COLUMN: Grewall’s remarkable legacy continues

I recently bumped into a former local transit bus driver and he shared one of the best diversity stories I have heard in a long time.

Tok Herar

On the Spot by Ken Herar

I recently bumped into a former local transit bus driver and he shared one of the best diversity stories I have heard in a long time. At times we hear of all the negative when it comes to riding transit, but this one touches the heart on what our community is truly all about.

He did not want to disclose his name and said when he was driving transit around town there was an elderly Sikh gentleman who would ride every day just so he could better his English, while sitting around other riders on the bus.

He would purposely sit in a seat where he could hear people speak. This is the kind of community I want to belong to.

Now that the election is over and the country has spoken, the ashes of Trudeaumania have risen again in the Fraser Valley. Pierre and his son Justin have a unique relationship here in the Central Fraser Valley. It was in 1968 that the federal Liberals last sent a person from the Fraser Valley to Ottawa under Pierre Trudeau’s red wave that swept the nation.

His name was Jerry Pringle and he did one term for the Abbotsford area.

Forty-seven years later Trudeau’s son Justin would carry the red flag again in the Valley and send Jati Sidhu, who recently captured the Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon riding on Oct 19.

You have to give credit to Sidhu, who ran in 2000 in the Dewdney-Alouette riding, which is part of the new riding. He also ran a few other times for political office and narrowly missed being elected.

It is that perseverance and staying in the political game that makes winning a reality, similar to Abbotsford Coun. Moe Gill, who ran several times for a seat on council and now has served close to 20 years in public office.

All of this shapes our future, just like when Naranjan Grewall became the first South Asian to be elected to public office in Canada in 1950.

He was awarded with ‘The World’ in the Pioneer Category at the 100 Year Journey at the South Asian Gala on Oct 3 in Vancouver.

He also became mayor of Mission City in 1954 and later ran for the CCF in 1956.

The award will reside at the Centre for Indo-Canadian Studies and Mark D. Evered, president and vice-chancellor at the University of the Fraser Valley, accepted the honour on his behalf that evening said: “I am pleased to accept this honour on behalf of the communities served by the University of the Fraser Valley. Naranjan Singh Grewall’s pioneering leadership in Mission and his service to our province have been an inspiration to many.

“Tonight’s event is about remarkable journeys, but it is also about remarkable legacies. Mr. Grewall’s legacy includes those next-generation Indo-Canadian leaders who have continued to play such a vital role in the development of the Fraser Valley.

“It is those next-generation leaders who have also guided and supported the establishment of UFV’s internationally recognized Centre for Indo-Canadian Studies, our chair in Canada-India business and economic development, and our campus in the Punjab, linking Mr. Grewall’s birthplace and his adopted home. We continue to be inspired by his leadership, and remain indebted to him.“

I remember doing all the research back in the mid 1990s and showcasing his life on many occasions and presentations during the past 20 years; otherwise, it was pretty much archived information.

He played an important role in our community and country. On the way home on Oct 3, my father – who knew him well and helped him on his campaigns – shared with me that he was glad I was committed to sharing his story all this time.

Naranjan Grewall; Moe Gill; Jati Sidhu; Kelly Chahal, who became the first South Asian female to be elected to Abbotsford city council in 2014; and former Mission mayor James Atebe, the first African to be elected to the District of Mission, have all become political changers in the valley for the future generations who may consider running the game.

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