Delta’s Alex Sangha was honoured with the Meritorious Service Medal this week for his work with Sher Vancouver LGBTQ Friends Society, a cultural support group for LGBTQ South Asians he founded in 2008.
The medal is awarded to Canadians for “their excellence, courage or exceptional dedication to service” to improve the lives of their fellow citizens. It is awarded by the Governor General each year at a ceremony in Ottawa.
Sangha said he felt “truly humbled and honoured to be included amongst this group of remarkable Canadians” who have received the medal before him.
On Tuesday (March 26), Governor General Julie Payette awarded Sangha the medal at Rideau Hall. Meeting the Governor General, and visiting Rideau Hall, was a “once in a lifetime experience,” he said.
The ceremony came nearly a year after Sangha was first notified by Ottawa that he would be recognized for his advocacy work for the LGTBQ+ community and making a positive difference in the lives of others. Sher Vancouver is a non-profit organization with the goal of “reduce the alienation, depression and suicidal ideation of people dealing with sexuality, gender and coming-out issues,” according to the society’s website.
Though it is geared towards the South Asian community, Sangha says the society welcomes all who encounter issues regarding their sexuality and gender identity. Sher offers LGBTQ+ advocacy and education services, as well as peer support and counselling.
Sangha dedicated the medal to his mother, Jaspal Kaur Sangha, who he said raised him and his two brothers largely as a single parent.
At the ceremony, Sangha spoke with the Governor General about My Name Was January, a documentary he produced about the murder of January Marie Lapuz, a transgender woman who was Sher’s social co-ordinator before she was stabbed to death inside her home in September of 2012.
The documentary has appeared at 31 film festivals around the world, and has already garnered 10 awards. In a press release, Sangha said the documentary will be part of the Queer Asia Film Festival in London, U.K., this July.
My Name Was January will also be screened in Surrey at the City Centre Library on Sept. 21 and 28.
—with files from Tom Zytaruk