Lumber Mogul Asa Johal Celebrates 97th Birthday With Release Of Biography



By Balwant Sanghera

It was a very special day for prominent businessman, philanthropist and Chairman of India Cultural Centre of Canada Gurdwara Nanak Niwas, 8600 #5 Road, Richmond, Asa Singh Johal. Along with his family, friends and well-wishers he celebrated his 97th birthday at Gurdwara Nanak Niwas on Saturday, August 17.  Mr. Johal is a great role models for others. Despite his advancing years Mr. Johal keeps himself very active and busy. All of us at India Cultural Centre of Canada Gurdwara Nanak Niwas are very proud of Mr. Johal’s generosity and wish him a long, productive and healthy life.

On behalf of the Gurdwara’s management committee, Secretary Balwant Sanghera extended a very warm welcome and thanked Asa Singh Johal’s, family, friends, well-wishers and invited guests for their participation. Sanghera then gave a brief sketch  of Mr. Johal’s life and achievements since his arrival as a baby in Canada with his parents in 1924. It is an amazing journey for Johal and his family. Prominent screen writer, producer and director for films and television and Asa’s biographer, Jinder Oujla, gave a brief lead up to Johal’s biography. Oujla mentioned that it has been a privilege and an honour for her to write this book about one of the most respected pioneers of our community.

Invited guests included Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie. Mayor Brodie was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule and join the congregation in wishing Mr. Johal a happy birthday. He thanked Johal for his generosity and very valuable contribution to BC and Canada. Canada’s Minister of National Defence and Member of Parliament for Vancouver South , Mr. Harjit Singh Sajjan, was expected to attend but due to problems and delays in his flight from Ottawa to Vancouver, he was unable to make it on time. However, he sent his best wishes for Mr. Johal.

Steveston-Richmond East Member of Parliament Joe Peschisolido conveyed his greetings and wished Mr. Johal a happy birthday.  BC’s Minister of Labour and MLA for Surrey Newton Harry Bains shared his memories about Mr. Johal and conveyed his best wishes to the lumber baron. Bains also read a letter of birthday greetings from Premier John Horgan who was unable to attend due to prior commitment. Other dignitaries included former federal cabinet member Herb Dhaliwal, Surrey Centre MP Randeep Singh Sarai, Consul H. Venkatachalam from the Indian Consulate, former PICS CEO Charan Pal Gill, leaders of various Gurdwaras and many others.

It was very kind of President of Khalsa Diwan Society, Vancouver, Malkit Singh Dhami and his team to congratulate Asa Singh Johal and present a plaque to him. Similarly, Mr. Harbhajan Singh Athwal, President of Khalsa Diwan Society, New Westminster (Gurdwara Sukh Sagar) presented Mr. Johal with a plaque as a token of their appreciation. Asa’s biography- Asa Singh Johal and Terminal Forest Products: How a Sikh Immigrant Created BC’s largest Independent Lumber Company- was released by Asa, his family and the dignitaries. It was very well received by the congregation.

The Johal family had prepared a very delicious vegetarian Langar for the attendees. They thanked everyone and the media for making this special day for the Johal family very enjoyable. It was a very fitting tribute to this great pioneer of our community.

Balwant Sanghera is a retired School Psychologist and Community Activist.