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June 2002



Celebrating May *

South Asian Heritage Month

GlobalomNet Media Service





Raminder Gill, MPP, Harry Mann, Dinner Chair.

Deputy Premier and Min. of Education, the Hon. Elizabeth Witmer


May 4 was celebrated as the first-ever South Asian Heritage Month in Ontario. Over 800 members of Ontario’s diverse South Asian community from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Fiji, Singapore, Bangladesh, Uganda, Mauritius, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana came together to mark the inauguration of South Asian Heritage Month in Ontario and to honour the achievements and contributions of prominent South Asians.


The event organized by the South Asian Heritage Foundation, at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre at 8 p.m., kicked-off month-long celebrations for the community.


Last December, the Government of Ontario passed a Private Member's Bill, introduced by Raminder Gill, M.P.P. Bramalea-Gore-Malton-Springdale, proclaiming the month of May as South Asian Heritage Month, and May 5th as South Asian Arrival Day. The legislation received Royal Assent on December 14,2001.This is the first time in Canada that a government has formally recognized South Asians and it is clear that Premier Mike Harris and MPP Raminder Gill deserve much of the credit for their leadership.  “I am truly grateful to Premier Mike Harris and members of the Legislature from all parties, who joined with me in helping to make this bill law,” said Gill.


To give spirit to Ontario’s new law, a Central Coordinating Committee, chaired by Harry S. Mann, was established to organize and promote South Asian Heritage Month in Ontario. The committee has been responsible for organizing the inaugural celebration, producing promotional materials and helping to encourage the recognition of this month by the government and members of the community.


At the inaugural dinner last Thursday, Ontario’s Deputy Premier and Minister of Education, the Hon. Elizabeth Witmer brought a very positive message from the Premier, Ernie Eves, to members of the south Asian community. Mrs. Witmer was generous in her praise of the South Asian community, noting that they had given a tremendous amount to building Ontario and still continue to make a positive mark on our province as exemplified by Thursday’s inaugural dinner.


"South Asian Heritage Act, 2001, is recognition by the Ontario Legislature of the contributions that South Asian immigrants have made and continue to make to the development and general welfare of Ontario," said Harry Mann, President of the South Asian Lawyers' Association, at the event.


Special guests and speakers such as accomplished broadcaster and journalist Suhana Meharchand, paid tribute to several members of the South Asian community for their achievements in various sectors.


In attendance at the dinner to launch South Asian Heritage Month, were Raminder Gill, MPP and Parliamentary Assistant to the Premier and Minister of Intergovernmental Affair, the Hon. Brenda Elliott, Minister of Community, Children and Family Services, and the Hon. Tony Clement, Ontario’s Minister of Health.


At the dinner several individuals were recognized on the occasion for being pioneers in their chosen field, including Law Society Treasurer, Professor Vern Krishna, Q.C., who is the first South Asian to serve as a Bencher, and Treasurer of the Law Society of Upper Canada and Mr. Syed Mumtaz Ali, the first known South Asian lawyer in Ontario.


“The Law Society is pleased to help celebrate this milestone for the South Asian community, one of the largest and fastest growing communities in Ontario,” said Treasurer Krishna. “We are also pleased to help pay tribute to the achievements made by South Asians in law and the legal profession. I am extremely proud and honoured to be amongst so many wonderful and talented members of the South Asian community who have achieved these great accomplishments and laid the groundwork for continued achievement by the next generation,” said Krishna.


The other four prominent South Asians and one organisation were recognized for their contributions to the community and Canada at the Gala.


Guru Gobind Singh Children's Foundation


Dr.Salim Yusuf, Professor of Medicine at McMaster University


Ben Sennik, Chairman/CEO, Desbro Holdings Limited and a philanthropist. Sennick initiated the installation of a ten-foot high statue of Mahatma Gandhi in the Peace Park in Richmond Hill in 1988.


Bahadur Madhani, past Chair of the United Way of Toronto and a recipient of the Order of Canada.



Some 'Firsts' Among South Asians


The following list of South Asian men and women were released by the Foundation as people who have scored 'firsts' in the law and legal profession. Their advocacy and volunteerism have resulted in the advancement of human rights and assisted with the integration of the South Asian community into the province of Ontario.


Professor Vern Krishna, Q.C., FCGA, First Bencher of the Law Society of Upper Canada-1991 and First Treasurer of the Law Society of Upper Canada-2001


Mr. Syed Mumtaz Ali, First male South Asian lawyer called to the Bar-1962


Ms. Iva Sareen, First female South Asian lawyer called to the Bar-1979


The Honourable Mr. Ayres Victor Couto, Q.C., First Judicial Appointment to the Ontario Court of Justice-1984


The Honourable Madam Justice Sheila Ray, First female Judicial Appointment-1992


The Honourable Mr. Justice Russell Juriansz, First Federal Judicial Appointment to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice-1998


Dr. Surya Prakash Sinha and Dr. Lakshman Marasinghe, First Law Professors-1970


Dr. Emily Carasco, First female Law Professor-1980


Dr. Bhausaheb Ubale, First Human Rights Commissioner, Ontario Human Rights Commission-1979


Mr. Raj Anand, First Chief Commissioner, Ontario Human Rights Commission-1988


Mr. T. Sher Singh, C.M., LL.B., LL.D., First Order of Canada-2002


His Worship Justice of the Peace Inderpaul Singh Chandhoke, First Justice of the Peace-1979


Her Worship Justice of the Peace Meena Nadkarni, First female Justice of the Peace-1986



First Legislators


Mr. Gurbax Singh Malhi, Federal Member of Parliament and Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Labour,


Mr. Murad Velshi, Member of Provincial Parliament.


Mr. Raminder Gill, Member of Provincial Parliament


Notable Accomplishments by South Asian Women of the Bar


Ms. P.A. Neena Gupta, co-founder of the Visible Minority Women's group of the OBA (formerly CBAO)


Ms. Kamaljit Kaur Mundi, one of the founding members of the South Asian Professionals' Networking Association


Ms. Soma Ray-Ellis, the first South Asian woman to clerk for the Superior Court of Ontario



Notable Accomplishments by South Asian Men of the Bar


Mr. Christopher Ajith Amerasinghe, Q.C., one of the persons responsible for establishing the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Section in the Department of Justice


Mr. Khalid Baksh, co-counsel for the Coalition of Muslim Organizations and appeared before the House of Commons Committee on Justice and Human Rights and the Special Senate Committee on The Subject Matter of Bill C-36


The Honourable Justice Minoo Khoorshed, one of four South Asian judges to have been appointed in Ontario


Mr. Dhaman Persuad Kissoon, has been a sessional lecturer at the Faculty of Law of Queen's University since 1990, and is currently on the Youth Drug Court Program (51 Division).


Mr. Stindar K. Lal, Q.C., played a significant role in the development of the new Police Services Act and the establishment of the Race Relations and Policing Committee


Mr. Jegan N. Mohan, founder Secretary and Legal Advisor to the Tamil Eelam Society of Canada, co-founder and lawyer for the Canadian Foundation for Tamil Refugees and Rehabilitation, Trustee of the Hindu Temple Society of Canada, and serves on the Legal Aid Ontario Scarborough Area Committee


Mr. Mark M. Persaud, Department of Justice Prosecutor, Founder and Chairman of the Canadian International Peace Project, the Secretary of the South Asian Lawyers' Association and Co-Secretary of the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers



Celebrations in other parts of Canada

Other Canadian Sources

British Columbia - Vancouver Asian heritage month