Surrey’s Mohammad Aminul Islam champion of promoting mother languages honoured by BC government


Parminder Virk from Saanich, and Navjit Moore from Burnaby two other South Asians who have received Medal of Good Citizenship
Three South Asian origin people are among 21 people across BC who have been honored by the BC government in a distinguished recognition of extraordinary contributions to community life.
Mohammad Aminul Islam from Surrey, Parminder Virk from Saanich, and Navjit Moore from Burnaby received Medal of Good Citizenship (MGC) for their generosity, service, and acts of selflessness in their local areas. Madison Fleischer was another recipient from Surrey.
Mohammad Aminul Islam is a champion of mother languages and multiculturalism in Canada. Navjit Moore is working for the cause of Crohn’s and Colitis Canada. Parminder Virk is a Punjabi culture ambassador and community builder in Saanich. As a 23-year-old Indigenous law student, Fleischer aspires to make a difference in the lives of residential school survivors, work in Indigenous law, and advocate for Indigenous youth facing legal challenges.
Aminul Islam is a leader and president of the Mother Language Lovers of the World Society, B.C. and an esteemed member of the Arts Council of Surrey. In the diverse landscape of B.C., home to 172 mother languages, Aminul Islam stands as a figure in upholding, celebrating and integrating these languages into mainstream society, contributing significantly to the rich tapestry of the province.
Aminul Islam’s groundbreaking initiative, the B.C. Model, is a revolutionary approach aimed at incorporating mother languages into school systems. Recognizing children as carriers of their mother tongue, he successfully implemented this model in the Surrey school district, providing approximately 70,000 students with the opportunity to embrace and share their cultural heritage through 172 different languages. The ripple effect of the B.C. Model has reached school districts beyond Surrey, aligning with UNESCO’s Education 2030 Framework.
As a tribute to the diversity of mother languages, Aminul Islam’s initiated Lingua Aqua, Canada’s first Mother Language Monument, located in Surrey and fully funded by the city. Unveiled in 2009, this monument stands as a permanent reminder of the importance of linguistic diversity, including braille and sign languages.
To raise awareness about various mother tongues, Aminul Islam initiated the Mother Language Festival, Canada’s largest celebration of its kind, annually commemorated since 2013. This cultural extravaganza, funded by a City of Surrey cultural grant, has become a testament to Aminul Islam’s dedication to preserving and promoting linguistic diversity.
Aminul Islam played a pivotal role in the recognition of International Mother Language Day in Canada. His efforts, spanning several years and collaborations with MPs and senators, culminated in the passing of Bill S-214 on March 30, 2023. This landmark bill officially received Royal Assent on April 24, 2023, making Canada the first country globally to recognize Feb. 21 as International Mother Language Day.
Lana Popham, Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport, and chair of the MGC selection committee said: “It’s an honour to recognize these unsung heroes in our communities. These people have gone out of their way to show kindness and help those in need, solely motivated by their desire to make life better for others. I extend my sincere appreciation to all of them for taking care of people and their communities.”
Parminider Virk’s tireless efforts, whether leading the Punjabi Cultural Community Association of Victoria in community outreach or advocating for inclusion and diversity, truly exemplify her as a genuine and impactful community leader.
“In her capacity as the coordinator for the Outreach Bridging program with Island Community Mental Health, Virk showcases unwavering commitment to providing long-term support for individuals on the path to recovery.”
Her dedication, however, transcends her professional endeavors and spills into her role as the leader of the Punjabi Cultural Community Association of Victoria – a non-profit organization committed to preserving Punjabi culture in Canada, fostering diversity, uniting people in Saanich, and aiding those in need.
Annually, Virk spearheads initiatives, such as preparing hundreds of free meals for organizations like the Victoria Rainbow Kitchen Society, Our Place Society, and school hot-lunch programs. Her organization also extends its support to charitable causes including the Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island, WIN-Women in Need Community Cooperative, Victoria Hospitals Foundation-Cancer Care, and the Esquimalt Syrian Refugee program.
As a dedicated community programmer for Saanich Parks and Recreation, Virk has left an indelible mark by orchestrating multi-faith family festivals and coordinating celebrations of cultural significance, such as Lohri, Vasaikhi, Diwali events, and the Punjabi Mela.
Virk’s commitment to preserving her cultural heritage is evident in her two-decade-long tenure as a teacher at the Sikh Temple, where she imparted knowledge to children on reading and writing Punjabi. Additionally, she co-hosts a multicultural radio show featuring a diverse range of Punjabi traditional and modern songs.
In her capacity as vice-president of the India Canada Cultural Association (ICCA), Virk has played a pivotal role in organizing cultural events that celebrate Indian heritage.
Collaborating with the Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria, Virk has been instrumental in initiatives such as the Inter-Faith Dialogue Project and the Inter-Faith Bridging project, fostering dialogue and understanding connections among diverse communities. A staff member of the Victoria Multifaith Society describes Virk as “a true ambassador for the Sikh belief in the equality of humanity and selfless service to others.”
Navjit Moore stands as a remarkable figure, recognized for her commitment to community service and compassionate leadership. Since 2015, Moore has been a dedicated volunteer with the Crohn’s and Colitis Canada Fraser Valley East (FVE) Chapter, assuming the role of president. Notably, she played a pivotal role in initiating and leading a new chapter in 2017, expanding its reach to offer vital support for patients, families and friends affected by Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). Her monthly support meetings cover a spectrum of essential topics such as medications, nutrition, mental health and fertility.
The 2023 MGC other recipients are:
Ruth Billmann, Cranbrook; Joyce Bueckert, 100 Mile House; Tim Cormode, Victoria; Brian DeBeck, Vancouver; Vishad Deeplaul, Coquitlam; Vivian Edwards, Ashcroft; Gail Elder, Winlaw; Craig Evans, Nanaimo; Spring Hawes, Kelowna; Brian Ironmonger, Elko; Talia Lorincz, Vancouver; Johannes Mulder, Hope; David Reid, Squamish; Jim Sawada, Nelson; Rhoda Taylor, Duncan; Andrew Tom, Smithers; Ricky Tsang, Vancouver; Parminder Virk, Saanich.
Medal presentation ceremonies will be hosted throughout the province in early 2024.