UFV SASI receives $1.14 million in funding from the province

Premier John Horgan and Dr. Satwinder Kaur Bains, Director of SASI, meet to announce funding for the Punjabi Canadian Legacy Project.

The South Asian Studies Institute at the University of the Fraser Valley (SASI) with support from the Abbotsford Community Foundation has received $1.14 million in funding from the Province of BC to deliver Haq and History: A Punjabi Canadian Legacy Project.

The funding allows SASI to continue work showcasing past and present contributions of the Punjabi community to British Columbia.

(L to R) Hon. George Chow, MLA Vancouver-Fraserview, Dr. Balbir Gurm, Chair, Punjabi Legacies Advisory Committee, Premier John Horgan, and Dr. Satwinder Kaur Bains, Director of SASI, meet in Vancouver.

“Education is key to fostering a greater respect and appreciation for one another across our communities and society,” says SASI Director Dr. Satwinder Kaur Bains.

“A primary goal of the project is to improve the historical record of the significant contributions of South Asian Canadians with the goal of reducing racism while underscoring the value of B.C.’s diverse society.”

The funding is an extension of two phases and six years of combined effort between SASI and the Royal BC Museum. This partnership has been working, researching, collecting, and sharing histories through the Punjabi Canadian Legacy Project (PCLP) — with South Asian Canadian community partners in Golden, Prince George, Vancouver Island, Kelowna, Vancouver, Surrey and Abbotsford, led by the Punjabi Legacies Advisory Committee.

“The Punjabi Canadian community has a long and unique history that has contributed significantly to the strength and success of our province,” said Premier John Horgan. “The Punjabi Canadian Legacy Project will create a legacy for future generations, while honouring the stories and resilience of our multicultural communities.”

This project is consistent with the call for development of educational resources on the histories and contributions of racialized and Indigenous communities in B.C., heard during the government’s community consultations on racism and hate in the summer of 2019.

UFV’s President and Vice-Chancellor, Dr. Joanne MacLean, is very proud of the work SASI has accomplished, and equally excited for the advancements this announcement ensures.

“UFV is thrilled to have the important work of SASI recognized in this way, and we’re extremely grateful this funding will help acknowledge the invaluable contributions made by B.C.’s Punjabi community,” MacLean says.

“Satwinder is an incredible leader and champion of inclusivity. We’re very proud of her, the entire SASI team, and their extremely important work.”

The Punjabi Canadian Legacy Project will continue to be developed over the next few years and will include:

  • Province-wide digitization of South Asian Canadian collections, including artifacts, photos, texts, materials, oral histories, and other resources for the online South Asian Canadian Digital Archive
  • Creation of a traveling exhibition on South Asian Canadian history
  • Documentation and marking of sites province-wide that are of historic importance to South Asian Canadians and B.C. communities
  • Development of learning resources for South Asian Canadian relevant social studies curriculum for schools in B.C.
  • Research and development of an online comprehensive B.C. Labour Movements Social Histories Research Project, and
  • Production of a public history book – The South Asian Canadian Social History Project.

Punjabi Canadian Legacy Project milestones (2014-2020):

Phase 1:

  • The Punjabi Pioneer Food History Project, which resulted in a new collection and the development of educational material on the Royal BC Museum Learning Portal in 2014–2015.
  • The establishment of the Punjabi Canadian Legacy Project Advisory Committee in 2015.
  • The province-wide Community Consultation including a gallery intervention event and seven consultations, in 2015–2016 reaching over 700 community members, stakeholders, and partners.
  • The South Asian Historic Places Project in partnership with the province of British Columbia in 2016–2017
  • Collecting, digitizing of stories and photos of 52 Punjabi settlers in the lower mainland and Vancouver Island who have worked in the sawmills.

Phase 2:

Collected interviews of 144 Punjabi settlers across seven regions (Vancouver Island, Prince George, Golden, Kelowna, Abbotsford, Vancouver, Surrey).

  • 2019: Digitized, narration and archives collected from 144 stories of Punjabi-Canadian settlers across the Province of British Columbia
  • 2019: ‘Haq and History’ exhibit launched at RBCM’s Pocket Gallery, and traveled to the University of the Fraser Valley and the Sikh Heritage Museum.
  • 2019: Consultation Report published summarizing Punjabi community hubs feedback (https://www.southasiancanadianheritage.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Final-Report.pdf)

Examples of experiences shared during interviews conducted for the Punjabi Canadian Legacy Project:

“They thought he cannot get a teaching job. Because at that time, a turbaned person would not get a teaching job in BC.”

— Gurdial Singh Neel, Vancouver resident, Teacher at Robert McNair School, Richmond BC

“For the first 5-10 years I felt that nobody knew me and I didn’t have my own identity. Nobody else knew me by my name and I was so sad ….”

— Pritmohinder Kaur Dhaliwal, Abbotsford resident

You can read more on the Punjabi Canadian Legacy Project here.

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