Human rights champion Sahib Thind receives Medal of Good Citizenship

MINISTER of Community, Sport and Cultural Development and Minister Responsible for TransLink Peter Fassbender, on behalf of Premier Christy Clark, presented Sahib Thind of Surrey with the province’s newest honour, the Medal of Good Citizenship at a ceremony on Friday.

Launched in July 2015 by Premier Christy Clark, the prestigious Medal of Good Citizenship recognizes individuals who, through exceptional long-term service, have made outstanding contributions to their communities without expectation of remuneration or reward. The medal reflects their generosity, service, acts of selflessness and contributions to community life. Nominations for the Medal of Good Citizenship are accepted year-round.

Thind was honoured with the medal for his dedication to his unwavering dedication to human rights.

For almost a quarter century he had been the driving force for a formal Parliamentary apology for the 1914 Komagata Maru incident in which hundreds of passengers from India who sought refuge in the country and province were denied entry to Canada and turned away without benefit of the fair and impartial treatment benefitting a society where people of all cultures are welcomed and accepted.

His foundation, the Professor Mohan Singh Memorial Foundation, criss-crossed Canada, and travelled abroad to bring attention to the cause and lobby for an official Parliamentary apology in various legislative assemblies, including those in B.C. and in the Indian state of Punjab. All of the travel costs were personally paid for by Thind.

The Professor Mohan Singh Memorial Foundation lobbied the B.C. provincial government for an apology for its role in this tragedy. After 94 years, the B.C. legislature unanimously passed a motion on May 23, 2008, apologizing for the Komagata Maru incident. “This house deeply regrets that the passengers who sought refuge were turned away,” said Liberal House Leader Mike de Jong.

In May 2016 the federal government apologized for the Komagata Maru incident and for his part in this struggle, Thind and his organization, have been recognized in the Punjab state legislature in India, and in the Canadian Parliament.

With the official Komagata Maru apology in hand, Thind is continuing his efforts, and expanding his actions to include issues faced by many other communities by working to establish diverse curricula in all Canadian provinces.

As well the non-partisan, non-denominational, human rights foundation hosts the Mela Gadri Babiyan Da in Bear Creek Park in Surrey, with Thind leading all organizational efforts. The festival, which invites South Asian performers from around the world, is attended by 70,000-100,000 festival-goers. It is all put on by volunteers, and the foundation charges no admission.

Clark said: “Sahib Thind is a steadfast champion for human rights, who understands that only by confronting the mistakes of our past, can we ensure future generations learn the right lessons from history. It was an honour to be present when Canada’s parliament formally apologized for the Komagata Maru incident, which happened in large part due to Sahib’s tireless efforts.”

Thind said: “I am humbled to receive this honour. It will be shared with the diverse group of members of our secular, non-partisan human rights foundation. These men and women stood with us for almost a quarter century, as we worked to obtain an official commons apology for the Komagata Maru tragedy. Today, I thank them all. We will continue to support human rights and promote peace and harmony through our annual Mela (Festival) Gadri Babeyan Da, and our other efforts, both in Canada and abroad.”