Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Neelima Pratap: Building Global Educational Opportunities for Children..

Sep 11 2008
Making a difference by helping others
Neelima Pratap has set up a school for underprivileged children in Goa, India.
For years, I have been speaking about building an inclusive, diverse community. How about building an inclusive, diverse world?My quest took me over the Pacific to beautiful Victoria. This past Canada Day, I was watching a documentary on CBC with Peter Mansbridge, in which several Canadians were profiled for their various initiatives around the globe.The program touched the soul of being Canadian, with a proud feeling that Canucks are making their mark in many different countries, creating opportunities where most needed. During the show, the inspirational journey of former Toronto native, Neelima Pratap, was showcasedShe has shown leadership in establishing a modern-day school for underprivileged children in Goa, India. I personally have only been to mother India, once in my lifetime, visiting my grandparents as a young toddler. Canadians have had a long history of doing excellent humanitarian work in India.Neelima, a well-spoken graduate of Queen’s University, born to a South Asian father and an American mother, has always had a passion for travel, and a vision for helping children. She has always felt the cultural pull of India and its people.“It was so comfortable, like coming home,” she recalls.With her beautiful personality and a heart of gold, she has become a great ambassador for Canada through her work in educating disadvantaged children in India.After working for the Ontario Ministry of Education for seven years, she embarked on a solo journey to India, a trip that would change her perspective on life. During her stay, she joined the group El Shaddai in Goa, volunteering at their shelter for street children.Neelima was approached by Francis Dass, a social worker at the shelter, who shared her vision in helping poor women and their children by starting an educational centre in the village of Bertim Rammagar in Goa.She further entertained the idea and did some soul searching,“I wondered, what’s my purpose in life? What are the gifts I can use to help others? How can I make the most difference?”“Francis was handing me this golden opportunity and I knew I’d always regret it if I didn’t take it,” says Neelima.According to a recent World Bank study, India is among the 23 countries that will not achieve primary education for every child by 2015 without special national and global education.After much consideration, she agreed and partnered up with Francis in August 2006, establishing the newly- registered charity, Grace Educational Trust. After renting a small room and putting up the school’s crest, the interest in the village grew quickly. There is now an enrollment waiting list.Currently, the classroom learning opportunities provide for 50 children between the ages of three and 12. They operate in two shifts, with 25 students attending during one session.Students receive basic early childhood education, where they are taught how to read in English and are given guides to personal hygiene.Neelima says “To get to the next level, we need a larger space to teach more children and expand on programs at the school. We would like a resource center with more books, computers and toys for the children. The school has also provided and empowered women teachers, providing many career opportunities.”She just returned to Canada last October, after spending six months in India. She plans to go back to the school soon. If you would like more information or to help in this project, visit www.graceeducationaltrust.com or e-mail Neelima atgraceedutrust@gmail.com.Coming from an inter-racial background, Neelima has demonstrated that love and respect have no cultural boundaries. She has also taught us that we all have a social responsibility to do more for each other.Neelima, you have captured the hearts of many and have made our world a better place.Thank you!
© Copyright 2007 Langley Times

Canadian Sikh's Celebrate in Mission..

Temple marks big milestone as important part of Mission
Ken Herar, The Times
Published: Tuesday, November 17, 2009
The Mission Sikh Temple celebrated its 20th anniversary earlier this month, which is difficult to believe.I still recall the opening celebrations on Nov. 18, 1989, and the sense of pride that aired throughout the community.The years of struggles in obtaining a site throughout the 1980s and the unfortunate divisions that were created are long behind us.Where else can you go and see beautiful architecture and breathtaking landscape with Mount Baker in the distance or the glow against the night sky?The Gur Sikh Society has established itself as a well-respected religious community and deserves full praise. People who travel through Mission or have visited the city always share positive remarks about the 19,920 square-foot landmark.General secretary and Mission Coun. Terry Gidda said: "The weekend celebrations went smoothly and people generously donated. Langar [food] was served to all."He added: "Three things were celebrated: The 541st birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev, the founder of the Sikh religion, the 20th anniversary celebrations and the wellbeing of seniors and their families."The Gian Anjan Academy from Surrey performed and did a fabulous job in explaining the roots of Sikhism."My parents and I had the good fortune of being interviewed at the Temple as part of an oral history project called The Building of Mission - The stories of Immigrants and First Nations from Then to Now.The other two individuals who took part in separate interviews were pioneer Paul Dhaliwal Sr. and Mission Sikh priest Vir Singh.During our session, I was asked by moderator Parmjit Sidhu if I ever experienced racism growing up in Mission.For the most part, I did not recall encountering much racism in our small town through the '80s. I am not saying it did not exist, but as an individual I found the community generally accepting. I also suggested to Sidhu that Abbotsford and Mission face separate challenges in regards to social integration.The issues in Abbotsford don't seem to exist across the river in Mission. Mission in many ways is a role-model community because it is small and accessible.My father was asked why he choose to live in Mission."It was the citizens who welcomed me," he said at the time. These interviews and an upcoming panel discussion, which I have been asked to be part of at the Lifetime Learning Centre Society in Mission, will be showcased in an upcoming film on March, 22, 2010 at the Mission Library.I came back later in the evening to view the second of a six-part film/book series that is being shown at various locations throughout Mission.It featured the film Continuous Journey, directed by Ali Kazimi that happened to be showing during the weekend festivities.The film takes viewers on a voyage of the Komagata Maru incident of 1914. A post-discussion on the film was later conducted by the Centre for Indo-Canadian Studies at the University of the Fraser Valley chair Satwinder Bains.Kusum Soni, the Mission Multicultural Services Co-ordinator, said: " These projects involve the community and aims at starting a thinking process in the people of Mission and the surrounding areas to strengthen cross-cultural relations, understand the values of Multiculturalism and work on anti-racism campaigns in the community."The Temple has been established during the past two decades as not just a religious building, but a cultural resource centre where people can share and learn. Mission is definitely a better place because of it.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Opening the Door for New Immigrants..

Happy New Year. Do you want to make a difference in someone's life this year? The Multicultural & Immigrant Integration Department at Abbotsford Community Services is looking for individuals and organizations to join there Employment Mentors' Program. Their goal is to find mentors and role models in the community who are willing to spent two hours a week to develop and guide recent newcomers to help achieve their career goals in Canada. Recent statistics from Citizenship and Immigration Canada shows Abbotsford's number of immigrants went from 1,079 in 2002 to 1,305 in 2007. For some newcomers seeking employment in Canada in their respected careers can be daunting tasks often interrupted with rejection. New Canadians bring enormous talents from around the globe that often don't get used in our country, which is a shame. I hear too often that professionals who come from aboard are not working in their specified field of training. With encouragement and guidance offered through the Employment Mentorship Program new Canadians can hopefully fulfill their career dreams. This mentorship will hopefully establish linkages between organizations and new Canadians and bring a positive outcome for everyone.
Pat Christie Coordinator, Employment Mentors' Program said, " The success of this program in the short five-month period it has been offered to new immigrants says volumes of our community's commitment and participation in giving back. This volunteer program offers an extremely rewarding opportunity to utilize coaching and leadership skills whilst sharing knowledge and experience to professionally partner and welcome one of our new professional immigrants into our community environment."
Some of the participants include staff members from West Jet, Sun Life Financial, Prospera Credit Union and they are looking for more.
It is often new Canadians that do jobs that many of us won't touch and are the backbone to our economy. Instead of closing the door lets open the door and provide them with meaningful opportunities.
For more information please contact Pat Christie at patchristie@paralynx.com

Terrorist Attacks and Getting tested for Cancer..

The attacks in Mumbai, India last month claiming hundreds of lives including two Canadians is a reminder that global terrorism still penetrates the fabric of our humanity. Images of helicopters hovering dropping rappelling Black Cat commandos onto a rooftop of a Jewish centre is an unforgettable site. Having traveled to India once in my lifetime I felt the pain and agony of a country I hardly know. My mother, who just recently came home from a successful six-week stay, was not effected by the attacks. As a Canadian first and foremost, I still have many curiosities to a land I have yet to set foot in my adult life. India the largest democracy in the world is rising quickly in many sectors and foreigners are establishing business links.
The attacks caught the attention of South Asians across Canada and around the globe. Centre for Indo Canadians Studies at University of the Fraser Valley, Director Satwinder Bains said, " About six months ago, I stood in the lobby of the Taj Hotel and sat by the pool and when the images of this grand icon came on the TV with fire and smoke billowing out of the dome, I stood transfixed looking at the TV images." "As a Canadian of Indian origin, it saddens me to see that the potential of one of the world's greatest economies is under threat by terrorists whose main goal is to undermine just such a free will", said Bains
Kusum Soni said, " I have visited this beautiful city twice, and both times visited the Hotels Taj Mahal and Oberoi. It is part of my cultural heritage and I saw it burning into flames in front of the whole world. My heart is still in the state of syncope and lips are stitched."
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Last month, I had the opportunity to visit our new beautiful Abbotsford Regional Hospital and Cancer Centre. I had this ongoing pain on the left side of my stomach that just wouldn't go away. I went to my doctor and he recommended that I have a colonoscopy checking for any abnormalities or cancer in the colon. A colonoscopy test is when they stick a long tube with a light in your butt extending all the way around your colon to the cecum. The procedure was on my mind constantly for several weeks, " I told myself was too young to have cancer." I almost cancelled the initial appointment for the test with local Surgeon Damien Byrne. After meeting with him he noticed my left side was a bit sore with no obvious lumps.
Six weeks later, I went in for the test with a brave face. The hardest part of the test was sticking the needle into my right arm for the IV and starving yourself the day before. I was wheeled into a room and a few minutes later and passed out. An hour later, I woke up in the recovery room and Dr. Byrne came out and said he couldn't complete the test because he had noticed I had eaten something through the imaging. There is no short cuts for the colonoscopy to work effectively it has to be done on an empty stomach.
I went in for second try with no food in me and the results came back negative. The procedure takes a quick fifteen minutes and you're walking out of the hospital approximately two hours later. Colorectal cancer, also called Colon cancer with 655,000 deaths worldwide per year, it is the third most common form of cancer and the second leading cause of cancer-related death in the Western world. If you are over the age of 50 and have a family history of colon cancer make that call.
I have been given a second chance and gained a whole new perspective on life and understand the journey people go through mentally when they have cancer. If you feel there is something wrong with your health see your doctor you'll be glad you did. This Christmas season appreciate your health and spend time with those who are sick and in need of encouragement through the holidays.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Films, people open our eyes real wide..

Films, people open our eyes real wide
Ken Herar, The Times
Published: Tuesday, November 10, 2009

I was invited to attend Mission's World Community Film Festival late last month at Heritage Park Centre by festival organizer chair Elena Edwards.
The three-day event featured 36 compelling documentaries, addressing issues of social justice, global water supply, food security, human rights and environmental concerns.
I had an interest in viewing the Fallen Feather which was showcasing on the Sunday afternoon. But, at the last minute my plans unfortunately altered. The 94-minute film directed by Randy Bezeau in 2008, examined how First Nations were forced and placed into residential schools.
The First Nations community has always had a vibrant existence in Mission. After the mid-1980s, many families went home to their original communities.
I attended elementary and junior high school with many fine First Nation students. Looking through my Hatzic yearbook it's not difficult to notice that many excelled in athletics and academics.
Mission established itself as a powerhouse in soccer and basketball due to the dedication of many First Nations athletes.
I always enjoyed visiting the annual powwow at the Mission fairgrounds that attracted thousands of spectators.
I still recall hearing the loud sounds of the beating of those drums from miles away.
First Nation's culture, is fascinating and the Fallen Feather exposes a dark side of Canadian history.
St. Mary's Residential School - established in 1861 - was where thousands of First Nations children left their homes and communities from all parts of Canada to attend school in east Mission.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a long-waited apology in the House of Commons on June 11, 2008, for those who went to the school during a tough time.
"I stand before you today to offer an apology to former students of Indian residential schools. The treatment of children in these schools is a sad chapter in our history. For more than a century, Indian Residential Schools separated more than 150,000 aboriginal children from their families and communities.
"Indeed, some sought, as it was infamously said, 'to kill the Indian in the child.'
"Today, we recognize that this policy of assimilation was wrong, has caused great harm, and has no place in our country", said Harper.
St. Mary's has since closed and several people were charged with sexual abuse over the decades.
Festival organizers were excited about the response and are already working on bringing it back next year.
Some of the amazing speakers included: John Werring of the David Suzuki Foundation, Joy Foy of the Western Canada Wilderness Committee, Ava Waxman of the Council of Canadians, and Helen Spiegalman of Zerowaste Vancouver.
The festival also included many social and environmental groups who displayed valuable and relevant information.
The World Community Film Festival is B.C.'s largest running international film festival on social issues. It was established in 1990 and travels to communities across Canada.
Since, I was unable to attend the movie portion, I was fortunate enough to attend their supper where I met Elena Edwards and Tracy Lyster, two inspiring Mission residents who are trying to promote social awareness through programs such as these.
"Those who attended were moved and inspired by what they watched and were encouraged to become more involved in shaping the future of their community," said Edwards.
"For me, one of the highlights of the weekend was when filmmaker Jannica Hoskins joined up with Eddie Gardener of the Sto:lo Nation and native drummers from various bands and hosted a healing ceremony following the Fallen Feather," she said.
"The films have the power to reveal fundamental truths about our relationship with the land and with each other, and make it clear that we must remain connected with nature," said Lyster.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Speaking with Pastor Cam Stuart

Black Press Dec 22 2005
As the days edge closer toward Christmas the excitement builds in the air. Christmas is a special season a moment where family and friends get together. The concept of family is an important fabric of our society something we must protect and cherish. Without family our world would be full of challenges and hardships. Christmas brings people together from all walks of life. The last couple of weeks, I had many people approach me and ask do you celebrate Christmas? The answer is yes. I always have and always will. Born and raised in Canada Christmas has always been for my family and me a special time to rest and reflect. A vast majority of Indo Canadians do celebrate Christmas in a number of ways. Many Indo Canadian families put up a Christmas tree and lights, exchange gifts with family members and others celebrate it in their faith through Jesus Christ. We must not forget that it is this day that we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ the Son of God.I am proud of the fact that many Indo Canadian families celebrate the Christmas spirit being that many are non-Christians. It is nice to see everyone coming together under one umbrella in the Celebration of God. This is a sign of mutual respect and understanding despite our religious beliefs. The majority of Indo Canadians who reside in Canada come from Punjab who practice the Sikh religion. Christmas is celebrated in various parts of India where many Christians reside. Here in Canada many Indo Canadians participate symbolically in the Christmas season in their local communities by donating food or money helping families in need. Some Sikh Temples are open on Christmas day for people to attend and pray. Indo Canadian families have the same wishes as anyone else during the Christmas season peace and hope.I have always enjoyed attending various Christians churches throughout my lifetime and always been impressed with the Christian message. As someone who is not connected to any particular religious belief, I applaud the Christian community for getting the message out in understanding Jesus Christ and why he came to earth. Messages like forgiveness are empowering and helps connect with the real issues of life. Every Christmas an elderly women who reads this column phones me and shares her knowledge on why we celebrate Christmas. I appreciate her kind gesture knowing she is expressing her love through Christ. I enjoy studying different religions learning about things we don't know keeping an open mind spiritually. What is unique about Christmas it erases hate and discrimination and the fear that exists in our society.Speaking with Cam Stuart Pastor at Mountain Park Community Church in Abbotsford I asked what Christmas meant to him. He said: To me Christmas is about hope, wonder, and community. Many people live with little hope and a forboding sense of darkness within their hearts. Jesus Christ repeatedly offered hope to lonely, hurting, struggling even evil people who honestly wanted help. Also Christmas is about wonder. It boggles the mind to think God cared enough to enter our world as a child in order to help humanity. Lastly, Christmas is about Gods heart to have a relationship with people. The Bible teaches he knows every person by name and he longs to have a personal relationship with each one. The entire message of Christmas points to Jesus Christ who came to restore that relationship.Then I asked him how it is viewed if non-Christians celebrate Christmas? Stuart said: The Bible ultimately explains Gods attitude towards people despite how those people feel about God. People who reject God and people who embrace God are all loved by God. Gods ultimate expression of his love for humanity is revealed in the meaning of Christmas. Christmas is built around two words Christ and Mass. Christ obviously refers to Jesus Christ and Mass means celebration. So Christmas means the celebration of Jesus Christ who was given by God to humanity. He was given to explain the purposes and heart of God. John 3:16 says that God so loved the world (meaning humanity) that He gave his only Son (Jesus Christ) that whoever believes on him will have everlasting life. This Christmas make Jesus Christ the center of your celebration. We are all Gods children let's make this world a better place to live for everyone.
Ken Herar is a reporter/columnist for the Abbotsford News.
© Copyright 2005 Williams Lake Tribune

Gangs and Sterotypical Perceptions..

The wrong kind of attention

By KenHerar
Nov 11 2005
Every week it seems that a member of the Indo-Canadian community is headlined in the media for the wrong reason.Whether it is a gang-related shooting or a series of stories on abandoned brides, there definitely exists a perception problem. I think the majority of those from my community would agree.These unfortunate incidents have to be covered in the media for everyone's safety and as a matter of public information.As the Indo-Canadian community grows here in the Lower Mainland, this stereotypical perception we carry as a community must change. Negative lifestyles aren't exclusive to Indo-Canadians.The majority of Indo -Canadians are law-abiding citizens who don't engage in criminal activity. The minority of the people who do are the ones who grab headline after headline.This message then becomes the reflection of the community, which often paints everyone with the same dirty brush.Many members of my community are concerned about this image problem. The challenge remains: How can we change this?Efforts have been made by the Sikh community in developing outreach organizations like VIRSA, to discourage youth from entering criminal activity, which is seeing encouraging results. Is this enough?I believe a more aggressive campaign needs to be implemented through the media by the Indo-Canadian community to change the damage that has been done in the past decade.I often hear whispers or quiet voices that lurk in rooms or in hallways about issues of violence within the Indo-Canadian community. I don't think people want to raise their families in a place where their children are disadvantaged right from the start.Building partnerships through various media and sharing positive stories hopefully will build a trend that will shape peoples' perception, helping them view everyone as individuals, regardless what community they come from.We can't let this negative culture continue to further divide our society.Countless success stories can be told by individuals who have come from opposite sides of the globe and who built a life for themselves with their families in Canada.I challenge the media to do this: Instead of covering negative incidents, do a series on some of the positive contributions made by the Indo-Canadian community.There are numerous generations of Indo-Canadians who have made significant impact in our communities, including pioneers who have been here more than 50 years.
Ken Herar is a columnist with The Abbotsford News.
© Copyright 2005 Langley Times

Douglas MacAdams a Community Builder..

MacAdams a bridge builder

Jun 06 2006
He stands above the crowd in the community, and you might recognize him by his mannerisms or by his Scottish kilt from time to time.
He served as moderator for all three Abbotsford political all-candidates meetings last year and he describes himself as a “bridge builder between groups in the courtroom or in the community.
In 1998 he oversaw the election process for internal Abbotsford Sikh Temple dispute.
Lawyer Douglas MacAdams moved to Abbotsford with his wife and family in 1989 from Greater Vancouver. He has had a huge impact in the community in a short time.
He is a cultured person who has always made an effort to reach out to the different members of our community.
Once you get to know him, you'll discover he is passionate about local issues and wants to move Abbotsford up to the next level.
He brings plenty of experience from various parts of the country. He worked as an political assistant in the offices of Opposition leader Robert Stanfield in 1968/69.
He ran former Prime Minister Joe Clark’s campaign in British Columbia in 1980. His political background taught him at a early age how important it is to be involved in the community discussing issues.
MacAdams, who served as president of the Chamber of Commerce in 2000, is secretary of the University College of the Fraser Valley Foundation.
The most important immediate issue for Abbotsford is to persuade the provincial government to give full university status to UCFV, said MacAdams.
“In my view this is as important as was the SE2 issue. I think getting university status should have community support similar to community support around the SE2 issue.
“This immediate issue ties in with a longer term issue for Abbotsford which is to ensure not only that all groups in the community have an opportunity to contribute fully and but to ensure that they do in fact contribute fully.
MacAdams, who recently moderated the Second World Religions Conference in Abbotsford, recognizes diversity in our community is one of its strengths.
“In Abbotsford the largest and most significant minority group is the Indo-Canadian community. Having this community contribute fully locally fits in with getting university status, he said.
A competitive advantage UCFV has is in the Centre for Indo-Canadian Studies. This centre sets UCFV apart and gives Abbotsford a competitive advantage in trade with India, which as we all know is emerging as an economic giant in the world. But we can only take advantage of this fully if UCFV gets full university status. For example: with full university status we can have fuller and more productive partnerships with Indian universities.
MacAdams who would like to see this same enthusiasm displayed by the different ethnic community groups.
There are hundreds if not thousands of volunteer community groups in Abbotsford and in the Fraser Valley generally. In my view the place of the Indo Canadian community in those volunteer groups doesn't reflect the size and the capacity of the Indo-Canadian community. I am looking forward to participation at that community level to parallel the contribution in provincial and federal political life from the Indo-Canadian community.
MacAdams is open about his faith has been a life-long member of the Anglican Church of Canada. He was recently appointed chancellor of the Anglican Provincial Synod of British Columbia and the Yukon.
Religious beliefs are far more important than is generally understood and recognized in the media and in public discussion. An increased recognition of the importance of religious beliefs would improve our shared community life. And improved understanding of religions will also give us an advantage internationally in a world where religious factors are becoming more important all around the world, he said.
We need more people like MacAdams involved in community. And yes, one person can make a difference.
© Copyright 2006 Abbotsford News

BC Premier Bennett Confronts Hecklers in Mission City..

Mission man overcame plenty to change politics, life in B.C.
'Naranjan Grewall was an icon . . . he is our true hero'
Ken Herar, The TimesPublished: Friday, May 01, 2009

Hearing this, Bennett invited the heckler on stage, helping him up with his own hand. The man repeated the insult, but upon further questioning, admitted he was a supporter of the CCF.
Bennett said efforts were made to get the Mission High School auditorium for the meeting, but it was not available, "which shows that schools are not owned by the government and I am not a dictator."
At this point a voice was heard shouting out "baloney." The heckler was CCF candidate Grewall, who proceeded to enter the hall and began to seat himself on the stage, "to the accomplishment of mixed cheers and catcalls."
The premier continued his speech, as many cried out to hear Grewall speak. Bennett said that the CCF and Liberals could rent their own hall if they wished to address the gathering.
At this moment Grewall sprung to his feet and spoke angrily (to the premier) and shook his finger in Bennett's face.
When the excitement subsided, hecklers taunted Bennett to speak about former forestry minister Sommers' corruption case.
Bennett stated that under Canadian law a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Bennett later claimed he was hit in the arm during the scuffle and was escorted out of the Legion hall by the RCMP.
In British Columbia politics is commonly known as a "bloodsport" and this incident between the premier and Grewall truly demonstrated how fierce political battles were fought.
I spoke with former premier Dave Barrett in 2003, during a four-part series I was working on.
Barrett recalled hearing many incredible stories about Grewall, when he first arrived in Canada in 1957.
Barrett said during the interview: "He was an icon, I didn't think I had a chance of getting elected in his riding. He lost the election, but won the hearts of many."
When Barrett became premier in 1972, he was invited to the Sikh Temple in Vancouver and was presented with a ceremonial sword.
As he received the sword, he told the audience: "This isn't for me, this is for Naranjan Grewall. He is our true hero."
Barrett and Grewall never met, but he started his political career in Grewall's former riding of Dewdney, when he first got elected to the B.C. legislature in 1960.
When Grewall was nominated as a candidate for the CCF party in the Dewdney riding in 1956, this drew excitement. But, according to Barrett, Grewall faced open discrimination on the campaign trail.
"The former mayor knew the risk he was taking and many people were surprised he took this risk to enter the race," said Barrett.
Barrett said Grewall overcame many racial insults along the way.
"Every kid in the North Fraser, who thinks he or she is being discriminated against, should read the Grewall story and the challenges he faced."
Grewall was later found dead in a Seattle motel room with a gunshot wound to the head in July of 1957. He was 47 years of age.
Ken Herar now writes for the Abbotsford-Mission Times and Mission Extra. E-mail Kenherar@gmail.com.

Letter to the Editor..

Goodbye guard
Jun 19 2007
Editor, The News:
Thanks to the TD Bank on Gladwin and their customers for the nice farewell card they gave me.
I have been a security guard at that bank for the past five years and I have enjoyed the experience. I had the opportunity to open many doors for many people who I now call friends.
I would also like to thank Champion of Diversity columnist Ken Herar for the article he wrote last year on me and the work security guards do for the community.
Bal Monga, Abbotsford

Naranjan Grewall fights Corruption..

Forest licence system tainted by corruption
By Ken Herar,
Second of a four part series into the forestry crisis of the 1950s that faced the province.Forestry is BC's major industry and employs thousands of jobs around the province. Over the decades it has faced many challenging times due to BC's political environment. An example of this is the softwood lumber crisis between Canada and the US.As we will see, the forest industry has been hit with many domestic controversies that have stood the test of time when it comes to shaping public policy in this province. One its more notable stories is that of former BC Forest Minister Bob Sommers and the scandal that would follow in political history known as the "Sommers Scandal".Sommers was a former schoolteacher who ran in the 1952 provincial election and later became a minister of forest in WAC Bennett government. During his tenure in public office his nickname was "Honest Bob". It would come apparent to Sommers early that he would be a small fish in a big pond with many ruthless players that would eventually destroy his political career.Under the Forest Management License system, which was introduced in 1948, large companies were given cutting rights to substantial areas of provincial crown land. The forest service recognized it could not manage the whole forest on its own, but it could liaise with the large companies to ensure the job was being done properly.It was Sommers' responsibility to encourage or reject new FML applications from larger companies. Sommers controlled a process that brought more money into the province and provided more jobs and more taxes for provincial coffers that any other. Companies could rise or fall on his recommendations, and millions of dollars in the value of a companies shares were at stake each time a license was approved or rejected.What would become apparent is the door could be left open for manipulation; special deals could be arranged for old friends, party coffers filled when the need arose and under the table arrangements accommodated.Many of the large companies were getting licenses and the small logger was told either by the big companies or by the forest services where to cut, when to cut and how much to cut. Loss of a cutting contract with a big firm could put a small operator out of business. The big companies held the balance of power and the system was wide open to payoffs and special favours.Bennett knew there were some major power brokers in the lumber industry fighting for there share in the woods and he appointed a royal commission to take another look at the system and put to rest rumours that "money talked". Justice Gordon Sloan was appointed to head the first commission which he did in 1944 and brought down a report in 1948 outlining his major concerns in the industry. That would fall short he would be needed again in 1955 to address the on going issues of small companies.This crisis created a civil movement in this province like no other. Naranjan Grewall, the former mayor of Mission City and CCF candidate for the Dewdney riding, appeared before the Sloan Commission and stated that the previous government had "broken faith" with the public in forest administration. He stated the license was granted to Clayburn Brick and Tile of which former premier Byron Johnson was a major shareholder while in office. Grewall termed the present holders of forest management licences "timber maharajahs."He stated the system would revert to a form of feudalism which I left 30 years ago (1955). Grewall stated that if management licences remained in effect Chief Justice Sloan would be sitting again in another 10 years on another forestry commission. Grewall added, " I will come back here to say I told you so"."Please don't wish another commission on me in 10 years," replied the chief justice, smiling.There continued to be a cloud over Sommers - was he receiving money in exchange for licences? Sommers would later resign from cabinet in 1956 and sit as an independent in the legislature.In early 1958 detailed counts of conspiracy and 50 charges involving the giving and receiving of bribes were laid against Sommers and his associates with six different companies. Sommers described the money he received as personal loans and were to be paid back in time with no strings attached. The trial was long and difficult it dealt with 1,060 exhibits presented over 73 sitting days. Many of the bank account documents went missing and some were paid off by unknown sources before the trial.The jury had found Sommers guilty of five bribery counts and Wick Gray of eight counts. Both men were sentenced to five years in jail and were paroled after two and half years. Sommers still to this day is the only Crown official in the British Commonwealth to serve time in jail. After he was released from jail, Sommers still maintained his innocence. In an interview, Sommers stated he wanted to be tried alone. "I know what I did and I don't know what anyone else did. I got the big double cross," Sommers told the reporters.Sommers publicly revealed that Premier Bennett offered to testify at his trial. Bennett would have stated that an FML was granted by cabinet and not solely by the forest minister. This practice was not spelled out in writing in any government document, but it was the process at that time.The original report of Justice Sloan took two and half years of hearing regarding the forestry industry in an 888 page document. He stated the government's lack of any clear procedure for granting licences. Sloan said regulations should be drafted that would ensure licences were granted on an "equal basis". An old colleague reflecting back said it was simply the brutality of politics that brought Sommers down - he was the fall guy and there were many more!

Sikh's Should Reject the Caste System..

Sikhs should reject the caste system
By Ken Herar,
I was sitting in a coffee shop and beside me was a young couple having coffee. It appeared to me that they were on a blind date by the tone of their conversation.Their voices were loud at times and questions were flying back and forth as if they were both applying for a job. I was thinking of moving to a different seat but the shop was full on that Sunday afternoon.The female was quite persistent in asking questions and the male looked like he was in a daze. It looked like a date from hell for him! I was minding my own business reading my paper having a coffee when things seemed to turn for the worse. In overhearing the conversation the female ask the male what caste are you from? Are you Jatt, she further adds? The male answers confidently, no I am not Jatt.. She replies, if you are not Jatt it is not going to work between us, my parents won't allow it.I am now thinking to myself, this is going to get interesting. Well, she gets up and leaves and says thank-you very much for the coffee and I will see you around. As she gets up he asks her if she could get her half of the bill. I am saying to myself, good for you guy, and he was still being nice about it.For those who might not know what is going on here, when potential partners get matched up in Indo-Canadian families, they like to marry within their own caste. Looking at it from the inside out it is basically a form of discrimination. Caste refers to ones occupational background through generational roots. The majority of the Sikhs who come from Punjab to Canada come from farming villages, otherwise known as Jatts. The caste system originated from the Hindu culture and when the Sikhs created their own religion over 500 years ago one of the first commandments was to stop the division of the caste system.The Sikh religion, one of the youngest religions in the world, was supposed to bring people together and to be an example how people from all origins are created equal. Coming from a Sikh background I still see the caste system practised among people in the Sikh community and even with today's youth. It almost seems like it is getting worse before it is getting better!Many of the people who practise this form of ignorance still call themselves church-going people when the religion clearly outlines in its first sentence treat people equally regardless of caste or creed. Sure, they are some Sikhs who don't practise this but they are many who are hypocrites like the girl in the coffee shop who call themselves Sikh but have no relation to it at all. People can call themselves what they want, Sikh, Christians or Jews, but if they don't practise what they preach who is fooling whom? Anybody can hide behind any identity but it's respecting basic human values that count.Equality of mankind is one of Sikhism's foundation stones but some people seem to view themselves as members of various castes as well as Sikhs. I am calling all Sikhs to put an end to this form of discrimination and the Sikh Temple to start playing an active role in promoting equality. It is taking our community too long to move on this issue.To be honest after all these years I never knew what caste I belong to. My parents never really discussed this topic with us and I thank them for that.The Sikh people have made many sacrifices for their religion and people are too quick to forget. In 1699, the tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh created the Kalsa for the Sikhs. At a large gathering he asked for five heads in the crowd the call was open to all. All five beloved ones were of different castes but by becoming Sikhs they became brothers and equals. The caste hierarchy has no place in the modern day world of Sikhism.The young guy started a conversation with me later after the girl left. "Man, was she ever rude" he said. I told him, I hate to tell you I heard everything she said and she was crazy! I told him he did the right thing and held his cool in a difficult situation. I told him he gave me an excellent story and he encouraged me to write on it.To the girl at the coffee shop I like to leave you with a few words of wisdom for future encounters from the Sikh Gurus. Guru Nanak stated, "Know people by the light illuminating them and do not ask their caste". The tenth Guru, Guru Gobind stated, "the caste of all mankind is one and the same".
© Copyright 2004 Maple Ridge News

Indo Canadians and Indo Americans..

Two countries, two perceptions
It's hard to believe, but I am already planning my vacation for this year. It will be a long trip down the I-5 heading south where the climate is warm. I'm heading to the famous state of California where the beaches are packed and the air is full of smog. One of my stops includes a visit with my brother in the potato capital of the world, Boise, Idaho. On the recommendation of many Indo-Canadians and after speaking to several Indo-Americans throughout the U.S., I am told the life of Indian people in their country is one of pride. Many Indo-Americans have expressed their concerns over the Indo-Canadian image problem, especially here in B.C. We can't ignore or hide the fact that many violent acts in the last decade have riddled the Indo-Canadian community. Even though it includes only a few it is a growing concern, which leaves this community at a crossroad. Some may say singling out these event is a racist move by media outlets, but the facts are the facts. This problem stems from the fact that weak Liberal immigration polices over the last decade have been part of this problem and will continue to be unless we tighten our borders. Is Canada becoming a desired place for the undesired? I am afraid so! When we look at our neighbours down south their policies are much stiffer, and often attract the most desired from foreign nations. The majority of the Indo-Canadians in this country are from a Sikh background and the majority of the Indo-Americans are from the Hindu heritage. Bina Muraka, editor of India West, a weekly Indo-American newspaper based out of San Francisco, said the "Indo-Canadian community in the U.S. is a bit more professional than the Indians in Canada.'' She may sound a bit blunt but does raise a point of interest. Many of the issues Indo-Canadians face here in B.C. are not irrelevant down in the U.S. or even the rest of Canada. I am not saying there aren't any positive things happening in B.C. in my community, but it is unfortunately getting drowned out by all the negative press. Some 5.6 million Indo-Americans live in the U.S. - a small but vibrant community which is experiencing growth in many fields. Rashmee Sharma, who has lived in Seattle for the past 12 years after arriving from India, is a representative for India West. She said the image of Indo-Americans being taxi drivers and convenience store owners has faded away and many Indo-Americans are now in the dot-com industry. She claimed Indo-Americans are viewed as a timid (law abiding)community which has adjusted very well in the American workforce. She said crime rate involving Indo-Americans is very low nationally and the media perception of the community is very high. The recent trip by former U.S. president Bill Clinton to India has created an interest by Americans of Indian origin. As the election looms in the U.S., Indo-Americans have not experienced the success as Indo-Canadians have in the political arena, having only elected a handful of people to public office. There was a bright spot last year when Bobby Jindal, an Indo-American who ran for governor in the state of Louisiana, barely lost. The American electoral process is much tougher than in Canada and Indo-Americans are working hard to get representatives elected in their communities. Indo-Americans have many well-established associations, including the Indo-American Doctors Association, who meet with White House counsel on a regular basis. In my phone conversations with my Indo-American counterparts, I sense a vision of pride and optimism living the American dream. As an Indo-Canadian, I am very happy for my neighbours down south and look forward to learning more about them.
© Copyright 2004 Abbotsford News

Driving while Talking...

Just don't answer for safety sake
By Ken Herar
Special Contributor Aug 04 2005
Driving has become part of our daily routine, which includes driving kids to school or going to work. Wireless communication has equally become an important part of our lives to the extent where people are talking on their phones while they drive.Research supports that driving while talking on your cellular is a dangerous combination and could result in a serious motor vehicle accident. I will support that driving and talking on cellular phones disrupts cognitive skills (listening, memory, attention) and puts drivers at risk of getting involved in an accident.Driving alone killed 471 people in 2003 in British Columbia according to the BC Coroners Service. Drivers are not educated on the risk they take when talking on the phone. The use of a cell phone was blamed for a crash that killed five people last year in Maryland. Cell phone distraction causes 2,600 deaths and 330,000 injuries in the United States every year, according to the journal published by the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society.If drinking while driving is illegal so should talking on cell phones while operating a vehicle. A 1997 study published in The New England Journal of Medicine found that the collision rates for drivers using handheld cell phones were roughly the same as for drivers who were legally drunk. The only two Canadian jurisdictions to ban cell phones while driving are Newfoundland and Labrador. The Americans have taken a more aggressive approach as of August 24, 2001, where by forty-four states have considered cell-phone legislation compared to just 15 states in 1999. New York, New Jersey and Washington have statewide bans and violators are subject to fines.Research shows that phone use while driving compromise one's attention to foveally presented visual information and manifests in the experimental paradigm known as  change blindness or similarly, a form of inattentional blindness. Thus, even though one might be looking directly at an object, one may not necessarily perceive it or act upon it.In a study by David Strayer and William Johnston from the University of Utah, experiments were conducted which examined the effects of handheld and hands-free phone conversations on a simulated driving task. During the course drivers were presented with different tasks to see how quickly they reacted to various situations while talking on the phone.The principal findings are that when participants were engaged in cell-phone conversations, they missed twice as many simulated traffic signals as when they are not talking on the cell phone and took longer to react to those signals that they did detect.From October 1999 to February 2000, the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) conducted a similar test at Boundary Bay Airport on the impact of telephone use on driving performance. They found hands-free telephones significantly degrade driving performance during many of their tests.We see a pattern of consistency indicating that cell phone users struggle in performance while driving. Whether it's a hands-free or hand-held phone, safety issues are raised and it concerns everyone. In the studies examined, we see that cell phones causes considerable impairment while driving. In the Strayer & Johnston experiments reaction time, memory and word-generation areas were clearly effecting drivers. Driving performance abilities and decision-making processes were altered in a local study done by ICBC. There is not enough awareness on this topic and there needs to be more public advertising on the dangers of cell phone usage and driving if we want safer streets in Canada. Cognitive skills (listening, memory, attention) are an essential element when driving. If these attributes are disrupted when on the road, there could be serious consequences. Cellular phones disrupt cognitive behaviors as demonstrated and more needs to be done to discourage its use. More effort needs to be made by all levels of government to bring tougher legislation into law regarding this issue. So, the next time the phone rings while you are driving don't answer it.
Ken Herar@gmail.com
© Copyright 2005 Hope Standard

Learning to Live Together..

Learning to speak each other's language
A woman I know left the culturally-diverse Fraser Valley for several months, and upon her return said to me: "Ken, I missed you people" and hugged me.She realized how much she enjoyed the diversity of the people living in the Valley.I was taken aback by her generous, but rare comments.A couple of days later, while talking to some friends, the topic of diversity came up and the comment was: "Different cultures don't mix." Unfortunately, these kinds of comments in my experience are becoming more frequent.Different people see things in different ways. We live in the larger Canadian family and there is no right answer is our search for a more compassionate society that treats people equally and free of discrimination.I believe Canadians are compassionate when it comes to diversity and embracing new people from around the globe.But Canadians have to take more responsibility in making the most of the mosaic of Canadian culture to work instead of pointing fingers and calling others names.People who just recently arrived in Canada to live should take the time to learn the language, make new friends and discover the beautiful opportunity they have been given through the freedom to learn and explore.In the past decade or so we have seen boundaries within our communities created by language and culture that need to be dissolved through proper assimilation.When I stopped at a gas bar in North Vancouver recently, an attendant told me he was originally from Abbotsford. He said he moved because people didn't want to mix with him or his kids due to cultural differences.At another time, a Sikh man came up to me and spoke Punjabi. I had some difficulty understanding him. He couldn't speak English so we had a communication barrier.I suspect this type of situation happens a lot around town. I am not fluent in Punjabi ,but I am in the process of learning.I thought that in this instance there is an opportunity where two negatives can make a positive. The Sikh man could learn English and I should learn Punjabi to bring a common understanding between us. This is the attitude we need in our communities - a reaching-out effect. Many of my Caucasian friends are making the effort and learning Punjabi - and I think that is great. However, a greater effort is also needed within the Punjabi community for those who can't speak English to learn and make an effort. It's a long and slow process, but something that is important. If we all work together on our cultural differences will be build bridges to a brighter future.

Cst.Shinder Kirk talks, people listen..

Kirk talks, people listen
His name is familiar to many of us no matter what side of the law we are on.Abbotsford Police Const. Shinder Kirk has since 2000 been serving as the media liaison officer, a job he said he thoroughly enjoys around the clock seven days a week.His affable personality and radio voice are among his recognizable trademarks.He had no formal training in media until two years into his position. The job came as a surprise for Kirk who was asked to be backup in the media department and within a month he found himself as the main guy. Down playing his success, Kirk said he "took the position to bring the department to the forefront and highlight the good work the officers do."He spoke to local editors and television news reporters to gain more insight and to see how they could work together. Accessibility is the key.Kirk said the media position can be a tough job at times and has allowed him to meet many different people and connect with the people the police department serves.I worked with Kirk at the 2004 B.C. Summer Games media centre in Abbotsford and I was impressed with his approachable personality and his good-natured spirit as a volunteer. His presence was felt among other volunteers, and I would say he is an excellent representative for the Abbotsford Police Department and our local community on or off duty.His work ethic has now led him to new challenges as the media liaison offic er/spokesperson for the newly-formed BC Integrated Gang Task Force. Kirk will juggle both jobs. The task force will have two components. One will be operational, to assist agencies with existing major gang files and the other is to address the underlying issues in partnership with the community.More than 60 officers will be in the new unit. In my opinion, this is a step in the right direction and a long time coming for many communities that have been suffering from gang issues and other problems. One of the groups that has suffered is the South Asian community which has experienced the deaths of many young people.Kirk said many South Asian community members have come forward and want to work with the police in addressing the issue of gang violence. Kirk points out the South Asian community has many success stories, too, at all levels of society. Kirk graduated from Richmond Senior secondary and later joined the Vancouver Police Department in 1981. He has never regretted leaving the big city. He served with VPD for 10 years before joining Abbotsford Police.His first love is flying. He always wanted to become a commercial pilot and never imagined he would become a police officer. A friend dared him to apply, and the next thing he knew he was accepted.That same friend, Const. Paul Sanghera, died in the line of duty while assisting a stranded motorist in 1982.Kirk, with his wife Wendy and their children, love calling Abbotsford home. He plans to take his wife to India in the future to show her his roots.Const. Shinder Kirk at a glance:Favourite soft drink: Diet CokeWorkout: CyclingActivities: MotorcyclesFood: Vegetarian Indian dishesSofter Activities: Enjoys reading and working with his hands.

Naranjan Grewall an unknown hero, former premier Dave Barrett says

Grewall an unknown hero, former premier Barrett says
By Ken Herar,
Special to the News
Last of a series.The last three weeks, I covered some interesting events that shaped the forest industry in B.C. during the 1950s, an era of corruption where people lobbied the government for change.The struggle was far deeper than this. There is very little written about Canadian history and the struggles people faced.I had the opportunity to speak with former BC NDP Premier Dave Barrett and asked him to share his views. Barrett was first elected in 1960 as a CCF MLA for the Dewdney riding where his predecessor Naranjan Grewall ran unsuccessfully in 1956. The first thing Barrett states during our conversation is Naranjan Grewall is a "first class hero". Barrett acknowledges he never met Grewall but heard many great things about him. Still, to this day he regrets not meeting him and states, "Grewall accomplishments are far greater than mine".Barrett came to Canada in late 1957 and Grewall died in July of that year. When Barrett first ran for public office in 1960 he states, "following in Naranjan's footsteps was difficult he was a icon and I didn't think I had a chance of getting elected". He further adds, "Grewall had done amazing things and I did I was the new kid on the block".The former Mayor of Mission City and CCF candidate was a successful businessman and was well regarded by many. Barrett adds, "the IWA and the CCF party loved Grewall for his honesty and generosity as a businessman".Grewall became a major broker in the lumber industry operating six companies in the Fraser Valley. People referred to him as a "public spirited person" always donating to the wealth of humanity. Grewall was a national figure and a philanthropist to the highest degree. In 1955, Grewall and his wife went to India to built a school for the children in his hometown called the Colombo Plan". Grewall became the first Indo Canadian to be elected in Canada in 1950 as a city councillor in Mission City. He later became Mayor in 1954 and in 1955 became the first Indo Canadian to be nominated by a political party in Canada. The Indo-Canadian population at that time was very small compared to now so these accomplishments were valued as great achievements for that time.When Grewall was nominated as a candidate for the CCF party in the Dewdney riding in 1955 this drew excitement from all walks of life. But, according to Barrett, he faced open discrimination on the campaign trail in 1956. Barrett states, "the former mayor knew the risk he was taking and many people were surprised he took this risk to enter the race".Some members and groups of our society openly opposed his candidacy strictly on the basis he was an Indo-Canadian, he explains. Barrett also states, "Grewall was the best candidate by far in 56 with amazing knowledge and a dynamite speaker who knew all the issues facing this province particularly with the crisis in the forest sector".This open discrimination against him didn't deter Grewall. He ran a successful campaign with many well- wishers offering their support in his bid but open discrimination during certain moments of his campaign became a concern. During the campaign police provided Grewall with protection. Barrett states, " Grewall overcame many of these racial insults with his dynamite personality and every kid who thinks he or she is being discriminating against should read the Grewall story and the challenges he faced".But, at the same time people had a great deal of respect for him, states Barrett. Grewall strong showing in the 1956 election silenced his critics and he proved a point to everyone that colour has no boundaries. Barrett adds, "he lost the election but won the hearts of many." His candidacy was more than politics, it was about the ruthless desire for change in this province a vision which many politicians today don't seem to have.When Barrett became premier in 1972 he was invited to the Sikh Temple in Vancouver he was presented with a ceremonial sword. "When I received this I announced to the audience this isn't for me, this is for Naranjan Grewall, he is our true hero!"If there is one regret Barrett has over his political career, he wishes he had met Grewall. In 1995, the District of Mission named a residential street in his honour called Grewall Terrace‚ something as a Mission resident I am very proud of. If there is something I have learned from this series is that as Canadians we don't talk enough about Canadian history. We are too busy learning about American history. Canadian kids in school should be learning more about modern day Canadian history. I have enjoyed sharing with you the story of a man who helped open the area of politics for visible minorities in Canada.

UFV Indo Canadian Studies..

UCFV's status rises with proposed centre
By Ken Herar:
A couple weeks ago some 400 people at the Ramada Inn celebrated and supported the proposed Indo-Canadian Studies and Research Centre that will be located at the Abbotsford campus of the University College of the Fraser Valley (UCFV). As a former student of UCFV, I believe this endeavour will have a favourable impact on the area and raise the stature of the educational institution to new heights across the country. The centre will be the first of its kind in North America and will benefit students from all nationalities. The evening gala raised more than $110,000, bringing the total raised to $894,159. In terms of funding, the centre is well on its way of reaching its goal of $3 million and may surpass it. It was nice to see so many supporters from Vancouver at the gala and offer their support for the landmark project. The evening started with many thunderous speeches supporting the centre, setting the tempo for the evening. Guests were upbeat and in a generous mood right from the start. Fraser Valley residents are playing a defining role for future UCFV students to learn about Canadian history from a different perspective. Through this project UCFV is becoming a leader and reflecting the real diversity that exists in our communities and country. I hope students from all parts of the Lower Mainland come and visit the new centre when its door open. I am very proud of the gala's outcome. The Indo-Canadian community has been active in the area for more than a century, and the centre will be home for many amazing stories. The centre will go a long way to teaching others about history, language and culture to create better understanding. Indo-Canadian courses are currently being offered and several more are being developed at UCFV. I would like to express my gratitude to UCFV officials for allowing my family to be a part of this process in the last few months. It has been a positive learning experience. Parm and Satwinder Bains and Paul and Pree Wadhawan deserve a big round of applause for originating this idea and their commitment to see this project go through. I'm glad I attended the high-energy and elegant fund-raising gala which reflected on the past, but looked to a bright future.

Naranjan Grewall and the Sloan Commission...

The lessons of Mission's forest

It's seldom that I get a chance to see the beautiful parts of my local community. For example, I try to do the Grouse Grind in North Vancouver couple of times a week in the summer and in my discovery I found a similar 'grind' here in Mission.The beauty I discovered during this recent hiking trip seemed like I was in a different country with the endless surrounding forest. Forestry is the main industry in Mission and through this we have become a leader in forest management across Canada. The area I am referring to is the Mission Municipal Forest located near Stave Falls in the northern part of the district, a 20-minute drive from downtown Mission. What makes this area unique is its peacefulness equipped with nine hiking trails for local residents and tourists.This total area of the Mission Municipal Forest is approximately 10,414 hectares or about 26 times the size of Stanley Park. The Municipal Forest is not designated as a park, it is a "working forest." In a working forest, many aspects of multiple use can be observed such as forest recreation, sustainable logging, reforestation, protecting wildlife habitat, maintaining water quality and other forest management activities. In 1958, Mission was the first municipality to given responsibility to monitor their own forest called Tree Farm License #26.The story behind this license is something the community should be proud of thanks to individuals like former Mission City mayor, CCF candidate and lumber baron the late Naranjan Grewall. The Municipality of Mission has successfully managed the MMF since 1958 and is often cited as an excellent example of how a locally managed forest can provide many benefits to the community. Kim Allan, Director of Forest Management, says the MMF has had many more ups than downs over the years and has been a positive factor for Mission. Since 1990, the Municipal Forest has had many surplus revenues which have provided over $5 million to capital projects in this community.During the 1950s forest licenses were difficult to obtain for local lumber mills and something had to be done to protect jobs and the industry. Many of the licences were being awarded to the big logging companies and small companies throughout B.C. were being shut down. The local forest industry of Mission and B.C. found an articulate voice in Naranjan Grewall in which to lobby their demands before the Sloan commission. Grewall became a vocal critic of the WAC Bennett government for many years during the '50s for ignoring the rights of the small businessmen.This became a major election concern throughout BC and Grewall ran as a candidate for the Dewdney CCF party in 1956 to address this issue as part of his candidacy. During the campaign there were many heated debates over this topic, drawing big crowds wherever the candidates went. Grewall also appeared at the Royal Commission of Forestry in 1955 expressed his opposition to the current government awarding of forest licenses.Grewall made two recommendations to thwart the development of the company town: public working circles and municipal forest management licenses. Both of Grewall's recommendations were designed to prevent the monopolization of the timber industry by returning management of the forest to the public through local community representative. His brief in 1955 convinced the Sloan commission and Mission was granted TFL #26 in 1958.The Sloan commission created a lot of stress for the Socred government almost crippling them. All this pressure led to the investigation of BC Forest Minister Robert Sommers, who was later convicted on five bribery charges and sent to jail for five years in 1957 over awarding of forest licences. An era of corrupt politics and misuse of power in government! Many answers still remain a mystery as to what was really happening with issuing of timber rights in the forest industry.After the Sommers scandal a few prominent lumberman in this province were found dead including BCFP President Hector Munro and Grewall, with no investigation ruling both a suicide. In retirement at his Kelowna home in 1976, a reporter asked WAC Bennett if the loss to the NDP had been his biggest blow. Without hesitation he said no, it was the Sommers affair.All other municipalities in B.C. missed this small window of opportunity, to have more local control over the forest resources in B.C. The community of Mission has been fortunate to have a community forest since 1958, because of visionaries such as Grewall and many others. Grewall was one of the very few that helped change public policy in this province during a time when it was needed the most resulting in more jobs and more importantly bringing equality to the forest industry.The Grewall story is one of the remarkable political stories for the common people in this province. His legacy in Mission still lives on today in many ways through the MMF!
Ken Herar is a Mission writer who specializes in cultural issues. This article is first of a series on the career of Naranjan Grewall.

Finding Hope Through a Senseless Tradegy..

By Timely opinions
Mar 25 2005
Now that the Air India trial is over, many questions still remain in Canada's worst aviation disaster. Is this the end or a new beginning?The tragedy that claimed 329 innocent lives 200 miles off the coast of Ireland, and the images of the wreckage on the Atlantic Ocean, is something many of us haven't forgotten. How could people be so cruel in a senseless act that damaged so many lives for a worthless cause?The judgment rehashed many old feelings. It was as if this tragedy happened yesterday. I was impressed with many of the victims' families for staying committed to seeing this tragedy finally go to trial.Unfortunately, the verdict didn't go their way. They all showed remarkable courage in their fight for justice. The RCMP, despite some of the criticisms, worked hard to bring this case to trial for the families.There is a lot to be proud of and I think we haven't heard the last of this case by any stretch of the imagination. A public inquiry is needed and anything less is unsatisfactory.Different reports indicate that the Sikh community is divided on this verdict. I disagree. I believe a large majority of Sikhs wanted closure, to put this case to rest. The Sikh community today is much different than in the 1980s. At that time, turbulence was brewing in the state of Punjab and India. The Sikh community has moved forward and today's generation wants nothing to do with what was going on during the 1980s.I did find some inspiration and meaning in all of this. It was a story of a man who had a vision about helping others through his loss.Dr. Chandra Sankurathri, a biologist with the Canadian government, lost his wife Manjari, 33, daughter Saroda, 3, and his son Srikiran, 6, on June 23, 1985. He lived in remarkable pain for years, wondering how this could happen to his family.He would walk to the ocean in search for his family, hoping to see them again. Sankurathri wanted change, knowing his family wouldn't want him to keep living like this. This happened when he retired and moved back to India.There he built a school for the poor and a hospital for the blind in memory of his family called "Manjari Sankurathri Memorial Foundation."He found strength in helping others and said "It was time to forgive and forget." The school and the hospital have been running for several years and Sankurathri said this wouldn't have been possible if he didn't move on in his life.So much has been accomplished through the foundation and this reminds him of his family. Sankurathri said he wants to continue to focus on the foundation where the real difference is being made.In all of this, some good has happened.

Ken Herar is a Mission writer. He can be contacted at kenherar@yahoo.ca.
© Copyright 2005 Langley Times

Trying Being An Indo Canadian For A Day..

Try walking for a day in my skin

By KenHerar
Apr 20 2007
For the last few months in my regular column, I have been writing about diversity.
Today, let's try something new. How about a human transformation, and you become an Indo-Canadian for a day.
That's right. You are going to be me.
Sounds like fun, doesn't it?
You'll experience firsthand some of the challenges minorities still face in Canada. Here it goes.
Close your eyes and count to three. Zap. You look in the mirror and say “Ken, I am you.
You grab a cup of coffee and read the paper. The front-page headline reads, "Indo-Canadian Man Shot Dead."
You realize that's your community for the day. You read the article with interest.
The first thing work colleagues ask when you arrive is: Did you read the paper? Another shooting involving your community.
You're shocked by these comments. You decide to leave work early.
It's time for lunch you head to your favorite sandwich store. You're in line when a Caucasian male approaches from behind. He asks: "How do you say thank you in Punjabi?"
You looked puzzled for a moment. You want to tell him I am actually a white dude locked up in a brown body.You find his interest encouraging.
You get in your car and put on the radio to hear more details about the shooting incident. You go to the mall to pick up a few things. You get this feeling that people are labelling you in silence, as a result of the news of the shooting.
You decide to visit the Sikh Temple to escape the outside world and meet your new community for the day. You are impressed with their generosity. The talk at the temple seems to be on the shooting death, which you find the Indo-Canadian community is quite concerned about. You realize how one incident can disrupt the lives of many.
You told many people you enjoyed the dal and roti it was fantastic. You went up for three helpings. You wanted to do the bhangra. People replied in the evening.You also wanted a big bowl of hot curry. Unfortunately, meat and liquor cannot be served on temple premises.
Later you go for a walk, and a Caucasian person greets you saying Sat Sri Akal, which means hello in Punjabi.
It uplifts your spirits and establishes hope. You've had enough and ask me to transform you back. I am not ready yet.
While driving home, a car dangerously passes you on the shoulder side of the road. It is wet and dark. You both stop a few miles down the hill at the red light.
You look at him in disgust. He looks at you shaking his head, saying, Wha'ts your problem?
You reply: Your driving.
He replies: Go back to India and get out of my country. You people are ruining it.
He says a few more nasty things, which you can't repeat.
A few seconds later, the light turns green. You decide to speed up and leave him in the dust. He wasn't finished and wanted to say a few more racial slurs.
You've had enough and put the pedal to the metal, letting your V6 engine speak for itself.
At the next light, he turns off giving you his big middle finger. Your blood is boiling. For someone who was born and raised in Canada, you are deeply insulted by his comments.
This fool doesn't know I am actually a brown guy for a day.
You realize that racism is still a reality.
You make it home and the day comes to the close. You beg me to transform you back to yourself. I decide to bring you back to the conscious world.
Wow, that was challenging walking in your shoes for a day, Ken.
Your post-transformation reactions are Indo-Canadians still face many challenges.
There are two things you request from me.
Can I keep the tan and explore India?
I reply, India is yours, but the tan is mine.
Who's next in line for the great Canadian makeover?
Ken Herar is a columnist with The Abbotsford News, He can be contacted at KenHerar@gmail.com
© Copyright 2007 Langley Times

Moe Sihota and BC Politics...

Seeing democracy up close
By TimelyOpinions Ken Herar May 29 2005
Being a part of the voting process is exciting and you learn a lot about how the democratic process works. Last week, I decided to help out in a different way, working with Elections BC. This was a new experience for me, dealing with voters face to face at the polls. A lot of work goes into an election and I applaud all the officials across the province who worked for their efforts. Being a voting official is like sitting at a coffee shop all day and just watching people going around and around. Maybe that's not it exactly, but it sure felt like it.The day lasted approximately 13 hours and I must have seen 1,000 people at the school where I worked. I rarely get the opportunity to actually sit all day and just watch people. I enjoyed it enormously and learned a lot from people watching.What I gathered from my observations is the strong diversity that participates in an election process throughout communities in this province. Officials must be trained and prepared. Voting officials were equipped in many languages to assist those who were unable to understand the process in English.I was impressed with Elections BC's efforts to make sure that every voter who enters the building gets an opportunity to vote, leaving no one behind. The voting system in Canada is second to none in the world.Seeing no "hanging chads" like our neighbors down south was a blessing at the end of the day.I thought I would speak to some of the pundits and see how this diversity in the electorate is shaping our political landscape now, and for the future.R. Paul Dhillon, editor of the South Asian Link in Surrey said, "especially in the last five years, the Canadian society and various institutions have taken to diversity. They see the landscape changing. The rise of diversity is bringing profound changes to the way we live and relate to each other in Canada."Dhillon further adds, "historically, the Indo-Canadian vote has always been with the NDP, going back to the CCF days which pushed for voting rights for immigrants."The Indo-Canadian community played a critical role in the late 1940s in lobbying the Canadian government to award the granting of the extension of the franchise to minorities and natives, giving them the right to vote.As the ethnic vote grows in this province, it is far past where it was since the days when former Mission City Mayor Naranjan Grewall became the first minority person to hold political office in Canada in 1950, and became the first Indo-Canadian to run as a candidate for the CCF party in 1956.That era helped shape our political involvement in Canada. When Grewall entered the public fray, the Indo-Canadian community was small. Now, 55 years later, the story is different.The days have come where in certain Lower Mainland ridings, the ethnic vote holds the balance of power and politicians know that. Dhillon said, "Immigrants and ethnic communities take voting seriously. They feel they can be part of a process for change. That's why historically, the turnout is significantly higher for the Indo-Canadian community than the mainstream."When you compare the Chinese and the Indo-Canadian community, the Chinese have not been seeking public office as aggressively as the Indo-Canadians. In the last few elections, we have slowly seen more Chinese candidates running and they are being successful.Former NDP MLA Moe Sihota, who was the first Indo-Canadian elected to the B.C. Legislature in 1986, said "It is apparent that the work we did as a party (saw) 75 percent of the Indo-Canadian vote go to the NDP."The evidence lies in the four Surrey seats and some of the Vancouver seats. Sihota says an effective advertising campaign that took place highlights the strong roots between the NDP and the Indo-Canadian community in B.C. "The right to vote, citizenship and Punjabi in schools highlight some of the accomplishments of the NDP. When we were in power, we accomplished more for the Indo-Canadian community than the six Indo-Canadian Liberal MLAs that sat at the table in the Campbell government for the past four years."As we mature as a society, the diversity strengthens us and directs us so that we must all work together to provide the best public service for all communities and citizens. Participation from all communities can only strengthen the democratic process, establishing a better tomorrow.
Ken Herar is a Mission writer. Reach him at Kenherar@yahoo.ca
© Copyright 2005 Langley Times

Kash Heed an Amazing Top Cop..

Kamloops native may become top cop
May 25 2007
One of Canada's most-decorated police officers and possibly Vancouver's next top cop will teach at the University College of the Fraser Valley in Abbotsford this summer.
And his is a name that will be recognized in Kamloops.
Kash Heed, a 28-year veteran of the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) lived in Kamloops until he was 11.
His grandfather, Sher Singh, owned Punjab Lumber and BC Packing House in Kamloops.
Singh donated the land where the current Sikh Temple sits on the North Shore, and Singh Street is named after him.
Heed, who holds a masters degree in criminology from Simon Fraser University, has always wanted to be an educator, which is a natural fit for a man who has served in almost every capacity with the VPD and is known for his leadership and problem-solving abilities.
When he graduated from Richmond secondary, Heed's plan was to become a teacher. His mother, Jinda, who was an inspirational figure throughout his life did not want her son to pursue policing.
But with a little arm-twisting by the VPD’s recruiting unit, his mother was convinced her son had special talents and should join the department.
In 1979, Heed finished top of his class and was hired by the VPD as a recruit at a time when only a few visible minorities were in policing.
Heed, who was born and raised in a Punjabi family, recalls many incidents of discrimination within the department and on the streets.
I was not readily accepted and had to work a lot harder, he said.
With his strong work ethic and sharp mind, Heed has received many public acknowledgements for his service.
In 1981, he caught a bank robber following a foot chase and was given the highest honour by the Canadian Bankers Association.
In 1989, he was named Vancouver Police Officer of the Year for his many arrests in major investigations.
Heed was promoted to corporal in 1992 and sergeant in 1994 while working on the city's Downtown Eastside.
During his tenure there, Heed implemented three community-policing offices for the area. He faced opposition from traditionalists within the VPD, who, Heed acknowledged, still hold a large role in policing.
In 2000, he was promoted to inspector and became the commanding officer of the vice/drug section.
Heed realized the drug laws needed to be revisited and spoke in front of the Canadian Senate Committee on Drug Reform. As part of his masters degree thesis, he interviewed 600 street-level drug traffickers and came to the conclusion a new approach was needed for habitual users.
The injection-site model was recommended and Heed was one of the pioneers who favoured this approach in trial harm reduction, which has proven to be a success in Vancouver.
In 2005, Heed was instrumental in convincing the provincial government to set up the Integrated Gang Task Force. He saw a trend occurring in gang-related crimes and met with various police leaders, community members and government officials and received provincial funding.
We cannot arrest our way out of the problem, he said. We can work our way out of the problem. The biggest challenge police face in the future is continual crime reduction. The fear of crime and crime.
Ken Herar is a Mission resident who writes a cultural column for the Abbotsford News, a sister paper to KTW. He can be reached at KenHerar@gmail.com

Are Sikh's Fighting a Tarnished Image..

Sikhs singled out in media stories
By Ken Herar,
A couple of days ago, I met an old friend who I haven't seen in a long time. It was nice to see an old high school friend who now lives in Vancouver. It has been a few years since we last met.During our lunch meeting we talked about some of the different issues that have made headlines. Our discussion circled around the topic of Indo-Canadian violence in the past year. Whether it was a drive-by shooting or the Air India trial or the revelations last week of two senior aides to Ministers in the B.C. Liberal government, more and more Sikhs are in the news than ever before.Is the BC Sikh community fighting a tarnished image in the news media? This was the question proposed by my friend. I couldn't answer it at that time.I have the answer now! I agree some Sikhs are involved in high profile crimes that have made major news in this province and this is very unfortunate and as a community we must reverse this trend. What we have to make clear is that these people involved in these horrible acts are individuals who represent themselves not the community.It is very easy in these circumstances to blame the Sikh community due to the style of reporting by some media. I don't want to shift the blame to the media but how they report some these stories they should change. Some of these stories create a stereotypical image in readers minds of Indo Canadians. The working relationship between the various visible minorities in B.C. and the different media networks need to improve. Many different people read the paper or watch the news and viewers have to see through the smoke screen and see people as individuals not as nationalities.The Indo-Canadians who commit these crimes have to think about the community they belong too and the image it creates for everyone. They don't seem to foresee the future for every action there is a reaction. On some occasions it has been difficult to go into public without someone mentioning these horrible headlines. The majority of Sikhs come to Canada for a better life and are not involved in crimes and these acts include only a small percentage of people. So my answer to the question above is is not all Sikhs are not fighting a tarnished image in B.C. but should be concerned as a community by this trend.Proactive steps are being taken within the Sikh community to address this concern. I had the opportunity to speak with editor Paul Dhillon of the South Asian Link newspaper in Surrey about this issue.Dhillon explains, "In the early '90s the Indo Canadian community has been struggling with the rise in youth violence which has lend to gang violence. Second or third generation Indo Canadians as youths often struggle with some aspect of their cultural or social surroundings. As the violence has grown the community has taken a strong stance there has been at least four community forums in the last year to address gang violence in the Indo Canadian community."Precautionary measures and outlets are being put in place so professionals in the field can closely monitor any violence risk, Dhillon said.Over the last decade the Sikh community has gone through some growing pains due to the constant changing of its population in the Lower Mainland. I am proud of being from the Sikh heritage and as Canadians working together will make us stronger.
© Copyright 2003 Maple Ridge News

Are Indo Canadians Cheaters?

Are Chinese people 'more objective'?
By Ken Herar NEWS columnist
While many candidates prepare for a federal election this year, the excitement builds. The blood sport of politics can create interesting moments. The nomination battle in Richmond between current Liberal MP Joe Peschisolido and former Liberal MP Raymond Chan will be interesting to watch.The heat was really turned on when Chan was quoted by a Vancouver daily newspaper, saying "the Chinese community is quite different from the Indo-Canadian community. The Chinese are much more objective. No one can force them or lure them or cheat them into signing a membership form.''Some members of the Indo-Canadian community responded, saying the comments are purely racist by Chan. As a member of the Indo-Canadian community, I think many are taking Chan's comments out of context and adding fuel to the fire. I don't believe Chan was being racist through his comments. He was simply stating his personal view on the matter.Chan does raise a valid point. There are many concerns regarding Liberal memberships. Currently, both the Liberal party and the Indo-Canadian community are working very hard to clear this matter and bring validity back into the process. I applaud all the people who are involved fixing this membership mess and bringing honesty and dignity back to democracy. We can't ignore or hide the fact that there has been concerns in the past regarding some members of the Indo-Canadian community signing Liberal members. People and candidates need to re-focus their energies on social issues that are important to our country. Side tracking and bringing racism into a political campaign is not a beneficial cause for no one.I believe Chan's comments have no racial intentions and should be viewed as honourable advice how we can correct some of the irregularities within the Liberal membership. Candidates who clearly can't identify with this should judge their integrity before entering into politics. A similar incident where two individuals from Victoria used the media to cry racism over the media coverage of the legislative raid raised some eyebrows. Again, this is another case where people are trying to use racial leverage to gain political points. In the modern day of political democracy, racism has no room in the political forum These tactics are not good because the real cries of racism get lost or drowned out by fabricated headlines.Half-way around the world a real issue of racism is happening and receiving little publicity. The announcement by French President Chirac banning all conspicuous religious symbols from government schools has created quite a stir. This is all being done in the name of separating religion from the state. Religious groups are concerned. It is a direct invasion on their religious rights.France is poised to pass a law banning religious symbols such as Muslim veils, scarf, Jewish yarmulkes and large Christian crosses from public schools and work places. This is likely to include the Sikh turban and scarf or shawls worn by Sikh women. The proposed law will tantamount to banning Sikhs from wearing turbans and therefore infringing on their religious rights. This is a true case of racism where the government is taking away the freedoms of the people and their dignity. Since we live in a global community, we must be careful with our remarks and show sensitivity for the people around us, regardless of race or religion.Ken Herar is a Mission resident of Sikh ancestry.
© Copyright 2004 Maple Ridge News

Auctioning myself off for Charity..

Bachelor bidding wars at charity auction

By KenherarMay 04 2007

You tried speed dating, Internet or matrimonial ads in the paper. How about something new and exciting?
Last weekend at the Ocean Beach Club & Grill in White Rock, 13 eligible bachelors were auctioned off raising money for the South Fraser Women's Services Society.
When I was asked to participate in this event I had my doubts. When the organizers told me it was for a charity helping victims of domestic violence, I agreed to put my body on the line.
I've done some crazy things but this tops the list. The event was organized by Kismet Connections, a Vancouver-based singles networking agency.
Weeks prior to the event I hit the gym toning any muscle that may appear through my shirt, hopefully skyrocketing my value.
Last Saturday, I entered the club to witness a small crowd gathered inside and I thought, Hey, I can do this.
The fellow bachelors and members from the audience were encouraging, knowing this event was for a worthy cause.
Some bachelors had the jitters before the event. I asked myself how much is my life really worth? I was hoping more than 20 bucks and some change.
The bachelors came from a multicultural mix and from all walks of life. Every bachelor bought a plastic wrist band remembering the women who were killed in domestic violence incidents.
Shortly after 7 p.m. the club started to fill up with curious onlookers and people who bought tickets to see these 13 worthy men do a little shake, rattle and roll. Every bachelor was given a date package from a horse ride through Stanley Park to a river cruise on the Fraser.
Let the bidding begin.
The role call came and it was time to do the catwalk dance. The first bachelor was called up and the crowd was screaming.
The bids were going high and after a few minutes he was sold. Every bachelor was being bought at a high price. I was praying the market wouldn't crash for me.
Some of the bachelors showed their special talents singing and dancing for the bidders. After an hour my name was called – the last bachelor (hopefully) to be sold.
It was time to show the pipes. I was surprised the crowd still had a lot of energy and enthusiasm. The bids started high and got even higher when host JD Dhaliwal announced to the audience that I once met former U.S. President Bill Clinton. Thanks to Bubba my value went up considerably.
Maybe bidders thought Bill was part of the package.
After a few minutes, I was sold for a price that surprised me. You couldn’t have bought hockey playoff ticket for that price. I was humbled.
Altogether we raised $3,400 for the South Fraser Women's Services Society. (Related story, Page B6)
This program allows women to access legal information and advocacy in the area of family law separation, divorce, custody, access and child support. Last year 588 women accessed the program.
I was honored to be part of this worthy event. I hope the organizers and supporter continue their efforts in building a better society.
To learn more about the South Fraser Women’s Services Society, go to their website at www.sfwomensservices.com
Ken Herar is a columnist for the Abbotsford News. He lives in Mission.
© Copyright 2007 Peace Arch News

Bruce Allen's Controversy..

Is our society diverse?
By KenHerar
Oct 05 2007
All this public controversy over Bruce Allen's so called racist comments on radio a few weeks ago comes at a pivotal point in our discussion on building an inclusive diverse community. Allen a popular controversial media personality in Vancouver is someone who I have occasionally listened to over the years. Like him or not he does makes sense on some issues that need a straightforward solution.
Maybe his approach isn't so tactful, but he does deserve credit for speaking his mind. This incident draws similar comparisons to the incident in a Los Angles comedy club where Micheal Richards insulted blacks while on stage and attracted national attention, eventually apologizing for his behavior.
The controversy came on CKNW on September 13 when Allen stated, â few unhappy immigrants should shut up and fit in or leave the country. There's the door. If you don't like the rules, hit it. We don't need you here. You have another place to go: its called home. See ya! These remarks along with a few others brought protest from many communities asking him to apologize. I never had the opportunity to listen to his program that day, but his choice of wording appear to be harsh and insensitive.
To put it simply this is Bruce Allen at his finest hour and doing what he does extremely well. His rant and rave sessions are designed to get audiences fuming. His audiences are often not the sharpest tools in the shed. Do I believe Allen was being racist in his remarks? I would say he is on the cutting edge and could have used better judgment and wording to deliver his radio message.
If I said, follow the rules of this country would I consider myself to be racist? Hopefully not, and I don't consider myself to be a redneck. This could also have a variety of different connotations, how one talks or dresses in public. B.C. Attorney General Wally Oppal also thought he could have used, a couple of words were inappropriate.
What I believe Allen should do is clarify what is intentions were in his remarks, which I believe he already has publicly in the Vancouver Sun with no formal apology yet. This situation is a reminder that we all need to be sensitive in our remarks living in multicultural country. What and how we say things can be misinterpreted by those around us. People should refrain themselves from making racial jokes or being religiously and culturally intolerant.
An important step in building an inclusive diverse community is we need to show respect how we communicate with each other. He may not of offended me, but obviously offended many others in his remarks.
What I believe Allen is trying to demonstrate through his blasting volcanic language is building that inclusive diverse community in Canada. What should be learned here is that nations are not built on arrogance and intimidation, but on a belief that there is a mutual understanding between common people. Canada has been built on diversity from citizens from all over the world and it is our responsibility as Canadians to be inclusive even through our differences.
We all need to make an effort to become better Canadians. In a couple of weeks the Abbotsford News Diversity Challenge participants will demonstrate this very cause through their writings, how to build that inclusive, diverse community. Allen could take a few tips from these young writers how inclusiveness can be discussed civilly and respectfully. I hope this issue gets resolved as quickly as possible before any further damage is inflicted so we can discuss the real issues in our communities.
As a good friend told me, âlways consider the source and you' ll find the answers.
Ken Herar is a Black Press reporter based in Abbotsford.