A former Williams Lake city councillor will receive one of the highest orders of Canada later this summer: the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers in recognition of his contributions to the community.
Surinderpal Rathor will accept the medal in Victoria on Sept. 6 at the Government House in Victoria from the Lieutenant Governor of B.C., Janet Austin.
“When the e-mail came I thought this was some kind of spam — this couldn’t be right,” Rathor said.
“So I phoned and they said it’s true: you’re a recipient, and I kind of couldn’t believe it. In my 44 years of Canadian life I don’t know anyone who has received this medal among my friends and relatives.”
The Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers recognizes exceptional volunteer achievements from across the country and abroad, celebrating a wide range of voluntary contributions. The medal is an official honour created by the Crown and is part of the Canadian Honours System.
Rathor said he doesn’t know who nominated him, but said he’s extremely honoured.
His list of volunteer work within the community, meanwhile, is extensive.
Rathor estimates he’s volunteered upwards of 100,000 hours of his time through various avenues.
Since 1975, he’s been preparing income tax returns for people on low incomes, seniors and people who can’t afford to have one prepared by a professional.
Also since 1975, Rathor has helped landed immigrants to Canada obtain their Canadian citizenship.
Along with the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers, the government has also recognized Rathor as a presiding officer for the citizenship ceremonies.
He’s been an interpreter with various government authorities, and has helped fundraise for groups including the Rick Hansen Foundation, the Rotary Club of Williams Lake, the morgue room at the Cariboo Memorial Hospital, Five Rivers Crematorium, the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, the Museum of the Cariboo Chilcotin and for the City of Williams Lake’s 75th and 85th birthday celebrations.
He’s also volunteered with the Williams Lake Sikh Temple Society as general secretary and as past president, hosted community programming on Shaw TV, helped found the Williams Lake Community Policing Committee, worked as an auxiliary RCMP constable and as a member of the local safety committee, Williams Lake Court Watch Committee, Cariboo Memorial Hospital Board, Central Cariboo-Chilcotin Health Foundation, Community Drug and Alcohol Prevention Steering Committee, the 2002 BC Winter Games board of directors, Employee Family Assistance Program, Cariboo Lodge board of directors, police-based victim services program, community advisory committee to the then University College of the Cariboo, Williams Lake city council, chair of the museum committee, assisting at the Salvation Army and the Williams Lake Stampede Association.
In past years he’s been presented with other national and provincial orders: Canada’s 125th Confederation Award (1992), Queen’s Golden Jubilee for Community Services Award (2002), provincial Community Achievement Award (2005) and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal (2013).
“Every time I think it’s time for me to step down I get recognition which confirms a stronger than ever commitment for the future,” Rathor said. “I’ve been involved with so much volunteer work in Williams Lake it’s hard for me to remember it all.”
Of the honour, Rathor said it’s a good feeling to know he’s making a positive difference in the community.
“It’s a great feeling to see recognition … you do volunteer work you believe in and to see a difference in the community,” he said.
“I’ve been in this community since 1974, and I’m not the guy who sits down and complains. I’m the person who got involved by doing.”
Rathor said a great deal of thanks goes out to wife, Sharon, who has been understanding of his time spent working in the community.
Asked whether he’s considering running for a position in the upcoming municipal election, Rathor said he still hasn’t quite made up his mind.
“There’s a lot of work needing to be done,” he said. “I don’t like to say no to people, and I like to do as much as I can.”