Advisory Committee

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.

View Advisory Committee Archive

You are here