Advisory Committee Archive

Membership September 2017–August 2019

Advisor Biographies

Mr. Mohsin Ghuman

Mr. Mohsin Ghuman was born and raised in Surrey, BC. His Canadian roots were set down in the 1970s, when his father migrated to Canada from Sarghoda, Pakistan. With the encouragement of his father, Mohsin has actively volunteered for Muslim and other community organizations from a young age. He graduated from Kwantlen Polytechnic University with a BBA in entrepreneurial leadership and currently works as a real estate developer. Being a first generation Punjabi Canadian gives him a unique lens on Canadian and Punjabi heritage.

Dr. Balbir Gurm - Chair

Balbir Gurm, RN, BSN, MA, EdD, was raised in Vancouver. She is a member of the Faculty of Health at Kwantlen Polytechnic University and a community activist. She is the founding editor-in-chief of Transformative Dialogues: Teaching and Learning Journal. Dr. Gurm has been honoured with the Teaching Excellence Award from the College of Registered Nurses of British Columbia (2000), the NISOD Teaching Excellence Award from the University of Texas (2000) and Academic Excellence Awards from Times of Canada (2013) and from Shakti (2014). She founded NEVR (Network to Eliminate Violence in Relationships) and leads a community action project to eliminate violence in relationships, for which she has brought together community partners from policing, the volunteer service sector, the government service sector and government.

Ms. Betty Hayer - Vice Chair

Ms. Betty Dusange Hayer is a third-generation Canadian whose great grandfather migrated to Canada in 1902. Ms. Hayer has over 30 years of business experience in the aviation, tourism, real estate development and natural resources industries. She has held leadership positions in a number of companies, including Ishan Canada International Ltd. , Canadian Regional Airlines Ltd., Canada 3000 Airlines Inc., Pacific Western Airlines Ltd and LThree Communications. Ms. Hayer has successfully launched and established travel agencies and the Bright Horizons Foundation. She has also worked with Royal Canadian Mounted Police Victim Services and the Richmond Hospital Foundation. Currently she is a consultant andlobbyist for corporations of international scope, both public and private. Ms. Hayer has also been extensively involved in successful fundraising for corporations and non-profits.

Dr. Hugh Johnston

Dr. Hugh Johnston is a retired professor of history who taught at Simon Fraser University for 36 years and was Chair of the Department of History for 11 years. He is a senior member of the administration at Alexander College in Burnaby and Vancouver. He has been an active member of the Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute, serving on the executive successively as secretary, treasurer and president in Canada and as resident director in New Delhi. He has been writing about South Asians in Canada for nearly 40 years, and he recently published a revised and expanded edition of his Voyage of the Komagata Maru, first published in 1979. He wrote the first complete ethnographic life journey of a Punjabi Canadian, The Four Quarters of the Night, in 1995. His latest book, Jewels of the Qila: The Remarkable Story of an Indo Canadian Family (2011), chronicles the lives of a Sikh family and the communities they lived in and supported.

Ms. Moninder Lalli

Ms. Moninder Kaur Lalli is a librarian at Simon Fraser University. She was part of a team that developed the vision for the Komagata Maru Website, a project funded by the Department of Citizenship and Immigration under their Community Historical Recognition Program. As Chair of the Library Programme Advisory Committee of the Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute, she oversaw the program which obtained scholarly material published in India for Canadian academic libraries. Moninder has assisted faculty, community members and institutions such as the Vancouver Maritime Museum with their research. In 2014, she was recognized for her work on the Komagata Maru website and the preservation of the history of the Sikh community. Moninder is also an artist with several solo exhibits to her name.

Mr. Harinder Mahil

Mr Harinder Mahil has been an anti-racist and human-rights activist since the 1970s.  Over the last 48 years he has worked for the New Westminster local of the International Woodworkers of America (IWA), the Province of British Columbia and the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada.

He was one of the founders of the BC Organization to Fight Racism and of the Canadian Farmworkers’ Union. He served as chair of the British Columbia Council of Human Rights from 1992 to 1997 and as deputy chief commissioner of the British Columbia Human Rights Commission from 1997 to 2002. He was acting chief commissioner of the British Columbia Human Rights Commission when the former Liberal government of British Columbia decided to enact legislation to do away with the commission.

Mr. Mahil was a member of the Canadian delegation to the 1993 United Nations World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna. Since 2011 he has been a board member of the Dr. Hari Sharma Foundation for South Asian Advancement.

Presently he is a staff representative of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, a union representing professionals employed by the government of Canada.

Ms. Sonia Manak

Sonia Manak is currently a graduate student at the University of Victoria in the Faculty of Education. Her research interests include race and ethnic relations in Canada, Asian Canadian history, the Sikh diaspora and the use of popular theatre as a tool for social change. She is a trained educator and has worked in the area of anti-racist education, counselling and curriculum development. Sonia’s interest in South Asian history in Canada began when, as a teen, she wrote an essay on her grandfather and his role in fighting for the elective franchise for South Asians. She then began her own oral history project, interviewing several elders from the community about their migration experiences. In 2001 Sonia created a museum exhibit called Shakti for the BC Forest Discovery Center. The exhibit examined the history of Sikhs in Paldi and in the Cowichan Valley. Sonia has been a guest speaker at a number of conferences and community events. She is passionate about learning, travel and educating young people on the history of South Asians in Canada. She recently returned from Shanghai, China, where she worked at an international school.

Mr. Tek Singh Manhas

Tek Manhas is a lifelong resident of Vancouver Island’s Cowichan Valley. His grandfather settled there in 1921 after Mayo Singh helped him emigrate from India to the village of Paldi. Tek has worked for a multinational company as a senior executive and currently works for a local family-owned business in Duncan, BC.

Ms. Baljit Sethi

Ms. Sethi was born in Lahore, in undivided Punjab, in 1933. Urdu is her first language. With a master's degree in Punjabi language and literature and a second master’s in fine arts and civilization, she taught literature at a community college associated with Punjab University. She immigrated to Canada in 1972 and after moving around the country, she settled in Prince George with her family. In 1976 she founded and became the executive director of the Immigrant and Multicultural Services Society of Prince George. She is the recipient of the Community Achievement Award, the Governor General's Award to mark the 125th anniversary of the Confederation of Canada, the Paul Yuzyk Lifetime Achievement Award for promoting multiculturalism in the Prince George region, the Prince George Community Foundation Citizen of the Year Award (2006), and the Order of BC (2011).

Dr. Milan Singh

Dr. Milan Singh completed her PhD in communication studies at Simon Fraser University. She currently works at the Teaching and Learning Centre at SFU and is a research fellow with the Centre for Policy Studies on Culture and Communities. Milan's research areas include the bombing of Air India Flight 182, South Asian Canadian history and media representations of race and gender. She has presented her research at local, national and international conferences and was recently the keynote speaker at the Rundle Summit Graduate Conference in Banff, Alberta. Milan was a lead researcher on SFU’s Komagata Maru Journey digital archive project, and she has co-curated events and consulted on related projects. A founding member of the South Asian Canadian Histories Association (SACHA) , she is also one of the voices behind The Nameless Collective podcast. She served on the Board of Directors for the Vancouver International Bhangra Celebration Society for three years and continues to support many arts and culture organizations across the Lower Mainland. 

Dr. Kusum Soni

Dr. Kusum Soni is a researcher and explorer who develops and facilitates new programs, coordinates program activities and takes a leadership role in the planning and implementation of diverse community building programs in Abbotsford and Mission, BC. She brings skill and passion to her work with immigrant families and members of the community at large. In 2014 she received the Betty Urquhart Community Service Award from the University of the Fraser Valley for her tireless community work. She spends her spare time exploring a passion for writing Punjabi and Hindi poetry.

Membership September 2015 - August 2017

Ms. Shushma Datt, OBC

Raised in Kenya, Shushma graduated from the University of New Delhi and moved to London, England where she received her broadcast training and established a reputation as a prominent broadcaster with the BBC. Shushma is heralded for launching the world’s first 24-hour dedicated radio station for South Asians outside of India in 1987.

Regarded as a media pioneer and a respected veteran broadcaster, Shushma is also President and CEO of i.t. Media Broadcasting, Western Canada’s largest South Asian media organization, with properties including 2 radio stations and 3 television programs. For the past 44 years, Shushma has been dedicated to encouraging intercultural harmony and cross-cultural understanding.

Mr. Mo Dhaliwal, vice chair

Mr. Mo Dhaliwal began his career working in the technology sector, first in Vancouver and later as a software developer in Silicon Valley. As a patron of the arts and producer of cultural events, Mo has worked to shatter barriers between people and encourage cross-cultural understanding, most notably through the creation of the Vancouver International Bhangra Celebration Society. As Director of Strategy for Skyrocket, a digital agency in Vancouver, Mo collaborates with creative minds across the country and continues to create moving experiences for clients and community. Mo has been recognized for his contributions with the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, as the national recipient of the Arnold Edinborough Award from Business for the Arts, and, most recently,with a Mayor’s Arts Award for “Board Member of the Year”.

Mr. Harbhajan Gill

Mr. Harbhajan Gill is the President of the Komagata Maru Heritage Foundation and a member of the Anniversaries of Change Steering Committee, as well as Vice President of PCHC-Museum of Migration and a director of the Richmond Museum Society. The mission of the KMHF is to capture the stories of the people who suffered on the Komagata Maru, to educate future generations about the importance of this incident to our society and to promote Indian culture in Canada. The KMHF has organized annual dinners and walks to commemorate the anniversary of the Komagata Maru incident. Mr. Gill has been active in getting recognition for Komagata Maru passengers through the release of a commemorative stamp on the 100th anniversary of Komagata Maru, and he is pressing the Canadian Government to apologize for this tragedy in the House of Commons.

Dr. Balbir Gurm, chair

Balbir Gurm, RN, BSN, MA, EdD is a member of the Faculty of Health at Kwantlen Polytechnic University and a community activist. Raised in Vancouver, she is the founding editor-in-chief of Transformative Dialogues: Teaching and Learning Journal. Dr. Gurm was honoured with the Teaching Excellence Award from the College of Registered Nurses of British Columbia (2000), the NISOD Teaching Excellence Award from the University of Texas (2000) and Academic Excellence Awards from Times of Canada (2013) and from Shakti (2014). Her doctoral dissertation was a social audit of Kwantlen Polytechnic University. She founded NEVR (Network to Eliminate Violence in Relationships; www.kpu.ca/NEVR) whose vision is "for violence in relationships to be non-existent in our community." Dr. Gurm is a passionate educator and leader who believes that educational experiences are influenced by history and context (including power and politics), that they need to be grounded in reality and that educators need to translate academic knowledge into community actions. She raises issues of equity in many spheres including equity in definitions, in policies and practices and in human experiences. For the last four years, Dr. Gurm has led a community action project to eliminate violence in relationships. She has managed to bring together community partners from policing, volunteer service, and government service sectors and from government to work on eliminating violence in relationships.

Ms. Moninder Lalli

Ms. Moninder Kaur Lalli is a librarian at Simon Fraser University who was part of a team that developed the vision for the Komagata Maru Website, a project funded by the Department of Citizenship and Immigration under their Community Historical Recognition Program (CHRP) (http://komagatamarujourney.ca/). It is a key resource on the history of the Indo-Canadian community, and includes digitized content such as the rare diary of the Khalsa Diwan Society by Arjan Singh Chand, an out-of-print book by Giani Kesar Singh on the Komagata Maru, Sushma Datt’s documentary for the 75th Anniversary of the Komagata Maru and President Nehru’s speech. Moninder has been instrumental in the development of the South Asian collection at the SFU Library, including oral histories, photographs, books, manuscripts, diaries and magazines. As Chair of the Library Programme Advisory Committee of the Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute, she has oversees the program which obtains scholarly material published in India for Canadian academic libraries. Moninder has assisted faculty, community members and institutions such as the Vancouver Maritime Museum with their research. In 2014, she was recognized for her work on the Komagata Maru website and the preservation of the history of the Sikh community. Moninder is also an artist with several solo exhibits to her credit.

Dr. Anne Murphy

Dr. Anne Murphy (PhD Columbia) is Associate Professor in the Department of Asian Studies at the University of British Columbia. She teaches and conducts research on the cultural and religious history of South Asia, with a special focus on Punjab. Her monograph, The Materiality of the Past: History and Representation in Sikh Tradition (Oxford University Press, 2012), explored the construction of Sikh memory and historical consciousness in texts, objects and sites from the eighteenth century to the twentieth. Her current research concerns the Punjabi language movement and modern Punjabi literature in the Indian and Pakistani Punjabs and in the Punjabi speaking Diaspora. She is from New York City.

Mr. Steven Purewal

Born and raised in the UK, Mr. Purewal’s educational background includes an MSc in Business Systems Analysis & Design City from the University of London. He worked in an Information Technology consulting firm in the UK and India, a role that included Sociocultural Competency Development. He is now settled in Surrey with his wife and three children. Steven is also a community historian, Curator and Managing Director of Indus Media Foundation. Indus Media Foundation (IMFC.org) is a registered non-profit society based in the lower mainland that fosters an appreciation for Punjabi culture within the wider community through progressive dialogues that reconcile Canada’s traditional heritage and values with those of the Punjabi Diaspora.

Mr. Nindi Sehmi

Mr. Sehmi was born in Nairobi, Kenya in a Sikh home; his parents came from Punjab, India. He was educated in England and became a professional architect. He held senior architect positions in Kenya, Tanzania, England and then Canada. He has always been involved in quasi-political/cultural activities—always an ardent and active volunteer. In Victoria, he has been a dynamic member of the Indo Canadian Cultural Association and the Khalsa Diwan Society.

 

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