Terrace’s Nirmal Parmar, 81, has left his mark on the community since arriving in 1969. Originally from northern India, Parmar spent a year-and-a-half in England before taking a job in Victoria B.C., teaching in a minimum security penitentiary.
He worked that for eight months before coming to the northwest at the age of 30 despite not having any friends or family in the area.
“When you are that young you don’t care where you go, that was a big good challenge,” he said. But Parmar definitely did not expect to stay in Terrace for as long as he has.
“But all the things that have happened job-wise and I consequently met people and got involved in the community and stuff like that.”
Parmar has been involved in the community in a big way over the years.
He has served as a board member or trustee for a multitude of local organizations, including the Kermode Friendship Society, Terrace Public Library, Northern Saving Credit Union, Terrace Co-operative Association, Terrace and Area Health Council, Scouts Canada and Vanderhoof and Districts Co-operative Association, now called the Four Rivers Co-op and a successor in this area to the Terrace Co-operative Association.
“If you look at the time commitment it’s not much, but the knowledge you gain, what information you gain, is so tremendous,” he said.
“As an ordinary folk, you never see what’s happening behind the scenes, because we see all the services provided to us. That’s fine, but who’s behind it? Who are the people who can give it a direction, give it a change, and make it better, more accessible, make it more inclusive, more available? That was fascinating to me.”
He volunteered with the Thornhill Fire Department early after arriving in the northwest and was part of the formation of the Terrace and District Multicultural Association (TDMA), which became a registered society in 1983.
As part of his role with the Terrace and District Multicultural Association, Parmar assisted with the annual Canadian citizenship awards ceremony, which is held from time to time in Terrace. He was the TDMA’s representative on the provincial board of the Affiliation of Multicultural Societies and Service Agencies of BC.
In 2000, Parmar helped organize a community group which would address the issue of institutional racism in the workplace and schools. This resulted in the creation of the Skeena Diversity Multiculturalism project which later because the Skeena Diversity Society.
Parmar’s advice for younger generations comes in the form of a story about mango trees. He said that traditional mango plants take many years to produce fruit.
“This old man was digging a place for a new mango plant, and another younger person came by and said ‘what you’re doing?’”
The old man said he was planting a mango tree, to which the young person asked if he thought he would ever be able to eat fruit from the tree.
The old man said “‘Look, all my life I ate mangoes that were planted by somebody else. I know I’m not going to live long enough to eat mangoes from this tree, but I’m planting it because the people who come after me will have mangoes to eat.’ Very simple advice, because everything you see around here was done by somebody,” Parmar said.
Parmar was awarded the Order of Terrace in 2016 and was one of 25 people in the province to receive a 2021 BC Achievement Foundation Community Award for his volunteerism and work in the community. He said that those awards are not just for him, but all those that volunteer to make Terrace a better place.
“It’s for each and every individual who volunteers in this community who has heart, who has a commitment to the community, who has care and compassion for their next door neighbour,” he said.
“I don’t bring ‘I’ into this. ‘We,’ we as residents of Terrace, we as the community of Terrace are doing it together.”
“There are more than 25 different groups, Search and Rescue, beautification society, hospice society, there’s so many,” he said.
“I’m not the only one who is making it as beautiful a community as it is.”