February 3, 2020, Surrey, British Columbia – Lebanese journalist and activist Norma Lize of Vancouver has won the January Marie Lapuz Youth Leadership Award top prize for 2019.
For these fifth annual awards, there were applicants from Metro Vancouver, Ontario, Newfoundland and even as far as India. Twenty-seven-year-old Norma Lize was selected as the top prize winner ($1,000 award) by a diverse eight-member jury.
The January Marie Lapuz Youth Leadership Award was created by Sher Vancouver in 2015 to recognize young leaders who are advocates for the LGBTQ+ community. It is named after Sher Vancouver’s late social coordinator, January Marie Lapuz, a transgender Filipina woman who was tragically murdered in New Westminster, BC, in September 2012.
“January would be so proud that Norma, who also identifies as transgender, is this year’s winner! This is not surprising as Norma was also recognized at the prestigious Paris Prize for LGBTQ+ rights in 2018. We are fortunate to have Norma living in Vancouver now, and continuing her advocacy to benefit the people of Metro Vancouver and British Columbia,” says Alex Sangha, Sher Vancouver Founder and Award Coordinator.
In addition to the top prize, several other nominees were recognized at a ceremony today held at Surrey-based DIVERSEcity Community Resources Society, a non-profit organization that came on board as the exclusive sponsor of the award this year.
“We are proud to provide support to Sher Vancouver and its January Marie Lapuz Youth Leadership Award,” says Neelam Sahota, Chief Executive Officer, DIVERSEcity. “As a champion of diversity and inclusion, we at DIVERSEcity work to empower newcomers and other diverse or vulnerable communities, including LGBTQ+ members. We have a program called Together Now, a free peer support group for LGBTQ+ newcomers who face many challenges and cultural stigma. Our hope is to encourage acceptance and belonging for all, regardless of their race, religion, gender or sexual orientation.”
The full list of winners is as follows:
Norma Lize, Winner ($1,000 prize)
27 years old | Vancouver, BC
Andy Holmes, First Runner Up ($600 prize)
23 years old | Vancouver, BC
Jackson Wai Chung Tse, Second Runner Up ($400 prize)
29 years old | Vancouver, BC
Sonali Patel, Honourable Mention ($200 prize)
23 years old | Oakville, Ontario
Emerging Youth Advocates Prizes
In addition to the top four winners above, this year Sher Vancouver decided to award seven Emerging Youth Advocates $100 prizes to encourage youth who are starting to do great work with their advocacy and contributions to the LGBTQ+ community. The winners are:
- Aidan Andrew Pau of Delta, 17
- Candy of New Westminster, 23
- Gracie Reid of Trinity Bay, Newfoundland, 17
- Guildford Park Gender and Sexuality Alliance of Surrey, under 18 years old
- Moe Yang of Richmond, 19
- Nel Jayson Cruz Santos of Vancouver, 21
- Nyx MacKinnon of Surrey, 16
About Sher Vancouver
Sher Vancouver is a non-profit society for LGBTQ+ South Asians and their friends, families and allies in Metro-Vancouver, BC. Sher Vancouver hopes to reduce the alienation and discrimination of people dealing with sexuality, gender and coming-out issues by providing advocacy, counselling, peer support and social activities. Everyone is welcome to join regardless of ethnicity, religious belief or sexuality. Learn more at shervancouver.com.
About Diverse city Community Resources Society
At DIVERSEcity Community Resources Society, we empower newcomers and other diverse communities to build the life they want in Canada. Our free, multilingual programs and services in language, settlement, employment and counselling provide them with a foundation of information, skills and connections to achieve their goals. Our social enterprises — DIVERSEcity Interpretation and Translation Services, Skills Training Centre and Language Testing Centre — support this work, too. As a registered charity in Surrey and the Lower Mainland with a 40+ year history, we champion diversity and inclusion for all, and our message is clear — everyone belongs here. Learn more at dcrs.ca.
NORMA LIZE, WINNER
Norma Lize is a Lebanese-born journalist and activist living in Vancouver. Before coming to Canada, Norma used radio and TV platforms to raise awareness on LGBTQ+ topics in Lebanon and the Middle East, and worked at the Arab Foundation for Freedoms and Equality, where Norma focused on the trans community. “I don’t see my involvement with my community as work that I do every day, as much as I see it a necessity for me to be alive, survive and give a chance to someone around me to feel safe, respected and included. I moved to Vancouver a year ago and I have been involved with organizations working with refugees and with the LGBTQ+ community, with a focus more on trans newcomers.”
ANDY HOLMES, FIRST RUNNER UP
Andy Holmes is queer biracial Canadian with both Chinese and British/Scottish heritage. Currently a master’s student at the University of Toronto, researching LGBTQ+ issues, Andy intends on starting a PhD next year with the goal of eventually becoming a professor. “Knowing that January Marie Lapuz was not only a transgender woman living in poverty, but also an immigrant of colour, matters in understanding patterned forms of violence, and in turn, her irreplaceable memory. In my research, I study ways to ensure that our world becomes a safer place for those who are most marginalized.” Andy was the youngest person appointed to the City of Vancouver’s LGBTQ2+ Advisory Committee between 2017–2018.
JACKSON WAI CHUNG TSE, SECOND RUNNER UP
Jackson Wai Chung Tse (he/she/they) is a media artist and creative facilitator originally from Hong Kong. He facilitates workshops at institutions across the globe, and, in 2018, Jackson created the award-winning mini-documentary, Paul Wong: Breaking the Silence, to highlight the discrimination felt by generations of queer Chinese migrants in Canada. The same year, Jackson was selected as Western Canada’s MEC Outdoor Nation Ambassador, taking over the co-operative’s social media. He says he “dedicates his life to building relationships, giving voice to the silenced, and reclaiming joy, magic and self-worth back from colonized ideas.”
SONALI PATEL, HONOURABLE MENTION
Sonali (Alyy) Patel is a graduate student in Ontario, LGBTQ+ rights activist and co-founder of a national non-profit organization, the Queer South Asian Women’s Network. Sonali states she strives to bring visibility to “issues and experiences of queer South Asian women in the LGBTQ+ community through research and advocacy work.” Notably, she organized Halton Region’s first LGBTQ+ Pride Festival in 2015, was invited to speak at Rainbow Health Ontario’s National LGBTQ+ Health Conference, and recently published a peer-reviewed article on the culturally specific ways in which queer South Asian women experience racism in Western LGBTQ+ communities.
Life of a Donor – a Plea for a Kidney for Curtis
“This is a plea for a kidney for Curtis, through the lens of the donor.”
A six part video series (featured below) was produced by Former Surrey City Councillor and retired Surrey Firefighter, Mike Starchuk for his friend Curtis Meyer, who desperately needs a new kidney. Starchuk himself was last among 13 who stepped up to be a donor, but all were ruled out.
Due to his compromised health, Curtis, an aircraft mechanic by trade, can no longer work for fear of being exposed to COVID-19. The pandemic further restricts his ability to search for a donor. Thus, Curtis and his loved ones are reaching out for help.
I had a kidney transplant 9 ½ years ago and unfortunately, last November, that kidney began to fail and I had to go on dialysis. I was so lucky to have numerous people call St. Paul’s to begin the process of donating their kidney but were declined due to their own health issues. One of our friends, Mike Starchuk, former City of Surrey Councilor, made it to the very last test, but unfortunately, due to a minor health issue, the surgeon at St. Paul’s recommended removal from the kidney donor program.
My doctors have advised me to try to find someone who may be willing to donate a kidney to me. While dialysis is helping, a transplant is the best medical treatment, and without a live donor, the deceased donor kidney wait list is years. Kidney failure causes a loss of energy, physical and mental fatigue and pain in my lower extremities. My food choices are limited, I’m not able to drink a lot of fluids, I have to give myself insulin and hemoglobin injections, I’m unable to lift anything over 15 lbs., I am on numerous pills daily and often don’t feel well enough to socialize with family and friends and do the activities I enjoy. A successful kidney transplant will improve and relieve many of my symptoms and eventually allow me to return to a normal way of life again.
Donors can live a normal, healthy life with just one kidney and they are carefully screened to make sure it is safe for them to donate. The transplant team makes the donor’s health and well-being a priority. If you have any questions, you are welcome to contact (my wife) Shelley as she was my donor 9 ½ years ago. You don’t even have to be a blood match in order to donate, as you could go on the paired donor list which is when a “swap” occurs when a living kidney donor is incompatible for me but therefore exchange their kidney with another donor/recipient pair and so two lives are saved. The exchange could be between 5-6 recipients so it opens up the possibilities for live donation.
I understand this is an extremely personal decision and there is a lot to think about. If anyone would like information and explore kidney donation further, feel free to contact the donor nurse coordinator at St. Paul’s Hospital at 604-806-9027 or 1-877-922-9822. You can also email at email@example.com. Please know exploring donation does not commit you in any way and you can make a choice to back away from the process at any point.
With Sincere Gratitude,
Starchuk’s series, filmed over Zoom, provides “bite-sized” nuggets of information about the organ donation process. “Our hope, during this devastating COVID-19 pandemic, is that people will take some of their ‘down time’ and look at how they can make a difference” says Starchuck.
Questions regarding why I should donate, what happens to me, how long it takes, and other pertinent questions are answered, from the donor’s point of view.
Help us to help Curtis, or someone else, get their life back.
Click on the green ribbon below for more information on how to register to be an Organ Donor in BC.
Young, Bright and a Promising Future Ahead: Aman Bassi
Aman Bassi is a young and coveted Executive Producer and Director from Surrey. Born in 1995 in Surrey, BC, she has been a part of popular Netflix productions like ‘Sabrina,’ ‘Firefly Lane’, ‘Stranger Things’, ‘6 Underground’, ‘Sacred Games’, Red Notice (in production)’ and ‘Riverdale (ongoing).
With numerous awards and accolades to her name, including ‘Best of Show’ and ‘Best of DOP’ at Whistler Film Festival along with a nomination as ‘Best New Director’ by PTC, Aman’s creative instincts have always set her apart in a crowd.
Glued to the camera since an early age, she is now a celebrated Director, having worked on Directors Guild film projects including ‘Ghosting’, ‘When the Lights go out’, ‘Descendents 2’, ‘The Mighty Ducks’, and ”Bates Motel.’ Her feature film projects include major titles such as Quentin Tarantino’s Oscar-winning ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’, ‘Hobbes and Shaw’, ‘Deadpool 2’, ‘Jumanji 2,’ and some iconic Punjabi Films including ‘Manje Bistre 2’, ‘Ardaas Karaan, ‘PR’ and the indie film ‘Monster.’
Aman attended high school in Surrey at LA Matheson and Princess Margaret before graduating from the Art Institute in 2015. Starting her career in the film industry working as an assistant when she was all of 16, she eventually worked her way up to being the Executive Producer on the sets for Vancouver production houses.
Owing to her young age, Aman faced obstacles in proving her might and ability to others. Being young and female did not make it any easier. But her grandmother’s words always motivated her to do her best. “You should do anything and everything you want to in life,” she would say.
The 24-year-old Producer says, “Past couple of years in this field has given me a whole lot of perspective into how I want to channelize my life. When I started I didn’t think of it as a career option but now when I am at it, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Never think you cannot do something or give up without trying. Hard days will come but they will go by. We all need to just keep a clear head and continue believing in ourselves.”
Bassi also has some popular music videos in her kitty, including, ‘High Rated Gabru’, ‘Issa Jatt’, ‘Too Hot’, ‘Pagal’, ‘Baby Baby’, ‘Jatta Ve’, ‘Circles’, ‘Closer’ amongst others.
Her own music and music videos which have now been released include ‘Chaali Jaan de’ and ‘Vibe’ and have turned out to be one of the most trending songs on Spotify.
On her favourite projects so far, Aman shares that it would have to be ‘Manjay Bistre 2’ because it was shot in Canada and showcased an Indian setting. The entire crew worked together like a family, she says. Her most challenging project was ‘Hobbes & Shaw’ because “It had lots of stunts and topping that with the multicultural crew and language issues made it way more challenging than any other projects I’ve worked on,” she adds.
When asked about her future plans, Bassi says, “I have too many dreams for myself but I really want to direct my own feature film and I’m already working on that.”
“In addition to that, I am working on a new album. This film and album is my way of sharing my story with the world and I’m extremely thrilled to do that. It’s a dream for me to win some of the prominent accolades this industry offers,” she says.
Armaan Chohan joins DFSIN BC
Armaan Chohan has now joined as Vice President of Sales and New Business Development at Desjardins Financial Security Independent Network (DFSIN) BC. DFSIN BC has 7 offices in several locations across BC and a total of 600+ advisors, with the team continuously growing , Armaan will be a great asset to the company as he brings with him a fresh perspective and vision to grow the team at DFSIN BC along with enhancing the current business practices.
Armaan is currently in his first year at Kwantlen Polytechnic University pursuing a Bachelors of Business Administration (BBA) studies and is very actively involved in community activities such as assisting and managing various charitable causes with the Perminder Chohan Foundation. He has successfully hosted and managed blanket drives as well as food drives for the less fortunate for the Foundation in 2018 and 2019. He is also currently working on some new projects for the foundation which will better assist the community at large.
Interview with DJ Heer for the Canucks Diwali Night
On October 25th, the Vancouver Canucks will be celebrating their 3rd annual Diwali Night before and during the game against the Washington Capitals. There will be a flashmob, and live performances by Jazzy B, DJ Heer, and DJ BIG. And also complimentary South Asian food samples in the concourses.
Diwali is one of the world’s most celebrated festivals and the name itself means “row of lighted lamps” with light symbolizing the triumph of good over evil, prosperity over poverty and knowledge over ignorance.
We’ve interviewed DJ Jovan Heer, who now lives in Surrey, to learn more about him and the upcoming Diwali Night.
Being a huge passionate fan of the Canucks and of music, you’ve combined both to help spearhead the Diwali Night. How did that happen and what motivated you to take action?
I’ve always been a fan of Punjabi and Bollywood music ever since I was a kid. I saw a huge opportunity to do something with the Canucks as their is such a big South Asian community in the Vancouver area. 3 years ago I reached out to Ryan from the Canucks, who was in charge of organizing special events, on Twitter saying that we needed to have a night that celebrated the South Asian community in a way.
A few months later, I received an email from him asking me if I wanted to DJ on the plaza outside of Rogers Arena and I was shocked that it was actually going to happen and that I would have the opportunity to DJ for my favourite team. The first year was an amazing experience, after I DJ’ed on the plaza I was able to go to where Jay Swing was DJing and was able to see how everything operated up there and also got to share the floor with the likes of Jim Benning, Trevor Linden and many more prominent Canucks figures up in the press box during intermissions and at the end of the game.
Last year was even bigger when E3 Entertainment got involved and they made the event even bigger and better with the addition of more performances and the Crown Prince of Bhangra Jazzy B, myself and the Q-Town Productions team also DJ’ed on the Plaza along with a Bhangra flashmob. Diwali night has become a huge deal and is making news all over as this is an event everyone wants to attend. The Hockey Night In Punjabi team is also another huge factor in this night as they have grown very much in the past few years and have brought in a whole new demographic of fans with the Punjabi commentary as now families are now all gathering together watching games.
How did you get into DJ’ing and who are your main influencers?
I’ve always had a passion for music growing up as a child, my parents would play music and I would dance for hours listening to it and singing along. When I realized that I could do what I love and be the life of the party with the music I play it was something that I just couldn’t pass up. I had mentors in Edmonton who I worked with under the Pure Entertainment name and I also took some classes with Night Vision Music as well that helped excel my skill level. My main influencers have to be Jazzy B, Malkit Singh and Notorious BIG as they’ve made me a huge Bhangra and Hip Hop fan.
You get booked to perform in different countries. How does that feel?
It’s honestly a surreal feeling having the chance to not only travel but to perform in front of sold out crowds of hundreds to thousands of people along with performing alongside some of the biggest performers in the Punjabi music industry.
What would you like to see more of in terms of both the music and hockey culture in Surrey?
I think right now everything is going great with the culture. We have Hockey Night in Punjabi with Punjabi commentary and broadcasting, there are many South Asian players on ice and ball hockey teams so parents are now investing the money and putting their kids in these leagues. E3 Entertainment has done a great job working with the Canucks making sure the experience of the entire night is a success and fans are enjoying the entire night.
What is one piece of advice you can give to aspiring and rookie DJ’s and music producers?
Marketing is everything in today’s day and age. The harder you work, the more you put out there, the more successful you will be. There are plenty of talented DJ’s out there but so many are so resistant and don’t make the time to put out mixes that fans can listen to.
How do you balance being a DJ, working a full time job, and the rest of life?
It’s all about balance. It’s a lot of juggling things and a lot of nights with no sleep but in the end if it’s going to make you successful and set you up for the future then it is all worth it. Not only am I working full time and DJing but I also have my own radio show on Rukus Avenue Radio and am a music journalist for Simply Bhangra the world’s largest South Asian music website as well. It’s tough to handle at times but it’s something I enjoy doing.
What can fans expect at the Diwali Night?
Fans can expect another Diwali night full of music and dance. We will be performing on the plaza outside of Rogers Arena prior to the game and their will be many other plans for the night as well. The highlight of the night will be the performance of Jazzy B who is one of the top Punjabi music artists of all time.
What are your predictions for the game against the Capitals?
I predict a 4-2 win for the Canucks, we are 2-0 on Diwali Night.
One of BC’s first female fire fighters retires after 27 years with the Surrey Fire Service
Surrey – In 1992, Nancy Innes was playing and coaching basketball at SFU when she saw a recruitment flyer for the Surrey Fire Service (SFS). The then 26-year-old student applied and soon realized women firefighters were a rarity. In fact, at that time, there was no glass ceiling to break because there were no full-time female fire fighters in the Metro Vancouver area. On September 14, 1992, Nancy Innes became the first of two full-time female fire fighters to join the Surrey Fire Service and eventually rising to the rank of Fire Suppression Captain.
“Women fire fighters are not uncommon today, but 27 years ago they were non-existent in Lower Mainland fire departments,” said Mayor Doug McCallum. “Nancy Innes is truly a trail blazer and inspiration for women who want to make a career out of firefighting. I want to congratulate Captain Innes for the long, distinguished and groundbreaking career she has had with our Surrey Fire Service.”
The Surrey Fire Service is proud of its progressive and barrier-free approach to its recruitment.
“I want to commend Captain Innes for her contributions to the Surrey Fire Service,” said Fire Chief, Larry Thomas. “Nancy is proof that women can have long and fulfilling careers as fire fighters. As Nancy moves into a well-earned retirement, I know her pioneering work will inspire other women to fill her place within the ranks of the Surrey Fire Service.”
Currently, the SFS has 40 women in its uniformed ranks in roles ranging from frontline firefighting and dispatch to Assistant Fire Chief. The SFS offer “Women in Firefighting” workshops designed to enhance recruitment of women to the fire service.
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