“A Time to Rise”: The stories of Raj Chouhan and Harinder Mahil
Screening of “A Time to Rise” will be followed by a discussion with Raj Chouhan and Harinder Mahil
This film by Anand Patwardhan, a multiple award-winning Indian filmmaker who centres issues of social justice in his movies, focuses on the struggle of mainly South Asian farmworkers in BC. Raj Chouhan (current speaker of the Legislative Assembly) and Harinder Mahil (an activist with a lifetime of organizing and supporting the South Asian community in BC as well as one of the founders of the BC Organization to Fight Racism in the 90s) were both among the founders of the Canadian Farmworkers Union. Indeed Raj Chouhan is featured at several points in the movie. They will be speaking after the screening of the movie about the wider context of Asian organizing around the film, the victories that they have had and how Asian workers in precarious positions can hope to fight for, and win, a better world.
Raj Chouhan is currently the Speaker of the BC Legislature and MLA for Burnaby-Edmonds. He was first elected as the MLA for Burnaby-Edmonds in 2005 and in December 2020 he was acclaimed as Speaker. He is the first individual of South Asian heritage to serve as speaker of the house in the BC Legislature.
Raj immigrated to Canada in 1973. As a student in India, Raj was actively involved in student union activities. Upon his arrival to Canada, Raj was greatly impacted by the plight of other immigrant workers and the wide disparity between the rich and poor in a prosperous country. This contributed to his ongoing advocacy for community and social justice for workers.
Raj is the founding president of the Canadian Farmworkers’ Union and served as the director of bargaining for the Hospital Employees Union for 18 years. Raj also served as a member of the Labour Relations Board of B.C. and the Arbitration Bureau of B.C.
A founding member of the B.C. Organization to Fight Racism, Raj has worked relentlessly in promoting human rights and racial equality. He has served as the vice-president of B.C. Human Rights Defenders since 2003. Raj has taught courses on human rights, the B.C. Labour Code and collective bargaining since 1987. He has also travelled across Canada to give seminars and attend conferences that raise the awareness of issues such as racism, poverty, worker rights and discrimination.
Harinder Mahil has been an anti-racist and human rights activist since 1970’s. Over the last 50 years, he has worked for the New Westminster local of the International Woodworkers of America (IWA), Province of British Columbia and the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC).
He was one of the founders of the BC Organization to Fight Racism (BCOFR) and the Canadian Farmworkers’ Union. He has served as Chair of the British Columbia Council of Human Rights from 1992-1997 and Deputy Chief Commissioner of the British Columbia Human Rights Commission from 1997 to 2002. He was acting Chief Commissioner of the British Columbia Human Rights Commission when the previous liberal government of British Columbia decided to dismantle the Commission.
Mr. Mahil was a member of the Canadian delegation to the 1993 United Nations’ World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna.
He has recently retired from his position as Team Lead, Labour Relations with the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, a union representing professionals employed by the government of Canada.
Since 2011, he has been a board member of the Dr. Hari Sharma Foundation for South Asian Advancement. Earlier this year he was elected as president of the West Coast Coalition Against Racism (WCCAR), a coalition of organizations and individuals committed to positive change in the struggle against racism.