Trailblazers for Social Justice

Randhawa Family

Harbans Singh (Har) and Jasbir Randhawa left their birthplace in Punjab, India to begin a new life in Canada. They settled in the Yukon, raising three children while pursuing careers and contributing to many social justice causes.

The Yukon – Most Beautiful Place on Earth

Har was born in 1936, in a progressive farming family grounded in community-minded values and spiritual beliefs. He trained as a heavy duty and aircraft mechanic. He emigrated to Canada in 1968, certified as a mechanic and took further training. He worked in mining jobs across Canada, moving to Faro to manage the central planning department for Cyprus Anvil Mining Corporation.

Born in 1953, Jasbir’s parents valued education, starting a school in their village. They supported her to complete a Master’s degree in Punjabi linguistics. She worked in the Punjab Department of Agriculture. When Har visited India in 1981, she accepted his marriage proposal, arranged by their families. Jasbir shared Har’s enthusiasm for the beauty of the Yukon, saying: “It looks like God lives here.”

Working for Children

When the Faro mine closed in 1982, they moved to Whitehorse with daughter Grace and soon welcomed Jessica and Jasmina to their family. Har worked as a mechanic for the Yukon Government. Jasbir studied Early Childhood Education (ECE) at Yukon College, worked in child care centres, and started her own multicultural dayhome, including spaces for special needs children.

 As president of the Yukon Childcare Association, Jasbir was a tireless advocate for better child care standards, funding, training and equitable wages for workers.  She was an active board member of national and local groups advocating for childcare, human rights, women's equality and freedom from violence. She received the Prime Minister’s Award of Excellence in Early Childhood Education and the Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award.

Courage and Convictions

In 1987, with Jasbir’s support, Har filed a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission alleging the Yukon Government denied him three job promotions because of his race. Har believed their hiring practices needed changing. In 1994, the tribunal ruled in Har’s favour and the YG was ordered to compensate Har and award him the position he was entitled to had there not been racial discrimination. Har’s case finally concluded in 1997. Despite the emotional impact of the process, Har and Jasbir remained committed to ensuring fairness and justice was upheld for their family and future generations.

Har served as shop steward and on the executive of YGEU and the Yukon Federation of Labour. He advocated for improved workplace air quality and for government employees to be covered under the Workers Compensation Act.

Finding Support and Strength

Jasbir and Har believe their parents’ example of working for fairness and equality, their Sikh faith, strong family ties and community support gave them strength. Jasbir says:” …it is easy to fit in, it takes courage to stand out and to fight with dignity for justice and for your rights…”. They left the Yukon when their children moved south for university. Har retired and Jasbir continued to teach parenting courses and participate in community activities. They still consider the Yukon home.