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Father and son win Queen's Diamond Jubilee medals

Gurdial and Kanwal Neel with their Queen
Gurdial and Kanwal Neel with their Queen's Diamond Jubilee medals.
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It’s like father, like son when it comes to Gurdial and Kanwal Neel.

Both renowned educators, the longtime Richmond residents have also been tireless community volunteers for which they were honoured this year with Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medals.

Gurdial was presented his medal by Delta-Richmond East MP Kerry-Lynne Findlay on Sept. 7 and Kanwal by Richmond MP Alice Wong last Sunday.

“We are both delighted and deeply humbled by this honour,” said Kanwal, who is also well-known in the sports world as an international track and field official.

A resident of Richmond for more than 40 years, Gurdial has always shown a keen desire to give freely on his time while helping to build cultural bridges. His volunteer service to the community is exemplary, from raising funds for the cancer society to assisting seniors and organizing first-aid efforts in Kenya.

Gurdial’s first passion was as an educator. He taught science for 35-plus years in the public school system on three continents, and as a volunteer also taught the Punjabi language to many youth. Since retiring as a teacher from Matthew McNair Secondary in 1985 he has donated a scholarship to the top science student at the school’s valedictory ceremony. In 1986 he became the founding principal of Khalsa School in Vancouver. He has always promoted a belief that education is a key element in breaking racial and cultural barriers and led seminars on the topic at various institutional levels.

A past vice-president and director of the Richmond Multicultural Concerns Society, he is currently a director of the South Arm Community Association.

Kanwal is past president of the B.C. Association of Mathematics Teachers and currently a project co-ordinator for Friends of Simon Tutoring Project in the Faculty of Education at Simon Fraser University. Well-respected and internationally acclaimed for his teaching in mathematics, he hosts the award-winning television series Math Shop. To date, a generation of young adults acknowledge they honed their math skills watching the show. He is also one of the authors of the Pearson Math Makes Sense textbook series for Grade 7 to 10 and has presented at many conferences locally and internationally.

Kanwal has also been instrumental in breaking many barriers, serving as a consultant and on-camera narrator for the DVD Building a Math Community and the TV series World Religions: Sikhism.

Both Gurdial and Kanwal have a special connection with Queen Elizabeth II. In February 1952, when the accession to the throne of Elizabeth II was announced in Kenya, Gurdial was a science teacher in Mombasa, Kenya. In 1957, while attending the Boy Scouts World Jubilee Jamboree in England as Kenya’s deputy contingent leader, he was presented to the Queen. As one of the technical officials at the XI Commonwealth Games in Edmonton in 1978, Kanwal was presented to the Queen and Prince Phillip.

The Diamond Jubilee Medal was created in honour of the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II’s accession to the Throne. The medal recognizes Canadians from all walks of life who have made significant contributions to Canada or whose achievements abroad have brought credit to Canada. Some 60,000 medals will be given to Canadians throughout the year

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