Five South Asians among 2021 BC Achievement Community awardees

THERE are five South Asians among this year’s recipients of the BC Achievement Community Award that were announced this week by Premier John Horgan and Anne Giardini, Chair of the BC Achievement Foundation.

“This year’s community awardees are, without exception, remarkable British Columbians who have strengthened their communities during challenging times,” said Horgan. “As a result of their commitments to causes beyond themselves, they have ensured that BC is a better province for all of us.”

“It is a particular honour this year to recognize these twenty-five outstanding British Columbians,” added Giardini. “This year’s recipients exemplify the spirit of the Community Award. Celebrating their achievements honours the very best of our province and inspires us all to public service and excellence.”

The recipients:

Amber Anderson C.C.C., Vancouver
Harbhajan Singh Athwal, New Westminster
Ann Blaauw, Langley
Doug Chinnery, Hornby Island
James Robert (Bob) Coates, Victoria
Kal Dosanjh, Surrey
Norah Flaherty, Vancouver
Dr. Balbir Gurm, Surrey
Yúya’ainux̌v Anita Hall, Bella Bella
John & Joyce Henderson, Salmon Arm
Teresa Kazemir, Port Coquitlam
Zeba Khan, Vancouver
Angelika & Peter Langen, Smithers
Dr. Christine Loock, North Vancouver
Lil Mack, Williams Lake
Pulchérie Nketsap Mboussi, Victoria
Jack McGee, West Vancouver
Elaine Monds, Victoria
Marcia Nozick, Vancouver
Nirmal Parmar, Terrace
Dr. Jane Jae Kyung Shin, Port Coquitlam
Lurana Kikuko Tasaka, Vancouver
Rosemary Thomson, Kelowna
Linda Williams, Sechelt
Cheryl Young, Aldergrove

An independent committee selects the recipients of the Community Award. The 2021 selection committee members are Mayor Lee Brain of Prince Rupert, Mayor Michelle Staples of Duncan, and past recipients, Aisha Amijee, Aart Schuurman Hess and Andy Yu.

The 2021 Mitchell Award of Distinction, selected by the BC Achievement Board in consultation with the community, went to Chef Amber Anderson for her work with H.A.V.E. Culinary Training Society.

Community Award recipients are traditionally recognized in a formal presentation ceremony in Victoria, in the presence of the Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the 2021 awardees will instead be celebrated online and through BC Achievement’s digital #shinethelightbc campaign. Each recipient receives a certificate and a medallion designed by BC artist Robert Davidson honouring their achievements.

South Asian recipients:

Harbhajan Singh Athwal
Photo contributed

Harbhajan Singh Athwal, New Westminster
Harbhajan Singh Athwal has been a pillar in his community since his arrival to Canada in 1968. After retiring from his role as a sawmill laborer, where he worked for over 38 years, Harbhajan Singh took on a volunteer position as President of the non-profit Khalsa Diwan Society Gurdwara Sukh Sagar in 2006. Through this society, Harbhajan Singh contributes to the spiritual, educational, and social services available to the New Westminster community. In 2007, he spearheaded the creation of the Guru Nanak Free Kitchen program, providing meals for the homeless community in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Over the past 14 years, volunteers have been preparing and distributing meals to this community and others every week. Harbhajan Singh has helped to create many youth-oriented programs, services and workshops, including scholarships for high school and university students. A devout Sikh, Harbhajan Singh follows the service to humankind path, this ethos underscoring everything he does. Over the years, Harbhajan Singh has extended his home to many new immigrant families, and he continues to offer community and friendship where it is needed most.


Kal Dosanjh
Photo contributed

Kal Dosanjh, Surrey
As a Detective with the Vancouver Police Department, Kal has spent considerable time serving Vancouver’s DTES area. During patrol duties Kal was exposed to the challenging realities faced by the community. This experience led him to create the Kids Play Youth Foundation, a non-profit that gives kids the opportunity to become involved in sports and other recreational activities. By creating constructive outlets, building a sense of belonging and self worth, Kids Play steers kids away from a lifestyle of drugs, gangs and violence. The Foundation has also developed after school mentorship programs with the Surrey and Langley school districts. Since its launch in 2015, more than 60,000 kids have accessed Kids Play. Without question, Kal’s vision is helping to reshape a community while building and lifting up a generation.


Dr. Balbir Gurm

Dr. Balbir Gurm, Surrey
Balbir’s achievements both professionally and as a dedicated volunteer have inspired her colleagues and community alike. A long time advocate for women, Balbir is the founder and chair of the Network to Eliminate Violence in Relationships. For the past decade, she has been a source of strength and leadership, working to break down gender and cultural barriers, facilitating collaboration between volunteers and external groups, while striving toward the common goal of preventing relationship violence. Last year, Balbir authored, Making Sense of Global Pandemic: Relationship Violence & Working Together towards a Violence Free Society. As a Nursing Professor, Balbir is a role model for students at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, inspiring them to become fellow agents for change. For decades, Balbir has used education, research, and community engagement to advocate for violence prevention. She is truly a champion for women, and a trailblazer within her community.


Zeba Khan
Photo: Facebook

Zeba Khan, Vancouver
At just 24-years old, Zeba is an inspiring example of young leadership, vision and generosity. While studying for her Bachelor of Neuroscience at UBC, Zeba dedicated countless hours towards causes that resonated deeply. A staunch believer in equal access to healthcare for all, Zeba advocates for free access to menstruation care supplies. As the founder of Free Periods Canada, Zeba and her team have distributed over 20,000 menstrual supplies across Canada. Zeba is a research assistant at the Contraception & Abortion Research Team (CART) at UBC and a board member of Options for Sexual Health and is working with these two groups to evaluate sexual and reproductive health care access needs of immigrant youth in BC. Through her World Awareness Initiative Foundation, Zeba provides a platform for young leaders and activists to work together. It’s through this initiative that she will inspire the generation to come.


Nirmal Parmar
Photo: Facebook

Nirmal Parmar, Terrace
Nirmal moved to Terrace from India in 1969 with his young family and quickly became one of the city’s most prolific volunteers. He volunteered with the Thornhill Fire Department early on and in 1984 Nirmal, along with a number of like-minded individuals, started a new multicultural group, which eventually became The Terrace and District Multicultural Association. In the last 50 years Nirmal has organized, facilitated and delivered innumerable multicultural-focused workshops for community groups and schools in the Terrace area. In 2000, Nirmal teamed up with other community groups to address the issue of institutional racism in the workplace and schools which resulted in the creation of the Skeena Diversity Society. Nirmal has also served as a board member and/or trustee for the Kermode Friendship Society, Terrace Public Library, Northern Saving Credit Union, Terrace Co-operative Association, Terrace and Area Health Council, Scouts Canada and Vanderhoof & Districts Co-operative Association.