Whether fighting discrimination, lobbying for the rights of Indo-Canadians or speaking out for those who couldn’t, Jagat “Jack” Uppal strived to improve life for all in the city he loved.
The pioneering community leader never sought the spotlight but it often found him, most recently this month when Vancouver council named a street after Uppal, recognizing his commitment to social justice. It’s the first time in the city’s history that a street or any municipal asset has been named after a South Asian Canadian and it happened on the same day council was celebrating the city’s 130th birthday.
When it came to selecting the name of a street in a waterfront re-development area sprouting in the city’s River District, the late Uppal’s name was top of the list for the Civic Asset Naming Committee, says councillor Andrea Reimer. Every year, the public submits candidates for consideration by the committee, which picked Uppal because of his decades of contributions to the community.
Uppal’s roots run deep in the once industrial neighbourhood on the banks of the Fraser River, in the southeastern corner of the city. His family first settled there after arriving from Punjab in 1926 when he was an infant. It was home to many poor Indo-Canadians like the Uppals. While he was one of the first Sikh students accepted into Vancouver’s public school system, he and his older brother had to drop out to help support the family after their father’s death.
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