involvement extends to singing at charitable and sporting events and she has, over the years, been a frequent guest anthem singer for the Vancouver Canucks NHL hockey team.



Incumbent Jagmohan Singh, a Surrey realtor, won comfortably against his opponent Kelly Guichon, a Delta resident who is self-employed and assists businesses in leadership development and organizational performance, in the election for the party’s Regional Director for Region 9.

Region 9 comprises of the following BC Liberal Riding Associations: Delta North, Delta South, Surrey-Green Timbers, Surrey-Newton, Surrey-Panorama, Surrey-Tynehead, Surrey-Whalley, Surrey-Cloverdale, Surrey-White Rock, Surrey-Fleetwood, Richmond Centre, Richmond East and Richmond-Steveston.

Trained as a lawyer in Jalandhar, India, Jagmohan was forced to shift careers upon immigrating to Surrey in 1994. After six months of working as a general labourer, he eventually found his niche in real estate, where he soon established himself as one of the top agents in the Lower Mainland.



In November, it was announced that Indira Prahst had been chosen for the prestigious Renate Shearer Award for outstanding contribution to human rights.

Executive Director of the BC Human Rights Coalition, Susan O’Donnell, said the Coalition was impressed by the way Prahst continues to bridge academe with community, as well as her work with South Asian women and South Asian young people. She added: “The issues of domestic violence and helping young people stay out gangs are grass roots issues which are really important to our Coalition.”

Prahst, who is a regular contributor to Asian Journal, is Chair of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology and a full-time instructor at Langara College.

This award is a memorial to the life and work of Renate Shearer who was a champion of equality and dignity for all.