Community Comes Together for Pre-Launch Event for Untold Stories: The South Asian Pioneer Experience in BC

Community Comes Together for Pre-Launch Event for Untold Stories: The South Asian Pioneer Experience in BC

By: Karen Dosanjh

On Dec. 8, 2019, the sold-out pre-launch event for the new book, Untold Stories: The South Asian Pioneer Experience in BC, was a resounding success with over 400 community members coming out to support the exciting, new AAJ Legacy Initiative. It was a packed house of pioneer families, students, military representatives, educators, social justice advocators, political dignitaries and representatives from universities, high schools and the media. The event was hosted by Suki Pangalia, Founder, CEO of AAJ Media Group and Karen Dosanjh, Editor & Curator, AAJ Legacy Initiative, at the elegant Ultimate Banquet Hall in Surrey, B.C.. The event was kicked off with a celebratory dhol and the singing of the Canadian and Indian National anthems which served as a poignant reminder of the strong bridge built between our countries. 

About The UNTOLD STORIES Project

To be launched in April 2020, in time for Sikh Heritage Month, the Untold Stories book aims to document and preserve the forgotten voices of the first wave of South Asians who immigrated to Canada in the early 1900s from Punjab, India. The goal of the publication is to leave a lasting legacy to help educate future generations about the challenges faced by the South Asian pioneers, as well as the significant contributions they made to the rich fabric of our country. The book, which features the original works of South Asian Canadian artist, Jagdeep Singh Raina, will be made available to BC classrooms and the community at large. Untold Stories is designed by Rav Brar of RB+D, a talented graphic designer serving a variety of companies and industries in B.C. Karen Dosanjh says, “We are bringing Untold Stories to every single library and every single school in the Province in 2020. Through this new content, future generations can benefit from the lessons our pioneers have taught us about dealing with adversity, being resilient and having the tenacity to overcome it all and succeed despite many barriers. Untold Stories will serve as a valuable and relevant teaching tool for students who will benefit greatly from the life lessons of our pioneers.” 

Unprecedented Support from Community Leaders & Influencers

The Hon. Harjit Singh Sajjan, Canada’s First South Asian Minister of National Defence, was in attendance and personally welcomed the pioneer families, spoke about the significance of the Untold Stories project and presented the Pioneer Family Awards to deserving recipients. Other Pioneer Family Awards presenters included: Shushma Dhatt, the legendary first-lady of Canadian television, Herb Dhaliwal, the First South Asian to be elected to the House of Commons in Canada (1993), Baljit Sangra,  Vancouver-based Film and Television Director whose documentaries explore social and cross-cultural issues, and Sukh Dhaliwal, Liberal Member of Parliament for Surrey, Newton who led the Bill which declaring Canada as the first country in the world to adopt formal legislation recognizing April as Sikh Heritage Month. 

Serving as the evenings captivating emcee and storyteller was Baltej Singh Dhillon, a pioneer in his own right and former Sikh Mountie who actively fought for his right to wear a turban in the RCMP in Canada.  

Educators came out to show their full support for the book launch and related speakers shared their included: Annie Ohana, Educator, Social Justice Curriculum Specialist & Aboriginal Department Head at LA Matheson Secondary (LAM), Gurpreet Kaur Bains, Educator, Department Head Modern Languages Program at LAM, Mandish Saran, Head of the Next 100 Years Mentorship Program and Manager, Surrey School District, and Dr. Satwinder Bains, Director of South Asian Studies Institute at the University of Fraser Valley. The success of Untold Stories truly depends on educators like these who are care deeply about bringing these South Asian pioneer content to their classrooms. A number of students from the Mustang Justice Program and the Next 100 Years Mentorship Program at LA Matheson Secondary also volunteered their time to support the event and to meet the pioneers. 

Other notable figures in attendance included: Mr. Ujjal Dosanjh, First South Asian Premier of BC, Hon. Abhilasha Joshi, Consulate General of India, Vancouver, Jinny Sims, Minister for Citizens Services in BC, Pardeep Singh Nagra, Historian, Athlete & Advocate from Ontario, and Lynn Saffery, Head of the Museum of Surrey.  

Saluting Our Sikh Veterans

Captain Ujjagar Singh Nagra, 91, who fought for the British Commonwealth as a solider in the Indian Army in WW2 was welcomed with a full honour guard salute and heartfelt greeting from Mr. Sajjan and many others. Captain Nagra dedicated 32 years of his life to serving in the army and a highlight of the evening was when all attendees stood together honour his service.  

Rare Artifacts and Images Exhibited

Many pioneer families also brought in rare items and precious images of their ancestors to share with the community as part of our pioneer exhibit which was another highlight and a connection point of conversation for many attendees. This was truly community-curated content. The AAJ Legacy Initiative team also showcased an extensive slide show of hundreds of original, never before seen pioneer images on screens throughout the night. Raj Singh Toor, who represents the Descendants of the Komagata Maru Society shared a number of precious artifacts representing the Komagata Maru incident of 1914. 

Pioneer Awards Presented to Outstanding Pioneer Families

Pioneer Family Awards were presented to 6 long-standing families whose roots date back to the early 1900s in Canada and all of which have deeply contributed to the betterment of the BC community. Elder representatives from each family took the stage to accept the awards on behalf of their extended families. The Pioneer Family Awards were presented to the Beadall Family, Dosanjh Family, Ghag Family, Johal Family, Randhawa Family and Thandi Family. The presentation of the Pioneer Awards struck an emotional chord with the entire audience as the elders were honoured for their lasting contributions. 



Prime Minister & Mr. Sajjan honour the AAJ Legacy Initiative Team

Another meaningful moment was when Mr. Sajjan presented both Suki and Karen with letters of endorsement from himself and the Hon. Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau. Mr. Sajjan thanked Suki, Karen and the team for their dedication to bringing South Asian legacies to light for the benefit of others. This moment validated the importance of the Untold Stories project not just for the South Asian community but for all Canadians. Mr. Sajjan also presented Suki with a Medal of Honour to recognize his decades of service to both the military and the broader community. Suki says, “It was a true honour to be recognized by the PM and Mr. Sajjan for the AAJ Legacy Initiative, and also by Mr. Sajjan for my efforts in the Canadian Armed Forces. I was beyond humbled and it was a lifetime highlight for me.” 

In the theme of celebrating South Asian culture, the event wrapped up with a vibrant fashion show hosted by the talented Devi Bains of Armaan DBG who has been serving the South Asian community for 20 years. The beautiful Armaan DBG models showcased unique, ready to wear items from her latest collection. 

Join the Untold Stories Launch Event on April 14

Suki, Karen and the AAJ Media Group have partnered with the Museum of Surrey to launch the Untold Stories book on April 14 at the Museum. Visit for more information. 

Authentic Dedication to Honouring & Preserving Our Past: Meet The Founder/Publisher/CEO of AAJ Media Group Suki Pangalia

Suki Pangalia

Founder/ Publisher/ CEO  of AAJ Media Group

Suki Pangalia was born in Bengal, India and arrived in Canada in 1977, with his mother and six other siblings. He was raised by his late mother, Surinder Pangalia, who is his inspiration and a guiding force for his life’s ambition. His vision and aim have always has been supporting, loving and caring for humanity by providing unconditional support, advocacy and service to others for creating social change and justice. He continues to support and advocate for families in need. His inspiration comes from the community and their stories.

Growing up was difficult and he faced many challenges and hardships. During the young years, Suki was surrounded by many individuals: pessimistic as well as optimistic. The decision was his, which way he would go; he chose to give back to the community and continues to do so.

Suki is the Founder, CEO and Publisher of the AAJ Media Group established in 1997, now consisting of AAJ Magazine, AAJ Television and AAJ Radio. Currently, AAJ television has four programs airing on Shaw multicultural channels. Suki has always been known as a community leader and cultural ambassador who continues to strive to develop platforms for people to engage, start a dialogue and create positive social outcomes.

He is the Founder and Executive Director of the award-winning dance and art academy ‘Rangeela Dance School’, ‘Academy of Indian Arts and Dance’, which was established in 1994. Rangeela had locations across North America and won many international awards. His aim was to teach and inspire the South Asian community through the arts, culture, dance, language, and heritage.  Suki was also a creator of a Multicultural Mascot, Rangy Baba.    Rangeela had over 20,000 students and cultivated the passions of children, youth and families and produced many best selling artists, accomplished dancers and former students who went on to open their own dance schools to promote South Asian culture to future generations. Rangeela won many awards and stood first internationally 7-10 years in a row.

Suki has a degree in Child and Youth counselling and has worked for the Delta School Board and Children’s Foundation as a child and youth counsellor. He was also a staff counsellor of a transition home with Mountainside Community services and a drug and alcohol counsellor. He was an Aboriginal Counsellor with the Surrey School Board and is currently providing Child Protection and supervised access work to the community with Journey Child Protection and Family Services as a volunteer.

Suki is a retired commissioned officer of the Canadian Armed forces (CIC) with Captain Qualifications. He is qualified as a Range Safety Officer, Orienteering Instructor and Training Officer. He was also the platoon commander of Echo Company at the VACC. He is currently a board member of White Rock Multicultural Society and has been a long-standing member of the Child and Youth Association of British Columbia. He was Vice-Chair of 3300 British Columbia Regiment Cadet Corp that he assisted in establishing. He was member of the Lions Club, National Indo-Canadian Counsel (NICC), Oasis, Mosaic and India Club.

He has been awarded medal of honour for community work by Maritime Forces Pacific, stand to action award by SEEDS, Best editor award by Harjinder Thind. He has professional partnership with Consulate General of India (Vancouver), BC Children’s Hospital, Surrey Museum, Surrey Board of Trade, Gujarati Society of Vancouver, Art Vancouver, and BC India Network.

Connect with Suki Pangalia on LinkedIN:


Untold Stories to Feature the Original Works of Artist, Jagdeep Singh Raina

The AAJ Legacy Initiative team is thrilled to feature the original works of Jagdeep Singh Raina, a Canadian artist from Guelph, Ontario. Jagdeep is committed to understanding the histories related to South Asians’ migration from the global south, particularly India and specifically Punjab and Kashmir where his ancestors originate. He holds an MFA in painting from the Rhode Island School of Design and has been an artist in residence at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, the Fine Arts Work Center, and the Camden Arts Centre/Slade School of Fine Art. We are proud to feature Jagdeep’s collection which focuses on the South Asian Pioneer experience in Canada. This collection was featured in the University of Fraser Valley and South Asian Studies Institute’s: Desis in the Diaspora: A Canadian South Asian Youth Visual Arts Exhibit at the Sikh Heritage Museum.

Authentic Dedication to Honouring & Preserving Our Past: Meet Karen Dosanjh

Karen Dosanjh

Vice-President, Marketing & Communications, OSI Digital​

Throughout her 20-year career, Karen has built a bona fide reputation as a trusted advisor and expert in marketing, communications & public relations. She is laser-focused on helping companies achieve their business goals by connecting with and influencing key audiences through authentic and insightful marketing communications strategies. In her current role, Karen leads the marketing strategy for OSI Digital, a leading provider of business and technology solutions for Fortune 500 companies around the world.

As Director of Innovation, Global Brand at GE Digital, Karen oversaw the brand integration strategies for GE Digital’s acquisition companies and helped drive the company’s digital industrial transformation narrative in market. Prior to joining GE, Karen led the Marketing & Communications function for Bit Stew Systems which was acquired by GE in November 2016. At Bit Stew, Karen was instrumental in establishing and building the marketing communications team and infrastructure from the ground up. This is the second time in her career that Karen has led the marketing and communications efforts for a technology start-up that was successfully acquired by a major corporation. The first being ISM-BC which was acquired by TELUS in 2000, and where Karen continued a successful, 15-year career in a variety of senior communications roles within the company.

On a personal note, helping others rise is part of Karen’s DNA, and she brings a deep commitment to giving back to her local community through service to others. Karen actively advocates for women’s issues in technology and business. She established and led the first GE Women’s Network in BC, the GE and TELUS ‘Women in IoT: Adopters & Influencers’ event, and currently serves on the Board of Advisors for the Women in Leadership Foundation. A sought-after thought leader and speaker, Karen was featured in Business in Vancouver’s ‘Women of Influence’ issue, a recent BC Tech Association video series, and is also regular guest lecturer on ‘Leadership & Influence in the Global Workplace’ at SFU’s Beedie School of Business. Karen will be speaking about the ‘Power of Mentorship’ to the Young Women in Business (YWiB) Vancouver on May 8. Most recently, Karen was named a 2019 Shakti Award Winner in the Professional Achievement Category.

Karen is visionary for the AAJ Legacy Initiative. For her, preserving pioneer voices for future generations is truly a passion project which  began in 2006 when her family documented and celebrated their forefather, Baba Gian Singh Johal’s 100 years in Canada. Working with leading publications like AAJ Magazine, the Vancouver Sun and Province, and the Surrey School Board, Karen has worked tirelessly to bring Sikh pioneer content to students who greatly benefit from learning about the resiliency and dedication of those who paved the way for the South Asian community.

Connect with Karen on LinkedIN :


Woman on the Rise: Meet Leader & Influencer Karen Dosanjh

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