From city councillor to the fourth runner up in the world’s best mayor contest, to her place at the federal table in the Canadian Legislature, Dianne Watts is known for having a sharp business mind and an ability to cut through red tape to get things done. This unusual combination of skills propelled her, and the city she was responsible for, to a new level of respect and growth during her years as mayor and continues to move her forward on a national scale.
Ms. Watts started out on council in 1996 as part of the strong Surrey Electors Team (SET). At that time, it could have been said that she ran on the coat tails of the strong community support for the experienced Surrey Electors Team under Mayor Doug McCallum. This virtually unknown Surrey city councillor quickly made her voice heard.
Although she worked well and cooperatively with the other team of councillors, she clashed with Doug McCallum. She became more vocal and more publicly defiant in her stand over issues that she felt negatively affected the city. In 2003 she broke away from SET, stating that she disagreed with Doug McCallum and his bullying style of leadership. She also took public aim at some of the SET supported policies, policing in particular.
The SET team didn’t take her bid for mayor seriously and woke up surprised to find that the new head of the city was this young upstart that they had mentored. One of the youngest mayors, Dianne Watts stepped into a divided council, a city with a less than stellar reputation and a growth curve that would challenge even the most experienced city planner.
Using the same work ethic that gave her the mayor’s seat, Dianne used her unique style of leadership to propel the city into a strong period of growth. She was definitely a less talk and more action type of leader. Her business-first approach pushed council, the city staff and the policy makers to adapt and keep up with the speed with which she moved projects ahead.
Being a self-described, non-politician politician, she has some basic principles which consistently show her reasoning, motivations and the belief structure around her style of leadership.
She consistently deflects personal praise and reminds everyone that her successes are a result of the team around her. This genuine attitude won the hearts of her council members and over time they were able to form the strong and cohesive team necessary for city growth.
Understanding that she works for the people, this humble and consistent theme has endeared her to the hearts of the public. When you went to city hall with an idea, the first approach is – how can we make this work, instead of being given lists of reasons it won’t work. This simple change in attitude at the top resulted in a complete turn around in how the city moved forward.
Liberal candidate for MLA, Tracy Redies remembers,
“One thing I remember very clearly about Dianne, she liked to get things done quickly (a girl after my own heart!). I remember as CEO of Coast Capital Savings, I went to show her the plans for our new purpose built head office to be constructed at the terminus of the Skytrain. She loved the ‘quirky’ unique design that was all about the Coast brand and that we were committed to and contributing to the revitalization of the City. The only thing she didn’t like was the timing…which was 3 years. Dianne Watts immediately asked how can we get it done faster…and I laughed inwardly because I had asked the exact same question about one week earlier when I had the plans put before me! Things moved faster because of Dianne’s support and the fact that we had the same goals as the Mayor to make sure ‘the future lives here’. Thanks Dianne, it has always been a pleasure to work with you!”
Even today Dianne Watts works towards clearly defined goals. She always operates with a vision in mind and this focus put everybody on the same path, going the same direction. The result is always a team-oriented approach, people-focused public policy and a communal understanding of where the city was going and how it was going to get there.
Her biggest and strongest points are her willingness to work with anyone toward a common goal, her work ethic and her commitment to being unapologetically herself – like it or not.
While the city continues to move on under the new leadership of Mayor Linda Hepner, Dianne’s personal presence is missed in the community.
When asking people about their individual encounters with Dianne, they mentioned their general sense of having a good friend that moved far away and how much they miss her.
Supporting change to benefit the lives of people is a big motivator for Dianne, as Bev Johnson tells it.
“Dianne was a very personable mayor who connected well with the people of Surrey. We had her come to speak a few years ago at a seniors’ luncheon at Cedar Grove Church when my husband Ross pastored there. I was to welcome her at the front entrance and was so surprised to see her walking across the parking lot from her car. I had expected that she would have a driver and told her that. She was surprised that I would think she wouldn’t drive herself to the church! She is so down to earth and lovely. Following her excellent talk about seniors’ issues she didn’t rush off, but visited with various people, even posing for photos. It was a privilege to meet her. I feel that she truly cares about the people she serves.”
When asked about a special moment she had as mayor, Dianne told of one of her encounters with a homeless person outside Safeway. When he spotted her exiting her car, he began excitedly exclaiming…
“Dianne is here, Dianne is here. The mayor is here.” He approached her and gave her a big hug. She recounted the story with a smile. It is fitting that of all her great moments as mayor, this is the moment that she remembers as being important and worthy of retelling.
“I was so touched by that. It was so sweet and that really touched my heart. It really did. That moment that we connected and it was pretty special.”
Ellie King of the Royal Canadian Theatre Company tells of a meeting she had with the Mayor and Council. After being asked if she could delay a pre-scheduled meeting with the mayor for an hour, she told Dianne that her mother was dying and that she really needed to get to the hospital. Dianne immediately got up from her chair and hugged her. It was unexpected and Ellie was very moved by the human gesture of comfort.
“You don’t expect to be hugged by the mayor.”
The next day she was even more touched by the bouquet of flowers that arrived from Dianne.
“Not Mayor Dianne Watts – just Dianne.”
As Beverley Brooke Bly recalls,
“10 years ago while Dianne was on city council, I sat with her and Judy Villeneuve at a Surrey Board of Trade Annual golf tournament. Everyone was happy, laughing, telling jokes and talking about their golf game. Dianne treated everyone to a pink tequila rose drink. Years later, I was at a gala that Deepak Chopra keynoted at the Pan Pacific Hotel, I spotted Dianne sitting at a table behind me. I went over and introduced myself, she was very warm and inviting and I told her the golf story. I told her I appreciated all she did for Surrey whilst Mayor. She thanked me and was very nice.”
She is a business powerhouse with a whole lot of heart.
As a member of the first Parliament run with strong female representation, when asked if she thinks women make better politicians than men, she responded:
“I think it is different. I don’t think any one way is better than the other, it’s just different. Men and women approach things in a different way. When you have a combination of both, it strengthens the process. We have had a majority of women on council since 1996 so I have had the benefit of working mostly with women. We work differently. There is strength on both sides.
It is important for women to be in positions of power in government because what is important to women may not be as important to men and they may look at things through a different lens. I would like to see more women involved.
In 1996 when I entered politics, we had the majority of women on council right up to today. It is interesting because people think that is an anomaly, but for me it is just natural and it happened that way because I think we have a lot of strong women in the community, women that are very engaged however, it is incumbent upon us to encourage other women to take public office. We need to mentor them or help them. I am not a fan of the quota system because I don’t think we are quotas. I think we have enough experience and knowledge in our communities to get there on our own. Surrey is a prime example of that. We don’t have a quota system and we still have a lot of women very engaged in this system.”
When talking about representation, women make up half of the country, so it makes sense for them to be represented in government – but what about other cultures? We don’t see the same mix of cultures in government on any level, local, provincial or federal.
Dianne says, “It is not for a lack of being engaged in the community because we had several people with different backgrounds that have run for office. Locally, we have had representation on council from the Indo Canadian community, both women and men.
I don’t think the current mix really represents all cultures because we have a lot of different communities with large populations that don’t have a direct seat at the table. I think it is a matter of really mentoring people and bringing them along to get them to that point.”
Moving from city politics to federal politics is a giant leap. For most of us, she simply fell off the radar. Hidden in the caverns of Parliament Hill, our once vibrant leader has disappeared into the hallowed halls of Federal politics. Although she is the critic for Infrastructure and Communities as well as sitting on the Public Safety and National Security Committee, she is missed locally as a once visible and involved Mayor.
Dianne speaks warmly of her time in Ottawa.
“The commute is very trying because you are taking red eye flights and you get in at 2:00 AM in the morning, which because of the time change makes the hours extraordinarily long. When you are in Ottawa, the house sits; and then you have committee work. If you are in the house, you have house duty; and then you have caucus meetings afterwards and then you have the community that wants to come in – those from your riding that are traveling and the organizations that want to meet. You often don’t get home for dinner until 9:30 – 10 o’clock at night, and this on a regular basis.
Then, when I come back here, it is a little bit more flexible. It is like having two full time jobs. There isn’t a lot of down time; so that is a challenge especially with family.
I enjoy the work and the debates we have in the house. I am the critic for Infrastructure and Communities. I also sit on the Public Safety and National Security Committee. The work is interesting and I enjoy the international work as well.”
While she misses the personal connection with the people of Surrey, she feels that this challenge puts her in a position to make the biggest difference in the lives of Canadians, not just in Surrey but worldwide.
“I honestly wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t feel that I was making a difference. There are issues that I have brought forward There are issues that we collectively as a caucus have brought forward which impact people internationally. One example would be the plight of the Yiziadis women; or my colleagues bringing forward the national framework on Palliative care. Wayne’s Law that we just brought forward saw Mrs. Winn in the audience when that law passed. It was her husband who was the police officer killed. There are a lot of things that we bring forward affecting change so in that context, yes, I wouldn’t be there if I thought for a minute that I wasn’t making a difference.
Conservative MP’s called for immediate action to resettle members of the endangered Iraqi minority group known as the Yiziadis and the Liberal Canadian Immigration Minister John McCallum has indicated the governments commitment to bringing more Yazidi refugees to Canada in the coming months.
Bill S-217, dubbed “David Wynn’s Law,” would require the Crown to disclose the criminal history of the accused at a bail hearing. It was the result of an impassioned testimony from Shelley Wynn, the wife of the late police officer killed in the line of duty by a serial offender.
As Mayor, Dianne was known for being personable and approachable, which is a great quality to have in a Mayor but how well does it work under the oppositional system of the federal government?
Dianne said the parties work together more than people realize but she believes in an oppositional system.
“I would say that you need an opposition to hold the government to account. It is the way in which it functions. I think that you can’t have government running amuck, raising taxes whenever they want. There needs to be an effective opposition.
In terms of working together I would say that at a committee level there is a lot of work that gets done. Committees include all parties, the government, the official opposition and the third party opposition and we all work together.
The public just sees us interacting during question period; and they think that is how we function and it really isn’t. For example as the critic for national infrastructure, I want to look at a study around the rail alignments and the stabilization of the slopes – not only just here but other applications as well.
It goes to the committee, and all parties look at it and have some recommendations. We had all of the folks in from the different rail lines speak, and the committee, working together, makes the recommendation.
On the framework for national security, we are looking at everything from prisons to how to keep Canadians safe. As in any negotiation, there are things that the government wants, there are things that the opposition wants and we come together and compromise. You don’t always get everything you want but you work together to hammer out an agreement.”
As to what the future holds, Dianne Watts gives her standard ‘you-never-know’ answer.
“I miss being on the front line and really entrenched in the community. I did my time as mayor and it was almost a decade. I was happy when I made my decision that it was time for me to move on to another chapter in my life but I miss the relationships because being in Ottawa and going back and forth, you are not as engaged on the front lines as you have been. It’s a very different challenge.
I don’t know what the future holds. Right now, I am going back and forth to Ottawa, I have been elected for a four year term and we will see what happens at that junction.”
Dianne Watts is a role model for young women interested in entering challenging careers while not giving up the dream of having a healthy family life. When asked what advice she would give to young women trying to have it all, she responded,
“We try to be all things to all people. That is in our nature. We want to nurture everybody. We can’t. It takes us a long time to get to the point of understanding that we need to nurture ourselves. If we don’t take care of ourselves then we can’t take care of anybody else. Whether our kids or our career, it all comes down to taking care of ourselves, first. If you are absolutely drained of energy, how can you give that to anybody else?
We need to learn to say ‘no’, more often. When I was first elected Mayor, I said ‘yes ‘ to everything. I hit a wall pretty quickly.
You can have everything you want, but you might not get it all at once. You have to lay out your priorities.”
When asked if she did a good job of self-care, her first response was a slightly guilty laugh.
“I am getting better. If I am not feeling well, I will take time to rest which I never did before.”
Part of self-care is taking time for the pleasures of live. Dianne’s greatest joy in life is her daughters, her pets, her love of travel and her friends.
“You birth these beautiful children and you are so responsible for them. They are everything in your world and the centre of everything and watching them, as they grow older. My daughters are young women now at 21 and 23. Watching them evolve into these amazing young women is extraordinarily joyful for me. I am in awe of that whole process over all of those years.
I also really enjoy my animals. I have three dogs and two cats.
I really love to travel. I have traveled all over the world and I am very blessed to be able to do that.
Wherever Dianne’s travels take her, a few things are certain. She still lives by the core philosophies she had as mayor of Surrey. She has a willingness to work with anyone toward a common goal; she still carries her strong work ethic and she is still unapologetically committed to being herself.
“I do a lot of self analysis. I have been a Buddhist for twenty-three years and part of living within the contexts of the Buddhist philosophy is doing the self-examination which means not allowing your ego to dictate who you are. You have to be an authentic person with integrity and you need to live your life that way.
I watch very carefully the way I speak – it’s never about me. It’s about a collective group of people that are going down a road to effect change. When I speak, I always make sure that it is ‘we’ and not ’ I.’
I surround myself with people who are not afraid to tell me the truth. I create an atmosphere of approachability so people can come say anything they want to me. “
Thank you Dianne Watts. On behalf of the people of Surrey, for your leadership, your authenticity and your heart inspired work ethic as you move with our teams of elected officials towards a better world.
Shahnaz Rahimtula serving as a Notary Public for over 29 years
By: Paarull Communications Ltd.
The road to genuine gender equality is a long and constantly shifting one, owing to women who have made non-contemporary choices in their professions and set an example for the rest of us.
Shahnaz Rahimtula is one such pioneer who has inspired and led the way towards a profession that not many women would have set foot in at the time when she opened her practice. Today, she is one of the oldest South Asian female notaries with over 29 years of experience. There has been a notable change of scenarios now, where women have outnumbered men in this profession. As of today, 55 percent of notaries in British Columbia are women.
With a mission to constantly evolve and stimulate her life experiences to enhance her chosen profession, Shahnaz enabled herself through learning and education. She was commissioned as a Notary Public in 1990 and has practised continuously since then. She has consistently demonstrated strong leadership capabilities and was on the dean’s list at Capilano College where she completed a two-year financial management course and later on, in 1986, graduated as a Certified General Accountant in B.C.
Mrs. Rahimtula completely credits all the wonderful people around her who she meets through her business; they have been the biggest inspiration driving her on the path to success. Being a business professional, keeping up with family commitments and raising a family has been one of her biggest challenges but she has successfully managed both.
Shahnaz Rahimtula chose this profession partly because it gave her an opportunity to help others, which is clear from the many pro-bono or minimal charge cases she takes on for people in need. She has greatly contributed to the community by participating as a member of the Surrey Board of Trade as well as volunteering on the Audit Committee and The Information and Privacy Committee with The Society of Notaries Public of B.C. She has been on the board of PICS where they dealt with the regional concerns of immigrants and made an enormous difference in the Surrey Community with fundraising for battered women, senior homes and other causes to aid the less fortunate. Her work has made a huge difference for women in our community. In addition to all this, she is a Charter Member of the Fraserview Rotary Club. She presently serves as a co-chairperson of the Fraser Valley Chapter of the Notaries.
She strives to maintain a balanced lifestyle through her hobbies which include playing sitar, swimming and energizing through regular meditation and prayer.
Shahnaz wishes to continue to take on leadership-like roles. She strongly believes that with some strong values such as compassion and integrity, one can do wonders in building a successful career and at the same time help those around us.
Surrey Based Novel – Hooped – Michael Bains
Michael Bains is a writer, originally from Surrey, BC. His first novel, Hooped was inspired by his years growing up in the Newton area of Surrey.
Hooped is about a teenage boy – Jimmy, who is the son of immigrant parents and is the captain of his high-school basketball team.
Although quite intelligent, Jimmy doesn’t see the value in a high school education. He soon meets Sunny, who is an established drug dealer in the Surrey neighbourhood and he takes Jimmy under his wing and gives him a street-education.
As a teenager, Michael was exposed to both the good and bad sides of Surrey, and knew there was a story to tell. “I wanted Hooped to come across as being a sincere reflection of what is happening in Surrey,” Michael says.
“People often depict Surrey as being a certain type of place even though they have never lived there. They base their opinion of Surrey on what they’ve heard on the news and most of it is negative.
I wanted to use this novel as a way to go past the surface level and into the deeper issues of what is really going on.”
The novel also explores the difficulties that teenagers navigate while growing up in a world that has become so full of uncertainty and where it has become normal for kids to question the status quo.
“What some people don’t understand is that a lot of teenagers are seduced by the drug dealing lifestyle because they don’t agree with the alternatives,” Michael says.
“None of these teenagers see themselves wanting to work a 9-5 job. And that’s what high school and post secondary educations are designed to lead them into. So why would they buy into it?”
Hooped is being released at a time that is marked with civil unrest that is occurring all around the world. Michael hopes that Hooped can offer perspective on this unique time in our history.
As part of the release for Hooped, Michael is also launching his “Pursue Your Passion Series,” where different people will be highlighted who have followed something that they love doing.
“I don’t want the ‘Pursue Your Passion Series’ to be just about financial success. Because a passion can be anything. You can have a dream of running a half- marathon, or mastering an instrument, or playing a sport, or whatever. I feel like we could all live our lives with more passion.”
Canadian Veteran Trevor Greene inspires $312M Legion Veterans Village Centre of Excellence for PTSD
Greene’s ongoing brain injury and PTSD improvements from Afghanistan axe attack published in Frontiers of Human Neuroscience
Photo: Canadian veteran Trevor Greene on a peace keeping mission in Afghanistan, where he suffered a debilitating head injury from an axe attack. Today, he continues his ongoing recovery from brain injury using innovative brain technologies.
Surrey, British Columbia, Canada – With Remembrance Day fast approaching, Canadian veteran Trevor Greene shares how he continues to disrupt conventional limits in brain injury and PTSD recovery as he rewires his brain using the latest and most advanced brain technologies, fourteen years after suffering a debilitating brain injury from an axe attack while serving in a peace keeping mission in Afghanistan.
In 2015, the B.C. and Yukon Command of the Royal Canadian Legion helped outfit Trevor with a robotic exoskeleton, which helped him continue re-learning to walk. Called Project Iron Soldier, this exciting initiative inspired the development of Legion Veterans Village, a $312M Centre of Excellence for PTSD, mental health and rehabilitation dedicated to veterans and first responders. Legion Veterans Village is currently under construction in Surrey and is slated to be completed in Summer 2022.
A research team led by neuroscientist Dr. Ryan D’Arcy from the Centre for Neurology Studies at HealthTech Connex, and Simon Fraser University (SFU), reports the latest breakthroughs from Project Iron Soldier in a recently published scientific study in the Frontiers of Human Neuroscience journal, tracking Greene’s neuroplasticity as he shows physical, cognitive and PTSD improvements through his neurorehabilitation.
Capt. Greene and the Project Iron Soldier research team have continued with intensive daily rehabilitation, but the team experienced an extended plateau in progress using conventional therapy alone.
To break through the plateau, HealthTech Connex launched an intensive 14-week study using the Portable Neuromodulation Stimulator (or PoNS™) in combination with physical therapy to safely stimulate novel neuroplasticity and tracked brain vital sign improvements using NeuroCatch® Platform (or NeuroCatch®).
The PoNS is a neuromodulation technology that sends a series of small electrical impulses to the brain by stimulating the tongue (known as translingual neurostimulation). NeuroCatch is a rapid objective measure of cognitive brain function.
A number of published clinical studies demonstrate applications for both the PoNS and NeuroCatch for brain injury, with the current case study highlighting the real-world application to push the limits of recovery in physical abilities, cognitive processing, and PTSD symptoms.
“Our team has been leading clinical research to develop and validate advanced brain technologies like the PoNS and NeuroCatch Platform for a few years and have seen incredible results in terms of improved brain health and well-being,” says Dr. Ryan D’Arcy, co-founder of HealthTech Connex, which operates the Centre for Neurology Studies and an SFU professor. “When Trevor experienced a plateau in his rehabilitation, we tried intensive conventional treatment approaches, but to no avail.
It was only after combining stimulation with the PoNS device with his rehabilitation therapy that we could break through these barriers and demonstrate significant clinical improvements.”
Results of the study:
The newly published results demonstrate that PoNS neurostimulation, paired with intensive rehabilitation, may stimulate neuroplasticity to overcome an extended recovery plateau in this case as objectively measured by NeuroCatch and other brain scanning technologies. The main findings were:
- Capt. Greene showed significant gains in clinical outcome measures for physical therapy. It is noteworthy that these improvements occurred more than 14 years after the axe attack. Capt. Greene and his wife Debbie Greene also reported notable and lasting improvements in cognition and PTSD symptoms.
- Capt. Greene showed significant brain vital sign improvements in cognitive function, particularly in auditory sensation (as measured by the N100 response), basic attention (as measured by P300 response), and cognitive processing (as measured by N400 response). The study results are published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.
Dr. D’Arcy describes the study results:
“We were fascinated to see that, while the focus was physical therapy, NeuroCatch scans detected cognitive improvements and Trevor and his wife Debbie reported greatly reduced PTSD symptoms.
My favorite line in this published paper was when Debbie closed the study by saying, ‘I got my superman back.’ In our COVID-19 era, when we are all concerned about the recent links to brain health, it is breakthroughs like this that bring continued hope for science and technology advances.”
Says Capt. Greene, “I first saw the power of neuroplasticity in the early days of the first study involving the MRI. I was blown away when Ryan showed me images of my brain with coloured splotches showing where my healthy brain tissue was taking over for the damaged bits.
Later on, I saw the full power of the PoNS device when I got demonstrably stronger, steadier and more coordinated after using it regularly for just a few weeks. It’s really been a game changer for me and my family.”
“Trevor’s amazing progress is no doubt pushing the frontiers of medical science by overcoming perceived limits of brain recovery,” says Dr. Shaun Fickling, the study’s lead author who completed his PhD at Simon Fraser University.
“These brain imaging results provide valuable insight into the importance of unleashing the power of neuroplasticity to inspire countless people impacted by brain and mental health conditions.”
Capt. Greene and Dr. D’Arcy recounted their remarkable progress and showcased their mission to lead scientific breakthroughs in neuroplasticity through a recent TEDx talk.
Dr. D’Arcy concludes, “These neuro-technology breakthroughs have considerable impacts to inspire many of us to push beyond conventional limits in neurological and mental health recovery.
For our veterans and first responders, who remain resilient in the face of frequent exposure to trauma, this research and science underpins the inspiration for our newly developed Legion Veterans Village, to give back through a Centre of Excellence in PTSD, mental health, and rehabilitation.”
For more about the PoNS treatment, visit the Surrey Neuroplasticity Clinic.
About HealthTech Connex Inc. :
Located in the Health and Technology District, HealthTech Connex Inc. (HTC) is a brain technology company focusing on cutting-edge innovations and services for rapid impact on health improvements and outcomes in neurological performance.
With brain vitality as a premier focus, HealthTech Connex provides translational neuroscience innovations to care and community sectors worldwide, bridging the gap between what is capable in the laboratory and what’s available in the real world.
It operates the Surrey Neuroplasticity Clinic (SNPC), a neuro-rehabilitation clinic in Surrey, British Columbia, focusing on comprehensive therapies using advanced, non-invasive brain technologies to help treat people with neurological conditions. www.healthtechconnex.com
Legion Veterans Village (LVV) :
The Legion Veterans Village is a unique $312-million, two-phase, multi-purpose social infrastructure project in the City of Surrey, led by the BC/Yukon Command of the Royal Canadian Legion, together with Whalley Legion Branch 229 and Lark Group.
The project includes a mix of 495 market housing condominiums, 91 affordable housing units, a Centre of Excellence for veterans and first responders focusing on PTSD and mental health, an Innovation Centre for Rehabilitation and a new facility for the Whalley Legion Branch 229.
Once completed (slated for Summer 2022), a key priority will be the integrated delivery of a continuum of programs and services for veterans and first responders, as well as contributing training and research towards new practices, interventions and technologies in mental health, counselling, engineering, robotics and advancements in neuroscience, etc. www.legionveteransvillage.com
Sher Vancouver releases “Queersome Desi Resources.”
Surrey, British Columbia – Sher Vancouver is proud to release “Queersome Desi Resources” which is a specially curated list of Queer South Asian Resources from around the world. The resource was created to celebrate, liberate, and validate our queer South Asian community.
We have created an extensive list including inspiring reads, podcasts, movies, creative projects and have featured around 20 noteworthy Queers in our community. This resource highlights global queer organizations to build an inclusive community by supporting each other. Let us come together and celebrate our South Asian queer community who are living their truths unapologetically. We are so grateful for your representation!
The resource was created by Sher Vancouver Women’s Coordinators Sharon and Anoushka. “I am grateful to help create this resource collection for Sher Vancouver, as it has been my saviour in my own self-healing, and acceptance journey. I quickly dismantled the belief of me being the only queer Punjabi person in the community working on this collection.
Instead, what I found was a plethora of queer South Asian platforms! All it took was determined searching of the Internet. I hope you too find comfort, hope, empowerment, and pride in these resources. Desi queers are here. Desi queers exist. and Desi queers are thriving” states Sharon.”
“Being a part of this project makes me incredibly proud as it presented an opportunity to give back to the Desi queer community. For someone who has relatively recently accepted their own identity and was on a journey to find resources, people to rely on and organizations to be a part of, a list like this would have been a great place to start.
The lack of queer representation growing up made me feel isolated and unsure but through this project I have learnt that acceptance and empowerment is present no matter who you are and where you are from. Among these resources and people, I hope you find what I was able to. Embrace who you are,” states Anoushka.
“I feel Sharon and Anoushka did an exceptional job with curating the Queersome Desi Resources for Sher Vancouver. This project creates awareness and visibility of the global South Asian queer community. South Asian queers are not alone in this world,” states Sher Vancouver Founder Alex Sangha.
Queersome was designed by one of Metro Vancouver’s most talented graphic designers Jag Nagra of https://www.jagnagra.com/
The Queersome Desi Resources is part of a three-part series designed to provide information to the LGBTQ + community. This three-part series project consists of:
1. Legal Resources Kit which consists of three documents:
a. LGBTQ+ Friendly Lawyer Referrals
b. Information Regarding Human Rights
c. Safe Countries for LGBTQ+ Travellers
2. Queersome Desi Resources (South Asian Queer Resources from around the world)
3. Sher’s Pink Directory which will list organizations that fund the LGBTQ + community in Metro Vancouver (coming soon)
The resources are available for free download for everyone on the Sher Vancouver website under RESOURCES at the following link: https://www.shervancouver.com/resources.html
Love at First Sight: A Mother’s Journey to Adoption
Raj Arneja’s new book evokes powerful emotions of becoming a mother
Raj Arneja’s joy to motherhood is her most fulfilling life experience. Her journey is filled with emotions and strife, after traveling thousands of miles from Canada to India which led her to a happiness beyond her own expectations.
Raj, the Director of Corporate Engagement and Philanthropy at Nanak Foods, recently announced the launch of her extremely personal and thought-provoking book, Love at First Sight – A Mother’s Journey to Adoption, which chronicles her journey to adopting her two beautiful children Kabir and Kirti. The book promises to inspire you to never give up hope, no matter what life throws at you.
In her book, Raj describes the challenges she faced in the 1990’s while trying to adopt her now grown up children. The stigma surrounding adoption in the South Asian community gave Raj a reason to pen her story, share her experiences and inspire people to take a chance on life and parenthood.
“Like most people, I have faced many challenges in life. Not being able to conceive was heartbreaking at first and I longed to feel the love and joy of a baby. While I felt the sadness, I was also not ready to give up,” says Raj. “I knew I would love and experience it all through adoption. With a strong will and stronger love for children, I adopted my two kids. Every day since then has been a blessing. It has been the best decision of my life.”
Raj has always believed that giving birth to a child is not the only thing that makes a woman a mother. It is the unconditional love you have for your child that makes you one. Love at First Sight – A Mother’s Journey to Adoption will inspire young mothers and aspiring parents exploring the option to adopt a child.
Raj loves her children more than anyone in the world and she hopes that her book will inspire more people to adopt, or diminish the stigma surrounding adoption. People who have read Raj’s book have found it to be of wise council.
“I hope my chosen path and my struggles can help someone find their way to undying love, just as I have with my children,” she says.
Rajiee M Shinde, CEO, ShowBox Channel of IN10 Media Pvt Ltd. A Dada Saheb Phalke Film Foundation award winner was enamored by her story. Rajiee says, “With powerful words, and wonderfully exhibited emotions, Raj gives you an insight into how her struggles and accomplishments shape her as a mother. Her journey to date is evidence of what a complete and beautiful human being she is – a remarkable example for society!”
Dr. Bal Pawa, Co-Founder Westcoast Women’s Clinic, Author of The Mind-Body Cure and TedX Speaker, found the book ‘compelling’. “This book highlights the power of love: unconditional, expansive, and infinite. Raj’s incredible perseverance and unwavering faith in a higher purpose fuel her maternal instinct to never give up.
Heart-wrenching emotions are illustrated in the trials and tribulations of IVF treatments, cultural expectations, and navigating unknown waters of overseas adoptions. I especially loved her explanation of adoption to her child, “you came from my heart.” This unforgettable reframing of biology should certainly inspire more couples to adopt.”
“A remarkable story of perseverance, love and family. Raj’s life story is an inspiration. Her journey to motherhood reminds us all of the power of intention and manifesting the life we wish to have. This book is a must read for anyone looking for an uplifting and refreshing take on finding purpose and meaning through all of life’s adventures and challenges.” – Bal Brach, CBC Journalist, Documentary Filmmaker, Reporter CBC Vancouver
The book is available on Amazon:
About Raj Arneja
Born into an immigrant family and raised in New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada, Raj’s childhood memories are full of colourful stories of supporting family and friends as they settled into their new country and adjusted to new customs and traditions. Raj works hard at building relationships within the community through her work at Nanak Foods.
She directs the company’s philanthropic initiatives, including strategy, programming, and partnership development, and the day-to-day operation of all corporate contributions. Raj also sits on various boards, where she adds value through her skills and experience. She is a well-known entity in the South Asian community in the Vancouver area.
Raj enjoys supporting various charitable, non-profit community organizations, including the Seva Thrift Society, VISAFF, and two girls’ orphanages in Punjab. Raj strongly feels that humanity has no borders and we should reach out and help wherever we are able to, regardless of race, gender or nationality. Raj lives in Surrey, British Columbia, with her husband and 2 children. She is an avid traveler and has travelled to over 60 countries, many times with her children and to some as a volunteer.
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