The Board of Dr. Hari Sharma Foundation pays tribute to one of its founding members, Charan Gill, who passed away on February 2, 2021. He was 84 years of age. Charan Gill joined the Foundation in 2009 at the request of late Dr. Hari Sharma. He has previously worked with Foundation’s members Dr. Hari Sharma, Harinder Mahil, Chin Banerjee, Raj Chouhan, and Zahid Makhdoom over the last many years in various campaigns and projects. Charan was one of the founders of the British Columbia Organization to Fight Racism (BCOFR) in 1980 and was its founding President.
The BCOFR played a significant role in combatting racism in the 1980’s when people of colour were routinely targeted by racists and neo-Nazis’ in British Columbia. Charan continued to be the BCOFR’s President as long as the organization was active in 1980’s and 1990’s. In 1979, Charan was one of the founders of the Farm Workers Organizing Committee which led to the founding of the Canadian Farmworkers’ Union (CFU) in 1980. The CFU organized a number of farms in early 1980’s which led to significant improvements in the wages and working conditions of British Columbia farmworkers. It was because of the efforts of CFU and its leaders that there were major changes in labour laws of British Columbia. Without the efforts and advocacy of the Canadian Farmworkers’ Union, BC’s Employment Standards and Workers Compensation legislation may still be in the dark ages. Prior to the changes in legislation in early 1980’s British Columbia’s laws did not acknowledge the hard work of immigrant labour that makes life in this province possible.
In 1987, Charan established the Progressive Intercultural Community Services Society (PICS) and served as its Chief Executive Officer from 1987 to 2017. As a result of his efforts, PICS became the first social services agency of its kind in British Columbia serving the South Asian community. It has developed many programs for the community, supporting youth-at-risk, combating elder abuse, and providing transition support for immigrant women and children facing violence. Charan leaves behind him a legacy of activism in the service of working people. He has inspired many people to engage in the struggle for a better world, without religious, ethnic or gender oppression, a world where all can live in communal harmony.
In 2018, Charan Gill was celebrated by the Hari Sharma Foundation as one of four elders of importance to the South Asian community, with a banquet held in South Surrey.