The South Asian inspiration Awards. The SAIA Awards will honour men, women and youth who are ordinary people with extraordinary lives/experiences from or impacting the South Asian community as role models and will use the gender-neutral positive platform of celebration to create a dialogue on gender equality/equity.

2023 Award Winners

2023 CANADIAN INSPIRATION AWARD

Presented by Mayor Jyoti Gondek and Ravi Natt, SAIA Board Chair

THE HONOURABLE
JUSTICE MAHMUD JAMAL
Supreme Court of Canada

Justice Mahmud Jamal, appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada on July 1, 2021. Prior to his Supreme Court appointment, he served on the Court of Appeal for Ontario from 2019 to 2021, both appointments being made by the Prime Minister of Canada. As one of the nine Supreme Court justices, he is fully fluent in both of Canada’s official languages, English and French.

Before his judicial career, Justice Jamal had a successful legal practice as a litigation lawyer, focusing on appeal work, constitutional and public law, class actions, and commercial litigation. He made notable appearances at various levels of court across seven provinces and before the Supreme Court of Canada 35 times.

Justice Jamal’s commitment to pro bono work and his contributions to academia, teaching constitutional and administrative law at prestigious institutions, reflect his dedication to the legal profession and the broader community. His personal journey from Nairobi, Kenya, to Canada, along with his multicultural and religious upbringing, provides him with a unique perspective on the diversity and inclusivity of Canada. His appointment as the first person from a visible minority group to serve as a Supreme Court justice is a significant step towards promoting a more inclusive legal system.

On being a judge, he has said,

“At this stage of my life, there is no more meaningful way for me to contribute to the law and the pursuit of justice than through public service as a judge… Every judge knows what an extraordinary privilege and responsibility it is to be entrusted with the judicial role.”

THE HONOURABLE
JUSTICE RITU KHULLAR
Chief Justice of Alberta

Chief Justice Khullar assumed her role on February 23, 2023, following her tenure on the Court of King’s Bench since 2017 and the Court of Appeal since 2018. Her appointment as Chief Justice of the Courts of Appeal of Alberta, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut is a testament to her legal acumen. The Prime Minister of Canada selected her for this role, making her the third highest-ranking official in Alberta, following the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta, Her Honour Salma Lakhani, and Premier Danielle Smith.

Before her esteemed judicial career, Chief Justice Khullar excelled as a litigation lawyer, specializing in labor and employment, privacy, administrative, human rights, and constitutional law. She also served as a managing partner of a law firm and argued groundbreaking cases in the Supreme Court of Canada, advocating for gay rights, the privacy of sexual assault victims, and the rights of obese airline passengers to be accommodated on flights. Her teaching contributions at the University of Alberta are notable.

Chief Justice Khullar’s background in Fort Vermilion, Alberta, and her immigrant roots from India add a unique perspective to her commitment to making society more compassionate through the law. Despite her groundbreaking achievements as the first South Asian judge in Alberta and the first South Asian woman in any Canadian appeal court, she modestly identifies herself as Canadian.

On being a judge she says,

 “…in that role [of a judge], one must draw on everything; not only one’s intellect and understanding of the law, but also an understanding of people and of life. That is why it is so important to have judges with different experiences on the court. It helps to reflect the diversity of the society in which we live.”


2023 GLOBAL ICON

Presented by The Honourable Justice Ritu Khullar and Lata Patel, SAIA Board Member​

AMANDEEP SINGH, known as INKQUISITIVE

Amandeep Singh – also known as Inkquisitive – is a London based illustrator and graphic artist. His intricate ink creations are inspired by his Sikh culture and the world around him. Ink’s work touches on subjects such as religion, pop culture, and politics to name a few. He takes pride in telling stories through his artwork and allowing the viewer to interpret his paintings in their own ways.

Ink’s work is easily recognized and has its own signature style. He continues to create colourful, layered, and thought-provoking pieces that resonate around the world.

“… this served as a reminder at the right time to celebrate myself and on how far I’ve come, the legacy I’m unintentionally leaving behind as a Sikh Artist – so much, that I was awarded ‘The Global Icon of the Year Award’…” – Inkquisitive


2023 LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT

Presented by The Honourable Justice Mahmud Jamal and Mayor Jyoti Gondek

DR. BALJINDER MANN

Dr. Mann has contributed to transformational change that has benefitted our wider society through her work, first as a social worker and then as a physician. As an Indian trained physician, after arriving in Canada, she earned her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in social work while qualifying as a physician here. She has a long history of volunteering, including with the Calgary Immigrant Women’s Association in grassroots programming, and the Calgary Immigrant Aid Society, along with working at the Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter for nine years as a program coordinator and then a director of crisis services. She has raised cultural sensitivity as a key issue in social work, worked with South Asian families to deal with family violence, and started one of the first men’s crisis help lines. As a physician, she takes a holistic approach, and has a special interest in mental health issues. Through her extensive achievements over the last 40 years, she has made this city a better place for South Asians and all Calgarians.

INDERJIT KAUR GAHUNIA

Mrs. Gahunia is a leader who, during her lifetime and certainly in her almost 50 years of living in Calgary, has made an immense contribution to our community. She was a school principal in India and after retraining as a bookkeeper here, was one of the first female executives helping to establish the Sikh Society Calgary Gurudwara in 1979, later sitting on the Board of Trustees. She used her voice to represent underrepresented Calgary Sikh women. Her notable community work includes establishing a multi-faith group with a few friends, which helped others learn about different cultures and religions, and to provide culturally appropriate support to those who needed it. Mrs. Gahunia was also a dedicated volunteer Pastoral Care Worker at the Peter Lougheed Hospital, using her fluency in English, Punjabi and Hindi in providing support. Mrs. Gahunia, with her progressive thinking, inspires and mentors others, maintaining a tradition of love, inclusion and acceptance of all, notably for the acceptance of her children’s inter-racial marriages and recently proudly hosting a sangeet for her grandson’s marriage to his same-sex partner.

“Thank you to SAIA and those involved in my nomination for this great honour. I am so proud that I was able to have a part in the growth and success of our South Asian community in Calgary. I also want to congratulate all the SAIA winners. It is amazing to see so many young people doing extraordinary things and leading the way for future generations. Thanks once again.” – Inderjit Kaur Gahunia


2023 STILL GOING STRONG

Presented by The Honourable Justice Mahmud Jamal and Mayor Jyoti Gondek

“I am extremely honored and humbled to receive this very prestigious award. I would like to thank the entire South Asian Inspirational Awards Society and the Selection Committee for giving such a great recognition to my volunteer services”

“SAIA has set up a milestone in highlighting the contributions of time and relentless volunteerism of South Asian Communities in enhancing the progress of Canada.” – Sewa Singh Premi

SEWA SINGH PREMI

Through his impressive history of 37 years of service in the Indian Navy, Indian Intelligence Bureau and the Merchant Navy, having travelled to nearly 75 countries, and writing a book called “MY JOURNEY OF LIFE”, Mr. Premi is committed to helping as many people as he possibly can. After immigrating to Canada in 1997, he joined the lndian Ex-Servicemen lmmigrant Association where he focused on services for seniors, and worked to motivate parents in education and savings planning for their children. In 2016 Mr. Premi started the Indo-Canadian Community Association, to provide Notary Public, Commissioner of Oaths, form filling and technology training for seniors. During COVID, he organized seminars and meetings for social inclusion, and this year, he started the annual Inter-Action Multicultural Program uniting communities and nationalities to bridge gaps between people. He is the recipient of many community awards. Mr. Premi has remained true to his commitment to help a many people as he can with new initiatives and achievements in his senior years – truly making a positive difference in the South Asian community.


2023 COMMUNITY LEADER

Presented by The Honourable Justice Mahmud Jamal and Mayor Jyoti Gondek

“I feel truly honored to receive the South Asian Inspiration Award. This award symbolizes our shared commitment to making a positive impact. Thank you for your support, and let’s continue working together to create brighter and better communities for all.” – Monika Chhabra Gupta

MONIKA CHHABRA GUPTA

Monika has been breaking barriers through her pursuit of education, with her leadership in unique approaches in health and wellness. In her youth, she was a state and national gymnast, and then became a doctor of Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery in India. In 2012, she became the first Ayurvedic practitioner in Alberta. In 2015, she established MCG Career College and CGA Medical Imaging Clinic, where women make up 85% of the workforce, half of whom are South Asian. Monika was integral in revitalizing the Gurudwara in Golden, BC and has supported and contributed to numerous charities in Calgary. Monika has had a profound impact on the community, creating professional opportunities for others, and supporting South Asian women in the often male dominated industry of health and wellness. Not only is she a mentor and role model to her own children as they make their way in the fields of law, medicine and business, Monika inspires and encourages others to serve the community.


2023 COMMUNITY VOLUTEER

Presented by Mayor Jyoti Gondek and Archana Patel, Lifestyle Mortgage

DR. AFIRAH NAZ

Dr. Naz is a strong advocate for mental health and well-being for immigrant women. As a physician and a mother of a special needs toddler, she is motivated to be a voice for all families wanting to give their special needs’ loved ones a quality life.
Dr. Naz is the founder and President of the Canadian Society for Women Mental Health (CAN-SWM) and Co-Founder of the Women Support Group. She has established various platforms to raise awareness regarding mental health and to support community members experiencing mental health challenges. Her long-term goal is to create a safe space where women feel comfortable discussing their mental health challenges and to provide mental health resources that cater to the needs of Albertans from diverse ethnic backgrounds. Dr. Naz connects with people through her community volunteer service which improves people’s lives. She is an enthusiastic public speaker committed to ending the stigma around mental health challenges. She demonstrates compassion, dedication and commitment through her volunteer work.

“It is an honour to have received the prestigious award from the SAIA awards. I am deeply grateful to the SAIA society and the entire team for recognizing the contributions of volunteers.

First of all, I thank my Allah, almighty God. I would also like to thank my parents for instilling in me the values of compassion, honesty and kindness.

I dedicate this award to my amazing family. I am grateful to my family, including my husband and three boys, for their support and inspiration throughout my journey. Last but not least, a special thank you to Saira Bano for nominating me.

My message to all women and girls is if you encounter any problem or shortcoming, don’t just give up and walk away. Take action and help solve them for yourself and the people around you. Let’s work together to make our community a better place for everyone.” – Dr. Afirah Naz

SHARMILA RANABHAT

Sharmila has dedicated countless hours to the Nepalese and South Asian Communities to help members overcome barriers, and achieve milestones through kindness, commitment, and new initiatives. In 2014, she left her dream position as an assistant professor and inaugural Head of the Department of Rural Development in Nepal to immigrate to Calgary. Here, she began volunteering with the Calgary Immigrant Women’s Association assisting immigrant women to learn English, and since then has held leadership, board, and committee positions in numerous organizations. She is currently a member of the Community Leadership at Action Dignity’s Grassroots and Organization Empowerment initiative. She has also been instrumental in the Nepalese Community Society of Calgary’s inaugural Christmas Gift Drive to support 120 low-income families. Anti-racism and issues of racialized women are important themes in her community service and numerous publications. Sharmila contributes to cultural events that foster multiculturalism, diversity, and inclusion. She is also completing the Master of Social Work program at Wilfrid Laurier University, is a full-time employee at Mount Royal University, and a wife and mother of two.

“Thank you so much, South Asian Inspiration Award selection committee, for recognizing my community service. I am incredibly honored and humbled to receive this prestigious award. This recognition serves as a reminder of my responsibilities and an inspiration and motivation for me to continue serving our communities in need to the best of my abilities. I am grateful for all the opportunities and everything life offers. I would like to dedicate this award to my family, friends, parents, and the team at the Nepalese Community Society of Calgary (NCSC). Thank you to my husband and children for all your support. Because of you all, I am proudly standing here today.” – Sharmila Ranabhat


2023 OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN STEEM

Presented by Mayor Jyoti Gondek and Kan Mah-Paulson, Agarwal Associates

ASEEM PANDEY

Aseem’s STEEM journey started at India’s largest exploration and production company, the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation, where his involvement in innovative projects led him to being awarded the prestigious Asset Manager Award in 2014, a testament to his innovative mindset. Fueling his quest for knowledge, Aseem earned an MSc in Chemical Engineering at the University of Calgary, securing multiple patents and publishing research papers along the way. His entrepreneurial spirit caught the eye of the Alberta Government, leading to his selection for the inaugural GreenSTEM program, where he further sharpened his skills. He is one of the two South Asian co-founders and the Chief Technology Officer of EnviCore, established in 2019. He has led EnviCore in pioneering groundbreaking technology that takes mining waste and transforms it into eco-friendly construction materials for concrete. He is also an active community volunteer, including with the Calgary Climate Hub and Engineers without Borders. His work has led to significant changes and innovation in finding holistic solutions for climate change.

I am deeply grateful to receive the SAIA Award in the STEEM category. STEEM are not just fields of study for me; they are my passion and a source of endless fascination. This recognition motivates me to continue exploring, innovating, and contributing to the advancement of knowledge and our world. I thank the SAIA for this incredible honor and look forward to a future where STEEM disciplines continue to make a profound impact on our society.” – Aseem Pandey

DR. NAWEED I. SYED

Dr. Syed is a Professor and Scientific Director of the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute, at the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine. He also serves as the Chief Scientist at the university’s Constructive Destructive Lab (Global). His team was the first to develop a bionic hybrid which enabled direct dialogue between brain cells and a silicon chip, which has applications for brain-control prosthetic devices, managing depression, epilepsy and other neurological disorders. He was also the first to perform single cell brain cell transplant in living animals, as well as the first scientist to reconstruct respiratory network in cell culture –– both of these studies were declared as breakthroughs of the decade for the brain. Dr. Syed led several major research and academic initiatives for the U of C over the years, including the creation of the Biomedical Engineering Institute and establishment of the Hotchkiss Brain Institute. Dr. Syed’s work has led to significant changes and innovation in brain science; he is an active ambassador for innovation in mental health, and a prolific writer and keynote speaker.


2023 OUTSTANDING BUSINESS

Presented by Michael Kapp, Harry Rosen and Balwinder Marwaha, SAIA Board Member

Folds Wear Inc.

While Folds Wear was officially launched in January 2021, this innovative medical garment company started making medical masks in 2020 in the wake of COVID19. Its founder Nina Kharey then started working with tech labs to create protective, functional, athletic, scrubs that are sustainable, comfortable and recyclable. In March 2021, Nina and Folds Wear were selected as a 2021 Canadian Coralus (formerly known as SheEO) venture. In August 2022, Folds Wear was nominated for the Canadian Arts and Fashion Awards Innovation award, and just this past April, Folds Wear received the Innovation in Fashion Award from Canadian Business. Nina brings a wealth of design and textile experience to Folds Wear, through her first design venture, House of Nonie, which she established in 2009 after leaving her career as a professional engineer. She established her luxury brand, in part to deal with the tragic loss of her brother in 2005, which also prompted her to become an anti-gang violence motivational speaker. Nina brings her keen eye for innovation, and commitment to maintaining the highest ethical and quality standards to Folds Wear.

“I’m honoured to receive this award from a community that has made me who I am today. To have this kind of support is exactly what I need to keep rising and creating space for myself and others. I feel like something much bigger than me has my back. Thank you to SAIA for this incredible support and for showing our youth that they are worthy of amazing dreams in this world.” – Nina Rahal


2023 OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN ARTS, 
CULTURE & ENTERTAINMENT

Presented by Inkquisitive and Lata Patel, SAIA Board Member

ISHITA SINGLA 

Ishita has made her mark as a passionate, self-taught artist and performer, tirelessly promoting South Asian art and heritage. Since April 2016, as Founder and Artistic Director of Madhuban Performing Arts, she has been seeking opportunities to showcase dancers, musicians and singers. Madhuban Arts supports and performs for over 75 cultural organizations, charitable and non-profit initiatives, including partnerships with organizations like Calgary Pride and Immigrant Services Calgary, and recently performed during halftime at a Calgary Surge basketball game. Madhuban Arts pioneered the Desi Open Mic Night, and in 2019 collaborated with a major production house for the full lengthy adventure comedy, “The Extraordinary Journey of The Fakir”. The Madhuban Band is involved in an upcoming Netflix film. In her role as a Senior Communications Officer at CBC Calgary, Ishita demonstrates her commitment to showcasing marginalized perspectives, amplifying important conversations, and fostering cultural awareness on a broader scale. Ishita is an award winning community leader demonstrating passion, creativity and innovation as a strong advocate and ambassador of South Asian culture and arts.

“Thank you, South Asian Inspiration Awards, for the honor. I see this award as a responsibility, a gentle reminder to keep pushing forward. I started my journey as a performing artist when it wasn’t as celebrated, and there weren’t as many opportunities in the city. To be able to celebrate the arts on the same platform as the sciences, law, medicine, and much more tells me that we’ve made strides as a community. Thank you for recognizing South Asian trailblazers and encouraging more to follow suit.” – Ishita Singla

JALAL LADAK

Jalal started as an entertainment host in 2009, and is the founder and host of the popular Koffee with Jalal radio program. He has built a media platform with over 50,000 social media followers. He showcases talented artists, musicians, dancers, educators, scientists, and leaders in all disciplines. Jalal has spearheaded several initiatives for the community, including being an avid supporter of the World Partnership Walk, a global initiative to end global poverty, as well as hosting events to raise awareness about global poverty. Additionally, he has launched Future Superstars giving youth between the ages of 12-16 the opportunity to showcase their talent on Koffee with Jalal, hosting over 100 youth from around the world. Jalal is a respected member of the arts, culture and entertainment scene in Calgary. During the pandemic, Jalal provided families with quality entertainment, keeping his global audience motivated and imbued with hope. He demonstrates passion and dedication as a true ambassador of South Asian arts, culture and entertainment in our city.

“Being recognized for this award is a testament to the importance and value of Koffee with Jalal to the public. I am honoured to be receiving this award and will use it as a daily source of motivation to continue inspiring artists and surfacing their talents to the public. See you on the air.” – Jala Ladak


2023 OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN SPORTS

Presented by The Honourable Justice Ritu Khullar and Balwinder Marwaha, SAIA Board Member

TARNPREET KAUR SIDHU

Since 2021 Tarnpreet has been a lead volunteer with Kids Play Youth Foundation, a charity that works toward keeping youth away from gangs, drugs and violence through free sports and non-sports programs. This summer, she secured a WNBA All-Star Player and led the Connect Basketball camp which had over 300 participants. She was the lead from Kids Play in its collaboration with Punjabi Community Health Services Calgary in a social media mental health campaign recently. She has also led multiple events with the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Support Centre. Tarnpreet is also involved with the South Asian Sports Development Association, working to improve the lives of underprivileged children through sports. She is respected as a youth leader inspiring other females to be involved in sport, either actively participating or arranging sports events and working behind the scenes. Tarnpreet demonstrates the ideals of true sportsmanship and a determination to not only achieve new heights herself, but to encourage other young women – all the while pursuing her studies at the University of Calgary.

“Thank you to the entire team of SAIA for giving me the opportunity to receive such an amazing award. I would like to thank my family for supporting me and always pushing me to be the best person I can be, and thank you to KidsPlay Foundation Calgary for giving me opportunities to give back to our community, mentoring me and supporting me through this journey.” – Tarnpreet Kaur Sidhu

MANDEEP JHALLY

Mandeep is a success on and off the field demonstrating a real passion for sport and empowering youth through field hockey. Having been a field hockey player himself, in 1997, Mandeep embarked on a successful coaching career, mentoring youth to excel at the state level in India while excelling himself at a senior-level. After moving to Calgary in 2007 he continued to dedicate thousands of hours in coaching young athletes on a volunteer basis, providing transportation for players to attend practices and league games, even taking them to tournaments across North America. Over the past decade, his coaching expertise has resulted in many of his athletes earning spots on provincial and national teams. In 2016, Mandeep founded the United Field Hockey Club Calgary, focusing on training boys and girls aged 5 to 18, and organizing the annual Alberta Cup tournament. Mandeep is an inspirational coach, involved in promoting sports within and for the South Asian community.


2023 RISING STAR

Presented by The Honourable Justice Ritu Khullar and Michael Hawley, SAIA Board Member

ISHAAN HOLLOWAY 

Presented to Dean Ian Holloway

Ishaan has been breaking barriers his whole life as a non-speaker with severe aggressive Autism. Having been diagnosed with Autism at the age of two, he has been learning in innovative ways to reach his maximum potential. Ishaan started communicating by keyboard at around age 10 or so, which he says gave him a voice for the first time. When learning programs failed to support his incredible capacity and desire to learn, Ishaan’s mother, Dr. Mousumee Dutta, started home schooling him with the help of tutors. Ishaan is now 18, and on track to complete his high school diploma this year. One of his tutor nominators wrote “Ishaan has incredible insight and understands his capacity to advocate for accessible, inclusive, and integrated services for people of colour and the Autism community.” Another writes: “Ishaan advocates for Autism by helping others understand what having Autism is like. Ishaan’s published work demonstrates that he and others with Autism feel, hear, smell, see, think the same as “normal/typical” people but the only difference is he is non-speaking. Ishaan demonstrates the incredible intelligence of individuals with special needs if given the right tools.” He is very proud of his South Asian heritage, having learned to communicate in both Bengali and English.

Ishaan has advocated for children with disabilities and exchanged letters with the Prime Minister’s Office and Premier Kenney. Ishaan advocates through his poetry, his first poem, Autism Part One was published in 2014. In 2021, the British Autism Parenting magazine, named him the Young Writer of the Year. His book of poetry, entitled “My Unique Voice”, is due to be published later this year. When he learned about this award, he said that he wanted to offer his heartfelt thanks to the selection committee. He says, “I hope I can live up to the expectation of making the South Asian community prouder of my work in the future.” This amazing young man is a true role model to all of us, his commitment to learning and advocacy is inspirational.

“I want to express my sincerest gratitude to the committee for selecting me for this award. I cannot express in words how happy and humbled I am to have received it. I know that it wasn’t an easy choice, and that I was an unusual nominee given my condition, but I will with my hard work try my best to make the South Asian community proud of me.

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.” – Ishaan Holloway

MAYURI AGARWAL

Mayuri is a 16-year-old high school student who established the non-profit organization Youth 4 Community Cents, which provides global youth with opportunities to learn about ongoing global issues and how to be a part of the solution. Youth 4 Community Cents has an almost all female youth leadership team. Mayuri is also the Vice President of the organization Stematic Leaders formed in 2021 to motivate and empower youth to take part in STEM fields. Mayuri works closely with the City of Calgary in its Youth Volunteer Corps Steering Committee to create a better volunteer experience for youth in Calgary. The Steering Committee is a platform partnering with over 150 community agencies and events in the city to promote and advocate volunteering for youth for a sense of belonging in the community. Mayuri is a role model for and in the South Asian community, inspiring and motivating other youth, especially young women, to collaborate to have a voice on social issues and to engage in the STEM fields.

“It is an honour to receive this award from SAIA. Winning this award has fueled my determination to do even more for my community. It’s a reminder that age is no barrier to making a meaningful impact. I’m inspired to continue combining my academic achievements with volunteerism and leadership to create positive change. This recognition motivates me to be a beacon of hope in our South Asian community.” – Mayuri Agarwal


2023 PROFESSIONAL LEADER

Presented by The Honourable Justice Rhitu Khullar and Michael Hawley, Board Member

“I am incredibly honoured and humbled to have won the Professional Leader award! As a community, when one of us succeeds… we all succeed. We inspire each other, we support each other, we demonstrate our commitment and willingness to grow and adapt within the society we work in. Thank you to SAIA for recognizing individuals in our community who are doing exemplary work. This reward carries a big responsibility – a responsibility to keep pushing the boundaries for South Asian women in medicine and health care. My hope is that I can mentor another bright South Asian girl/woman to follow her aspirations and dreams, to be confident in who she is, and to believe that there is no limit to our abilities. A humble thank you!” – Dr. Shafeena Premji

DR. SHAFEENA PREMJI

Dr. Premji is a family physician breaking barriers in menopause care and advocating to improving women’s access to health care through the two family medicine clinics she established in 2018 and 2019, through her involvement with the South Calgary Primary Care Network, and in providing obstetrical care at the South Health Campus. She completed a fellowship in Women’s Health, and received her North American Menopause Society Certification in 2015. A trailblazer in menopause research and education Dr Premji is on the Board of Directors of the Canadian Menopause Society, and a Medical Advisor at the Menopause Foundation of Canada — one of only two family doctors in that role. In 2023 she earned the prestigious title of Fellow of the Canadian College of Family Physicians, issued to family doctors for their outstanding contributions to their communities and to family medicine. Not only is Dr. Premji a successful women’s health advocate, since the age of 17 she has been a mehndi artist, taking training at the prestigious Ash Kumar Academy, where she has been an Executive Artist and Henna Educator for the Canadian Academy since 2011.


2023 OUTSTANDING NONPROFIT AGENCY

Presented by The Honourable Justice Mahmud Jamal, The Honourable Justice Ritu Khullar and Ravi Natt, SAIA Board Chair

SARB AKAL MUSIC SOCIETY OF CALGARY

This year, the SAIA Board is proud to award the Outstanding Non-profit Agency honor to the Sarb Akal Music Society of Calgary. Founded in 2014 by Harjeet Singh, this organization has passionately championed the cause of local and international artists while upholding the cherished traditions of Indian Classical Music. The name “SARB AKAL” translates to “Everywhere, timeless, immortal, and non-temporal,” a reflection of their commitment to connecting Eastern and Western musicians and dancers.

For nearly a decade, Sarb Akal has been offering vocal and instrumental music classes, welcoming individuals of all ages and backgrounds to explore the rich heritage of Indian Classical Music. Through their music academy, they nurture and enrich musical traditions by organizing concerts, mentoring students, and bringing renowned artists to inspire and guide the next generation.

Sarb Akal’s mission is deeply inclusive, as exemplified by the Indian Classical Music Festival Calgary, which they initiated in 2016. This annual festival, with 200-400 attendees, showcases world-renowned musicians and strives to make the joy of music accessible to all, regardless of financial circumstances.

In 2024, Sarb Akal plans to expand the festival to five days, extending their commitment to fostering musical connections. Beyond the festival, they host numerous live and online events, as well as informal jam sessions, emphasizing the power of music to unite and inspire. Their online programming, which attracted up to 30,000 viewers during the pandemic, speaks to their dedication to sharing the beauty of music.

With 100,000 subscribers to their YouTube channel, Sarb Akal is proof that music transcends borders and brings love to the world, as envisioned by their founder, Harjeet Singh. This award is a testament to their unwavering commitment to the art of music and their dedication to building bridges through the universal language of melody. Congratulations, Sarb Akal Music Society of Calgary!

We did not seek any nominations for this award as it is given at the SAIA Board’s discretion.

All photos are credited to Amit Thankey, Professional Digital Photographer.

2022 WINNERS