BRUCE Ralston, NDP MLA for Surrey-Whalley received the Dr. Ambedkar Social Justice Award 2014 on October 14 during a ceremony at the Simon Fraser University’s WAC Bennett Library (Burnaby Campus).
The award is presented to individuals and organizations modeling behaviours or establishing policies that are aligned with the vision of India’s Father of Constitution, Dr. B.R. (Bhimrao Ramji) Ambedkar, who succeeded at turning the lives around for a quarter of India’s population by the power of his pen, democracy, and peaceful revolution.
According to Surinder Ranga, President of Chetna Association of Canada, Ralston was selected for the award this year because of his noteworthy contributions and achievements towards inclusion and bringing justice. These include:
* In the 1980s Ralston acted on behalf of indigenous Guatemalan refugee claimants and Indo-Fijians fleeing successive military coups in Fiji
* In 1993, after the Remembrance Day ceremonies outside the Newton Legion, Ralston witnessed for orthodox Sikh veterans wearing their service medals being turned away simply because they were wearing turbans for the presentation. Ralston issued a sharp rebuke beginning with a story in the Vancouver Sun the following day. The story eventually became a national story leading to a high profile change of position by the national office of the Canadian Legion.
* From 1995 to 2006, Ralston was elected to four consecutive terms as a member of the VanCity Savings Credit Union board of directors. While he was chair of the board from 2001 to 2003, Ralston led an extensive VanCity media campaign to welcome and respect gays as equals. The Roman Catholic diocese reacted negatively but the campaign won huge positive support.
The date for the Award presentation coincides with the 10th year anniversary of the installation of the Dr. Ambedkar bust at the WAC Bennett Library.
Dr. Ambedkar’s vision of just societies is built on the ideals of equality, liberty, and fraternity- ideals that inspired the French Revolution and are also are found in Buddhism.
“These ideals are not limited to India or the Indian sub-continent, but are equally applicable across the globe”, said Jai Birdi, Executive Director of the association.
Dr. Ambedkar has been recognized in India as the “Greatest Indian after Mahatma Gandhi” through a poll conducted by Indian National broadcaster, NDTV.
The ceremony of October 14 was planned by Chetna Association of Canada in affiliation with the Simon Fraser University Library and Institute for the Humanities (SFU).
As a graduate of Columbia University, London School of Economics, and other prominent universities, Dr. Ambedkar is often described as a ‘Great Thinker’, visionary, philosopher, and a statesman.
Dr. Ambedkar received a scholarship to Columbia from the Maharajah of Baroda. He earned his MA in 1915 and then obtained a DSc at the London School of Economics before being awarded his Columbia PhD in 1927. In 1952, Columbia presented Dr. Ambedkar with an honorary doctorate for his service as “a great social reformer and a valiant upholder of human rights.”
The Columbia University describes Dr. Ambedkar: “A leader in the struggle for Indian independence, the architect of the new nation’s constitution, and the champion of civil rights for the 60 million members of the “untouchable” caste, to which he belonged. He spoke and wrote ceaselessly on behalf of “untouchables,” but his passion for justice was broad: in 1950 he resigned from his position as the country’s first minister of law when Nehru’s cabinet refused to pass the Women’s Rights Bill. Ambedkar was committed to maintaining his independence, and many of the positions he staked out in a long and complex relationship with Gandhi—on the future of Hinduism, for example—remain central to debate within Indian society.”
In addition to Simon Fraser University, Dr. Ambedkar’s legacy and vision for just societies is recognized in Canada by the City of Burnaby and the Surrey Libraries.