In the latest in a series of honours, Vancouver-based publisher Harbinder Singh Sewak has been nominated for an international Sikh Award.
As the publisher of the Asian Pacific Post, South Asian Post and Filipino Post weekly newspapers, Sewak has already twice been on the receiving end of British Columbia highest journalism honour – the Jack Webster Award for Best Community Reporting.
This nomination, however, is from the UK based Sikh Awards which annually recognises the achievements of Sikhs across the globe in their respective fields.
Past winners have included steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal, Indian cricketer Harbhajan Singh, singer Jazzy B, and centenarian marathoner Fauja Singh.
For over two-decades, Sewak has burned the candle at both ends in order to establish the foundation for his weekly papers. As an independent publisher, Sewak’s keen sense for the news has often led him to being first on the spot a la Matt Drudge and Gawker.com.
His publications have a reputation for breaking Canadian news stories and are regularly attributed by local and international news media alike.
“Every journalist I have worked with has always been given the creative license and more crucially the financial support to investigate their leads,” Sewak said. “By putting the quality of our journalism first, ahead of everything else, we have been able to compete as independent weeklies in a media market congested by much larger outlets.”
“It hasn’t always been financially rewarding but it has engendered the loyalty of our readers,” he stated.
Sewak’s dedication to the craft of journalism has translated into a real-life impact for some of the subjects featured. In 2008, Sewak actively intervened on behalf of Sukhwinder ‘Mithu’ Singh– the surviving husband of murdered Canadian girl Jassi Sidhu. Mithu had been falsely imprisoned at the behest of Jassi’s powerful uncles in India.
The resulting story, “An Innocent Man” would yield yet another Jack Webster Award for Sewak but more importantly it would free Mithu from the bottomless misery of the Indian penal system.
His vanguard pursuit of the Jassi Sidhu story also sparked the media push against the Maple Ridge RCMP to charge Jassi’s uncle and mother for the crime – 12 years after their daughter’s murder.
When not covering news from behind the scenes, Sewak has taken the lead in the forefront to create new community relationships.
This is best exemplified when in November 2011 BC’s largest Sikh temple commemorated Remembrance Day and hosted the Canadian military for the first-time on its grounds. Sewak mediated this new relationship and organised the ceremony in which Canada’s fallen soldiers and current Armed Forces were honoured in a Sikh prayer ceremony.
He then organised the participation of the Armed Forces in the annual Surrey Khalsa Day parade in April. Canadian soldiers marched in the procession alongside the 200,000+ participants attending the largest Nagar Kirtin held outside of India.
The crowning moment in this new Armed Forces and Sikh community relationship came when Sewak achieved the formation of the first ever cadet corps sponsored by a Sikh community in Canadian history. In June 2013, the 3300 British Columbia Regiment of the Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps held its inaugural annual review – proud parents watched their children perform drills in full military and turban uniforms.
As awards were handed out for Best Dressed and Most Outstanding Cadet, Sewak was asked for his thoughts on the evening.
“To see the kids and parents glowing with pride confirmed all our hard work,” he stated, encapsulating his belief in the Sikh philosophy of Sarbhat di Bhalla - our service must always be in benefit of all humanity.
The Sikh Awards will take place Nov. 9 at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London. More than 800 guests are expected to attend with millions watching the broadcast around the globe.