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Plans for B.C.’s South Asian Canadian museum take shape with public input

During the provincial election campaign of 2020, BC NDP promised to build the museum in Surrey
Archival news footage from 1991 shows Baltej Singh Dhillon, a B.C. resident who became the first member of the RCMP permitted to wear a turban as part of his Sikh religion. (

Where should B.C.’s new South Asian Canadian museum be located, and what should it be called?

These and other questions, including a vision for the museum, are explored during the current public engagement phase of the project, which aims to “highlight the history, culture and contributions to B.C. from Canadians of diverse South Asian heritages.”

Engagement launched in October with a website, continues in early 2024 with an online public survey and “community-led conversations,” followed in June by the release of a “What We Heard” report summarizing key recommendations, themes and questions.

“This engagement will not focus on curatorial content (what the museum will and won’t feature),” the website notes. “That stage will come much later and will also be determined by the communities. What this engagement will focus on is determining the vision for the new museum.”

No construction timeline is given for the museum, plans for which date back to the provincial election of October 2020. That month, the BC NDP promised to build a museum devoted to B.C.’s South Asian history in Surrey.

Lana Popham, B.C.’s minister of tourism, arts, culture and sport, says public input, especially from South Asian communities, is “vital to moving forward on this first-of-its-kind museum,” she said in a Nov. 21 news release.

Led by the SFU Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue, the engagement process will also involve a 13-member ministerial advisory committee, to “inform the development of the engagement plan, share opportunities within their communities and support community-based conversations,” according to a news release.

The committee members are Am Johal, Balbir Gurm, Haiqa Cheema, Harjit Dhillon, Haroon Khan, Harpo Mander, Jeevan Sangha, Jinder Oujla-Chalmers, Karimah Es Sabar, Parminder Virk, Renisa Mawani, Sahil Mroke and Upkar Tatlay.

“For almost 130 years people from South Asia have been calling British Columbia home, but this has not always been a welcoming place for them,” said Mable Elmore, B.C.’s parliamentary secretary for anti-racism initiatives.

“By working with community members, we can build a unique and meaningful museum that will better reflect and preserve the diverse and rich history of South Asians in the province for generations to come.”

The engagement process is outlined on the website

Tom Zillich

About the Author: Tom Zillich

I cover entertainment, sports and news stories for the Surrey Now-Leader, where I've worked for more than half of my 30-plus years in the newspaper business.
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