Former Surrey Libraries chair Upkar Tatlay (left) and social worker Alex Sangha are pitching an international South Asian expo in Surrey. (Photo: Amy Reid)

International South Asian expo pitched for Surrey’s Bear Creek Park

Mayor Doug McCallum says the idea ‘shows a lot of promise’

It seems Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum is keen to explore the idea of an international South Asian expo being organized in this city.

After a presentation from those behind the idea during Monday night’s council meeting, McCallum said the proposal “shows a lot of promise.”

The pitch came from social worker Alex Sangha and former Surrey Libraries chair Upkar Tatlay, who ran with Surrey First in the 2018 civic election.

During their delegation to council, the pair referenced Expo 86 and described their vision for this expo as similar, just to a smaller scale.

They’re tentatively calling it the Sundar Expo and are hoping to see it come to fruition in 2022.

“It’s going to draw the entire world together, and showcase the diverse communities and culture of Surrey,” Tatlay told the Now-Leader outside city hall Monday night, after their pitch.

He said there’s a “huge fiscal and financial component for not only the City of Surrey but the region as well.”

“We’d like to remind people that Expo 86 also had the same impact on our region. They brought forward all these wonderful amenities including SkyTrain, what’s now the conference centre at Canada Place. So we’re hoping for the same thing for not only Bear Creak and Newton but the entire City of Surrey.”

The men highlighted in their presentation the fact that more than one third of Surrey’s population is South Asian, making it the perfect city for such an event. But, they noted that the South Asian community is just one in Surrey and the event would showcase the city’s many cultures.

Envisioned is an event complete with opening and closing ceremonies, 15 to 25 pavilions, a formal reception centre, shuttles from nearby transit hubs, and a media centre. They suggested Fusion Festival could even be merged with the 2022 event, to focus on South Asian culture for that year.

Sangha beamed as he said the event will “promote peace and harmony. “

“There’s so much hate in the world right now. Why not do something that brings people together? Cultures together, food together, dance together, music together, let’s all work together and live together and play together. It’s wonderful it’s happening in Surrey because Surrey is the city of the future.”

Sangha, during his presentation, highlighted a plethora of benefits for the city and its residents, including increased economic activity, increased tourism, positive global media coverage, the opportunity to provide a platform for local artists, the sharing of South Asian culture, and a “lasting legacy of new facilities and new markets for Canadian exports in South Asia.”

“The expo is good for business, it’s good for tourism and it’s good for Surrey,” he told council. “It will put Surrey on the map and provide an opportunity for locals and Canadians to learn about the people of Surrey, and where they come from, from all parts of the world.”

Outside city hall, Sangha spoke about his hope this project would bring “permanent legacy” projects to Bear Creek Park.

“Whether that’s a refurbished stadium at the park, an expanded art gallery, whatever the people want, really,” he said. “We have over 20 letters of support, we have thousands of people on our Facebook page that have joined and are supporting it. The CEO of Vancity has supported it, Simon Fraser University has supported it. As well as all levels of government.”

To proceed, the men are asking the City of Surrey for a letter of support, and to help draft a business case that could be used to garner approvals, and potentially funding, from higher levels of government.

The mayor said he intends to continue communicating with those behind the idea and have staff come back with a full report in “a number of weeks.”

Learn more about the proposal at sundarexpo.com.

The word “sundar” means beautiful in Sanskrit, the men say. Their proposed logo features art by award-winning graphic designer Vinay Giridhar and features a peacock that is “is essentially the Indian national bird.”

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