• Remembering the Brave on November 11th

    Most of us will pick up a poppy on our way out of the local grocery store or bank by donating a coin or two and pin it on our jacket as a sign of respect for our soldiers. On November 11th we will remember the brave men and women who died in the line of duty for our country.

    When we look around our neighbourhoods today, our community is made up of people from a variety of cultural backgrounds many of whose ancestors served in the Canadian Army during World War I. Aboriginal Canadians, Chinese Canadians and Sikh Canadians all participated in the line of duty in the war to end all wars.

    Many Native communities were not supportive of the war effort as they wanted Great Britain to recognize them as independent nations first. This was not granted and the Aboriginals were exempted from the Compulsory Military Service Act in August 1917. Nonetheless nearly 4,000 Aboriginals (Inuit, Métis, and other First Nations Canadians) and many of them from isolated and remote areas of Canada left the comfort of their homes and families to serve in the Great War.

    About 300 Chinese Canadians voluntarily enlisted during World War I even though they were denied their fundamental rights by the Canadian government of voting and entering certain professions. Chinese Canadians were also not conscripted as part of the Military Service Act.

    There is only a record of 10 Sikh Canadians who fought in WWI though thousands of Sikhs from India fought in Europe for the British Empire.  One of these 10 Sikh Canadians was the Victory Medal recipient Private Buckam Singh who came to British Columbia from Punjab in 1907. He had moved to Toronto in 1913 and enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force in early 1915. He died in a Kitchener, Ontario, hospital in August 1919. He was buried in Kitchener’s Mount Hope Cemetery, the only known First World War Sikh Canadian soldier’s grave in the country. All of these brave heroes had one thing in common, loyalty for the country in which they lived in.

    A Sikh Canadian soldier during WWI. Image: Asia Canada

    A Sikh Canadian soldier during WWI. Image: Asia Canada

    Let us pause from our daily tasks tomorrow and remember the sacrifice and service of men and women who have lost their lives so that we might live our lives in peace and security. Please participate in your local Remembrance Day ceremony. Check out the list of events the City of Vancouver will be hosting tomorrow.

  • Barj Dhahan John Oliver School

    10 Things You Didn’t Know about South Vancouver

    10 Things You Didn’t Know about South Vancouver

    South Vancouver is very dear to my heart. It is where I have spent most of my life, where I graduated high school, where I’ve worked many jobs, and where I met my wife. Like many other immigrants to Vancouver, South Vancouver has played an important role in my life, and yet I am always learning more about the area’s vibrant history and current landscape. Here, I share 10 interesting facts about the area that you might not know:

    • South Vancouver was originally its own municipality: The original southern boundary of Vancouver was 16th avenue, but settlers began clearing land for farms along the north arm of the Fraser River in the 1860s, and built a narrow clearing through the forest to connect to Granville Townsite (now Vancouver). That clearing would later become North Arm Wagon Road and eventually Fraser Street. The Municipality of South Vancouver was incorporated in 1892, and only amalgamated with Vancouver in 1929.
    • South Hill is one of the oldest shopping areas in Vancouver: The stretch on Fraser Street from 41st Avenue to 50th Avenue has been bustling since a streetcar was built down Fraser Street to 49th Avenue in 1909. Some residents remember iconic businesses from that time such as Tom Fox Hardware (est. 1908) and Curry Grocers (est. 1910), and some of the original buildings from that time still stand.

    South Hill

    • Speaking of South Hill, the community members have built a fabulous website: The South Hill Community Website is an amazing project, almost like an online community centre, that links to projects, events, and businesses in the area. One of the most impressive projects is Inside Stories, a user friendly and beautiful interactive part of the website where users can click on images of local homes and shops to hear the stories of the residents inside.
    • John Oliver Secondary School is one of the oldest in Vancouver: Originally established as South Vancouver High School in 1912, my high school started out as just two surplus classrooms at Lord Selkirk Elementary. A new structure near the current location was built in 1920 on the site of the original Wilson Farm, and the school was renamed John Oliver Secondary School. That building is now called “The Barn” and still stands today behind the current structure. Many alumni like me are proud of J.O. and continue to support projects at the school like the Wonder of Reading program.

    The Barn

    • The Ross Street temple was built by the oldest and largest Sikh organization in Canada: The Khalsa Diwan Society was formally established in 1906, making it the oldest Sikh organization in the country. Vancouver’s first Sikh Gurdwara (temple) was built on 2nd Avenue by the Society in 1908 (which means it may be the oldest Gurdwara on the American continent). As the Sikh community in Vancouver grew, a larger temple was eventually necessary and the new construction on Ross Street, designed by renowned architect Arthur Erickson, was completed in 1970.

    Ross Street Gurdwara

    • The Vancouver South riding has one of the largest immigrant populations in the province: From the earliest days, the area has attracted hard working individuals and families from all over the world looking to build a better future in Canada. Today, 75% of Vancouver South residents are either immigrants or children of immigrants (compared to about 50% in Vancouver as a whole), about one-third of those are of Chinese ancestry, 15% are from India or Pakistan, and a growing population are people with Filipino or Vietnamese heritage.

    LA2699 Barj Dhahan 20140116-116-3-1

    • Langara College has graduated over 76,000 students: Originally part of Vancouver City College, Langara started in 1965 and moved to its current location on 49th avenue in 1970. In 1994 it was established as an independent public college and now offers a variety of programs for over 21,000 students every year. Since 2007, Langara has recognized the contributions of exceptional graduates with the Outstanding Alumni Award; recipients include journalist Simi Sara, former mayor Sam Sullivan, and acclaimed author Carmen Aguirre.


    • Everett Crowley Park in Champlain Heights was built on a landfill: Along with Killarney, the Champlain Heights area in the southeast corner of Vancouver was one of the last areas in the city to be urbanized. The area where the park sits now was originally a coniferous forest housing a natural ravine and waterfall. Later the land was used for hunting and logging and in the 1940s it became the Kerr Road Dump and operated as a landfill until 1967. In 1987 it was re-opened as a park and named for Everett Crowley, a long-time resident of the area who served as a Park Board Commissioner in the 1960s.

    Everett Crowley Park

    • Killarney Market is famous: Killarney Market on the corner on East 49th Avenue is well-known for being one of the only places in the city to find certain Latin American, Asian, and European products along with a wide selection of affordable everyday groceries, fresh baked goods, deli meats, plants and flowers. It is also where Burnaby-born, Grammy-nominated singer Michael Bublé filmed the music video for “Haven’t met you yet”. The video features Bublé singing and dancing throughout the store and parking lot, features a cameo by the West Vancouver Youth Band, and has had over 4 million views on YouTube.

    Killarney Market

    • The River District will eventually house about 15,000 residents: Originally the Canadian White Pine Mill, later known as the East Fraserlands, the River District is an area of over 50 hectares along the Fraser River between Kerr Street and Boundary Road. A big construction project is underway which will include 6000-7000 homes, retail space, offices, an elementary and secondary school, parks, recreational amenities, and more.

    River District

    The River District project is just one of several such projects underway in South Vancouver. From forest, to farms, to lumber and plywood mills, to family-centered communities, to an outstanding institution of higher education, I love to learn about how the area has grown and changed over the years. South Vancouver is a fascinating part of the city with a very rich history, and much potential for a very bright and prosperous future.

  • Justin Trudeau, Kas Guha, and Barj Dhahan

    We Should Support Immigrant Women Entrepreneurs

    Op-ed originally published in The Vancouver Sun on September 11, 2014

    Kas Guha came to Canada 10 years ago from an area in India known for silk manufacturing. Over the years, she has worked in many retail and non-profit jobs but she always dreamed of connecting Canadians with the beautiful weaving by artisans in her home region. She turned her dream into a reality in 2013 and launched Ethnik Yarn, bringing hand-woven textiles, apparel, and accessories made by artisans in several Indian villages to Canada.

    Kas’s story has me wondering how many other immigrant women have similar dreams that have not yet been realized. There are many efforts under way in Canada to ensure support for women in business, as well as programs to support immigrant entrepreneurs, but is enough being done for female immigrant entrepreneurs specifically?

    The importance of women in business is well documented. It has been found that organizations with more women in top management positions achieve 35-per-cent higher return on equity than their peers. Women also tend to be better team-builders, better at assessing the resources needed to accomplish certain goals, better at combining intuitive and logical thinking, and better at managing money. Women also tend to focus more on the greater good, engaging with communities and participating more actively in social responsibility projects. Ethnik Yarn, for example, sponsors campaigns to raise awareness about cervical cancer in Bengal, India.

    Yet the barriers to women in business persist. Women have a more difficult time securing financing for their businesses, which may be due to the bias of investors or other factors such as women’s tendency to take fewer risks than men. Many women also need to balance work with a greater share of responsibilities at home than their male counterparts, and as a result many women tend to get involved in business at a later stage in life, which can also be seen as a strike against them. Today, women still only represent 35 per cent of all self-employed people in Canada.

    Comparatively, Canada is doing well in terms of the number of over-all women in business; Statistics Canada reports almost half of all small- and medium-sized businesses are entirely or partly owned by women, and contribute to the creation of almost 10,000 jobs every year. There are a number of provincial programs to support women in business such as The Women’s Enterprise Initiative, which has offices in four provinces.

    In B.C., the provincial government has created the Women’s Economic Council to advise women in business and expand opportunities for women in key business sectors in the province. However, there is no national strategy specifically aimed at supporting women in business.

    Both federally and provincially, we recognize the importance of engaging with diaspora populations to share knowledge and grow the economy. The government of Canada offers support services for all Canadians hoping to start a new business, and last year announced a Start-Up Visa program to attract immigrant entrepreneurs to the country. Similarly, the B.C. Provincial Nominee Program provides information and support for newcomers hoping to start or bring their business to the province.

    But we have not explored sufficiently the ways in which we might leverage the knowledge and networks of female immigrants interested in starting businesses in Canada. Many immigrant women have unique skills, including market intelligence, that they have learned from their home countries, and innovative ideas that could contribute to their home communities as well as to Canada. But immigrant women also face unique challenges when coming to our country: Sexism and racism intersect in ways that can hold them back from realizing their full potential.

    By overlooking the role of female immigrant entrepreneurs in Canada, and the ways in which we might support them, we are potentially missing out on important opportunities to bolster international trade and create jobs both here and abroad. I applaud the various efforts, particularly at the provincial level, to support women in business and to encourage immigrant entrepreneurship, but I would also welcome a deeper look at policy and program initiatives that focus on female immigrant entrepreneurs. How can we support the Kas Guhas of our country to ensure we are not missing out on a potentially more creative and diverse society and economy?

  • Barj Dhahan and Stewart Beck in Delhi

    Asia Pacific Foundation Looks to Expand to South Asia

    The new president of the Vancouver-based think tank is looking to expand Canadian relations with South Asia and Southeast Asia.

    Asia Pacific Foundation’s new president, Stewart Beck, was Canada’s former High Commissioner to India, and has extensive experience working in the region. Barj Dhahan met with Mr. Beck in New Delhi earlier this year during a visit to India with the Governor General.

    Business in Vancouver interviewed Beck and Barj Dhahan about the appointment and the value of expanding ties with South Asia and Southeast Asia.

    Stewart Beck and Barj Dhahan

    Brenda Beck, Vasu Chanchlani, Stewart Beck and Barj in New Delhi in 2014.

    Read an excerpt from “Stewart Beck: East-West Connector,” published in Business in Vancouver on August 25, 2014:

    Vancouver businessman and philanthropist Barj Dhahan said Beck was a leader in focusing on not only entrepreneurship between India and Canada but also education during his tenure as high commissioner. Beck’s appointment to the foundation is timely, given the growth and opportunities in South Asia, said Dhahan, who is past chair of the Canada India Foundation.

    “Stewart’s appointment is very timely because, as a country and a province, we are certainly looking at Asia, not just at China and Japan but all of Asia, South Asia and Southeast Asia. It’s timely that the foundation has a broader focus on all of Asia,” Dhahan said.

    Beck is eager to apply his India experience, coupled with a career-long belief in educating young people on what he calls “business ecosystems,” to shape the next chapter for the foundation.

    He wants the foundation to be well positioned to act as a catalyst to engage young entrepreneurs on both sides of the Pacific as regional Asian economies grow stronger.

    “It’s the Wayne Gretzky thing: skate to where the puck is going to be,” Beck said. “That’s part of the role I think the foundation has.”

    Beck’s hockey analogy comes from experience. Dhahan said that, along with other Canadian officials, the former high commissioner would host an ice hockey tournament in northern India to introduce young Indians to Canada’s national sport as a bridge-building exercise. He was known to bring shipments of hockey sticks, skates and pads from Canada to India.

    “A lot of people in India know about our national sport as a result,” said Dhahan.

    That kind of bridge building pays dividends for both countries, Dhahan said.

    Stewart Beck in Delhi

    Richard Bales (Canadian Consul General, Mumbai) Governor General David Johnston, a guest, and Stewart Beck.

    Read the full story at Business in Vancouver.


  • Vancouver Skytrain travel investment

    Canada Needs an Infrastructure Plan

    All levels of government must collectively identify needs.

    Op-ed originally published in The Vancouver Sun on August 5, 2014

    Barj Dhahan op-ed Vancouver Sun

    We need to invest now in public transit to accommodate the one million new residents expected during the next 30 years, yet there is much debate about which projects to focus on and where the funding will come from, according to Barj Dhahan, the founder and chief executive officer of Sandhurst Group.

    Former chief economist and senior vice president of the World Bank, Justin Yifu Lin, was presented in May with an honorary doctoral degree from UBC for his contributions to the field of economics and development. Lin has written extensively about the importance of investments in infrastructure to promote healthy economies. He has recently proposed the development of a Global Structural Transformation Fund, sparking me to reflect on the need for a comprehensive infrastructure plan for Canada.

    Investing in infrastructure has been shown to be a key factor in the development of robust economies. According to the World Bank, a 10-per-cent increase in infrastructure investment leads to a one per cent growth in GDP. Lin has said that, “Such investment also creates jobs, both in the short term, by creating demand for materials and labour, and in the long term, for related services. For example, every $100 million invested in rural road maintenance translates into an estimated 25,000-50,000 job opportunities.”

    In cities, improving transit infrastructure not only creates jobs, but has also been shown to increase productivity as people are more easily able to get to and from places of work. The economic benefits of infrastructure investment are clear, but how do we ensure the most efficient and effective infrastructure planning?

    In late March, the New Building Canada Plan was launched by the federal government, allocating $53 billion during 10 years to infrastructure development. While the plan includes funds to address needs at different levels, there is confusion about how this money will be allocated, when it will be allocated, and who will make those decisions.

    There are critiques that the plan does not make sufficient funds available for the first two years, and many municipalities are left wondering if they will be able to address serious local infrastructure problems any time soon.

    What is troubling about this plan and similar funding sources, is that money is allocated based on a competitive process. Provinces and cities must submit applications to fund their specific needs and hope their project will be selected. The problem is exemplified by the current debate around public transportation investments in Metro Vancouver.

    It is clear we need to invest now in public transit to accommodate the 1 million new residents expected during the next 30 years, yet there is much debate about which projects to focus on and where the funding will come from. Metro Vancouver mayors recently presented a transportation investment plan covering major projects for the next 10 years but the provincial government rejected the mayors’ hope to use carbon tax revenues to help fund the projects.

    Should each municipality be left on its own to come up with the funds? Should Surrey compete against Vancouver to fund each of its proposed rapid transit projects?

    Currently, there is no sustained source of federal funding to address transit or other core infrastructure needs for municipalities; the ongoing debate between Metro Vancouver mayors and the province highlights this major gap.

    What is needed is a comprehensive infrastructure plan for the country based on ample dialogue between experts and all levels of government that clearly lays out an investment plan for the short, medium, and long-term with funds earmarked for specific projects.

    Stakeholders would need to come together to clearly define the country’s major infrastructure needs and to formulate agreements in principle about project priorities, criteria, and funding sources in order to make efficient decisions.

    Such a strategy would contribute to economic growth not only by investing in infrastructure, but also by facilitating strategic planning to ensure that projects are undertaken in a timely manner and on budget. It would allow for government, industry, labour and community groups to strategize regarding material and labour needs, generating a steady flow of employment opportunities for Canadians.

    Most important, it would not pit municipalities against each other, but instead would include regular dialogue and consensus-building between all levels of government to make sure no one is left in the dark, both figuratively and literally!

  • Barj Dhahan Smiling

    Watch: Barj Talks About Health and Education in Punjab

    Barj is deeply passionate about issues related to education and health, and has worked on a number of international and local projects related to these two areas since the 1980s.

    Learn more about Barj and the Dhahan family’s work in providing access to health services and education in Punjab, as well as their groundbreaking international collaboration with the University of British Columbia School of Nursing in this video from Canada India Foundation.

  • Building International Collaborations in Health Sciences

    Building relationships between education and community-based institutions here in Canada and internationally is the key to economic development and supporting community growth.

    On Monday June 30, an exciting new agreement of cooperation was finalized between the University of British Columbia and Baba Farid University of Health Sciences (BFUHS). The agreement builds upon the already successful nursing collaboration between both institutions facilitated by Barj Dhahan and the Canada India Education Society.

    After a year of conversations, a statement of cooperation was signed between UBC’s Faculty of Medicine’s School of Population and Public Health (SPPH) and BFUHS. The statement was signed by Gavin C. E. Stuart, MC, FRCSC, Dean, Faculty of Medicine and Vice Provost, Health, UBC; Dr. Shivinder S. Gill, Vice-Chancellor, BFUHS; and David Patrick, MC, Director School of Population & Public Health, Faculty of Medicine, UBC

    “This is an important first step between the institutions to promote the field of Occupational and Environmental Health,” says Barj Dhahan. “This collaboration has a huge potential for improving public health especially in Punjab and Northern India.

    UBC Baba Farid University Agreement with Barj Dhahan

    Back row: Barj Dhahan, Ms. Charanjit Kaur (BFUHS, Nursing, Goindwal College), Mr. HCL Rawat (BFUHS, Nursing, Vice_Principal, Faridkot Colllege). Front row: Dr. Hugh Davies (Associate Professor, SPPH) and Dr. Rajeev Manjahs (BFHUS, International Coordinator; Head, Life Sciences, Library and Information Services).


    The institutions will seek to collaborate in scholarly exchange and research collaboration among faculty, student exchange, and sharing curricular information and teaching methods.

    Barj Dhahan serves as a voluntary advisor to Baba Farid University of Health Sciences and to Vice Chancellor Dr. Gill, and has worked on building successful international collaborations with Canadian universities and researchers.

    “Over the past few years, Dr. Hugh Davies and I have been in discussions regarding collaborating with Baba Farid University of Health Sciences with a focus on environmental and occupational health,” says Barj Dhahan. “BFUHS hopes that this collaboration will bring knowledge and resources towards the development of its own environmental and occupational health study programs.”

    Barj Dhahan UBC Baba Farid agreement

    Back row: Daniella Weber (International Manager, Dean’s Office, International Affairs), Prof. Karen Bartlett (SPPH, MSc. Program Director), Barj Dhahan, Ms. Charanjit Kaur (BFUHS, Nursing, Goindwal College), Mr. HCL Rawat (BFUHS, Nursing, Vice_Principal, Faridkot Colllege). Front row: Dr. Hugh Davies (Associate Professor, SPPH) and Dr. Rajeev Manjahs (BFHUS, International Coordinator; Head, Life Sciences, Library and Information Services).

  • Community Ambassador Award Barj Dhahan

    Barj Receives Community Ambassador Award

    The Writers International Network Canada awarded Barj Dhahan the Community Ambassador Award.

    Community Ambassador Award Barj Dhahan

    Barj Dhahan,  Zayra Yves (author and artist), Ashok Bhargava (president, WINC), Lt. General P.D. Bhargava (Deputy Vice Chancellor, Amity University)

  • Consul General Rajani Alexander with Barj Dhahan, Amrik Sangha, Dr. Susan Dahinten, Harinder Dhahan

    Consul General Rajani Alexander Talks About Canada-India Relations

    On May 28, 2014, Barj Dhahan and friends hosted a reception with Her Excellency Rajani Alexander, Canadian Consul General, Chandigarh, India.

    Her Excellency shared a unique viewpoint on the various facets of the Canada-India relationship and more specifically about Canada’s relationship with Punjab/Haryana/Himachal/Uttarakhand, her areas  of coverage from Chandigarh.

    Ms. Rajani Alexander was a researcher and university instructor in Pacific, Asian and Gender Studies, and an independent consultant on cooperative education before joining the public service of Canada in 1994. At the headquarters of the Canadian International Development Agency, Ms. Alexander was senior adviser in the Gender Equality Division, senior analyst in the Caribbean Program, and director of results and accountability in the Geographic Programs Branch. Abroad, Ms. Alexander served in Santiago and Dhaka, and most recently, she was director for Central America and counsellor (development) in Honduras.

  • Barj Dhahan Smiling

    News: India untapped opportunity for B.C. companies

    Originally published in Business in Vancouver on May 12, 2014.

    The number of students from India enrolling in Simon Fraser University has been rising steadily over the past four years but business connections between India and British Columbia are still hampered by a lack of easy access, according to a Surrey businessman.

     “India has gone through massive economic growth in the last 10 to 15 years,” said Barj Dhahan, who sits on Simon Fraser University’s India Advisory Council. “Amazing technological innovations are taking place in India. The middle class is growing by millions every year, the buying power in U.S. dollars is quite high, so those people have high aspirations for themselves and the goods and services they want. And so it offers opportunities for B.C., Surrey and Canadian businesses.”

    That growth has brought more students to B.C. from India such that they now make up around 4% of SFU’s international enrolment, Dhahan said.

    However, with that growth come growing pains. While Dhahan said India is receiving more recognition as a key international business partner, airline companies have been hesitant to follow suit.

    A key barrier to increasing B.C.’s business connections and opportunities in India, he said, is the lack of non-stop air service from Vancouver to India’s major cities.

    In November 2012, Business in Vancouver reported that Vancouver Airport Authority (YVR) executives were negotiating with carriers to launch non-stop flights to such places as Peru, Chile and India (“Airlines to launch new international non-stop services from Vancouver” – biv.com; November 20, 2012).

    However, in an interview at the time, YVR director of aviation marketing John Korenic noted that strong demand for business-class tickets was key to the viability of non-stop flights between Vancouver and major cities in India such as New Delhi.

    Anne Murray, YVR vice-president of marketing and communications, said Dhahan’s request is still on the authority’s radar.

    “India is a market that we are very interested in. We are constantly looking for an airline partner that could provide non-stop flights to India, the largest market with no direct service from YVR.”