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Abbotsford Has A New-Gen Indo-Canadian Face On Council And Her Name Is Kelly Chahal

By R. Paul Dhillon

ABBOTSFORD – Abbotsford has a New-Gen Indo-Canadian face on Council and her name is Kelly Chahal

Chahal, who was born in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia and immigrated to Canada as a child, works as a probation officer in Abbotsford and took a shot at municipal politics in Abbotsford and with a strong team behind her, which included new-generation power player Channi Dhillon (he also backed the mayoral winner in Abbotsford), she was able to win in the Fraser Valley town that has seen a steep rise in Indo-Canadian population.

Chahal joins returning Abbotsford Indo-Canadian council veteran Moe Gill, who also won.

“Being a Punjabi child during the early 1970’s in Canada was an interesting experience especially since the community was small and everyone gathered regularly and often relied on each other. In fact, every Sunday was Gurdwara Day, and this was the time any community discussions occurred. After prayers, the leaders in the community would secure movies, on projectors of course, renting spaces such as schools or community centers, just so the Punjabi community can watch films that reminded them of their homelands. It was a great treat for our parents and they cherished these times,” Chahal describes growing up in Abbotsford.

“On many occasions I recall hearing parents and relatives discussing serious matters in hushed tones, with looks of concern on their faces and deep frowns on their foreheads as they discussed issues of racism and discrimination and how to work with the larger community in developing intercultural relations. In today’s time, it’s fun to wear mehndi, Indian clothes, and listen to Indian music, but during that time, it wasn’t, and often became fodder for racist slurs and actions,” she said

Chahal said she has a passion for working with her community. She has worked at Abbotsford Community Services with the immigrant and multicultural department in various jobs such as settlement counselor, youth at risk (gangs), developing and delivering cross cultural workshops to the Police, City, and the University and other organizations. She has been taking criminal justice classes for Sikh Temple awareness tours for more than 25 years in Surrey, Vancouver and Abbotsford.

“Having pride for my religion and culture allowed me to participate in many events during the past few decades, not only the fun stuff, but also for serious matters. I became accustomed to negotiations and advocacy work around cultural issues at hospitals, schools, with government funded programs and various job sites. I learned the art of balance with different cultural and religious groups and can work effectively with differing agendas without being defensive and by showing respect,” said Chahal, adding that her dedication to her community was the impetus for her receiving the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Award, a prestigious honor.

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