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Coquitlam human rights activist joins Order of B.C.

Harinder Mahil fought racism and inequality against immigrants and farmworkers, and continues to educate the power of inclusion across the province.
HarinderMahilCoquitlamOrderofBC2022
Human rights activist Harinder Mahil, a Coquitlam resident, was named to the Order of British Columbia on Aug. 1, 2022.

A Coquitlam resident and human rights activist of nearly five decades is set to receive B.C.'s highest form of recognition in the fall.

Harinder Mahil was unveiled as an Order of British Columbia recipient on Monday (Aug. 1) in honour of his years of dedication and leadership that continues to inspire new generations to this day

Mahil spent most of his adult life working and speaking up for immigrants' equality and justice since he came to B.C. in 1970 at 19 years old.

The 71-year-old's advocacy ultimately landed him the role as B.C.'s human rights commissioner in 2002.

"We all have the right not to be discriminated against, but also have the responsibility not to discriminate against others," Mahil explains in his Order of B.C. profile, adding this is his life's principle he shares with others "regardless of race, colour, gender, creed, religion, sexual orientation, disability or income."

Mahil started as a farm worker across the Lower Mainland upon arriving in Canada.

He worked long hours at the time that resulted from labour contractors' negligence, but he also wanted to raise his voice in ensuring a better life for all immigrants of all ages and backgrounds.

Mahil's organizing efforts and activism to end workers’ exploitation led to major changes in the province's Employment Standards Act, his Order of B.C. profile reads, which saw the inclusion of farm workers in protections afforded by the act, and also led to the formation of the Canadian Farmworkers’ Union.

"Mahil stepped up in the 1980s and was one of the fearless leaders who fought back against the influx of the Ku Klux Klan becoming established in B.C. He was one of the founders of the B.C. Organization to Fight Racism, an organization that challenged hate. The anti-racism group led to the creation of others that continue to this day."

Mahil's résumé includes a 10-year stint with B.C.'s labour ministry (1982-1992), a decade with B.C. human rights agencies (1992-2002) and a labour relations position with the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada before joining the human rights commission.

"For the past 50 years, Mahil has been a champion to improve the lives of others and make B.C. a better place," his profile continues.

"As a labour relations and human rights professional, he successfully resolved thousands of workplace disputes between workers and employers, represented union members, worked with labour and business organizations, and led labour task forces."

Mahil was one of 14 selected for the latest round of Order of B.C. inductions out of 194 nominations.

The other recipients are as follows (in alphabetical order):

  • Dr. Nadine Rena Caron of Prince George
  • Kúkpi7 (Chief) Rosanne Casimir of Kamloops
  • Nezhat Khosrowshahi of Vancouver
  • Kathy Kinloch of Surrey
  • Joy MacPhail, CM, of Vancouver
  • Fred Ting Shek Mah of Vancouver
  • Maureen Maloney, QC, of Victoria
  • Geoff Plant, QC, of Vancouver
  • Christine Sinclair, OC, of Burnaby
  • Paul Spong of Alert Bay
  • Gerald St. Germain, PC, of Langley
  • Jody Wilson-Raybould, PC, QC, of Quathiaski Cove
  • Bruce Munro Wright of Vancouver

Mahil will head to Victoria in late fall to receive a special medal from Order of B.C. chancellor and Lt.-Gov. Janet Austin.