My name is Padminee Chundunsing (born Dabeesing) in Mauritius, in a very poor neighbourhood of the capital Port Louis. I am one of seven siblings born to middle class parents at a time when unemployment and social unrest were part of the existing society that was considered normal at that time. Although born in a third world country I attended primary and secondary education at a public school and excelled in both English and French as those subjects were mandatory, winning my first scholarship after the Elementary cycle.
I also showed excellent leadership skills during those early years following in the footsteps of my dad who was heavily involved in the political landscape of Mauritius. I took pride in riding the bus to school or even walk to college when times were dire. At a young age, I understood that I couldn’t change the stigma that young women were inferior. However, I was determined in my belief that I would make a difference in my own life and those around me. I grew up in a multi-racial/faiths society and witnessed how everyone can live together in peace and no matter what colour or creed.
During my formative years in college, I also excelled in sports and participated in various school activities such as student council and became a member of the debate team where all colleges participated. My mother took an active interest in our studies but it was evident that I was going to be different and during that process encountered many difficulties and setbacks. However I persisted in my endeavours and after graduating, I began my career at Ferney Spinning Mills, a textile factory where the majority of workers were women
I have a daughter and a son and have lived in BC since landing in Canada as a Permanent Resident on March 26, 2004. Proud of my francophone heritage, I chose to settle in BC where the linguistic minority is considerable and plays an active part in society. I sent my younger son to Ecole Gabriel Roy in Surrey, a French school. It was too late for my eldest child to be enrolled there and therefore she attended an English school. I feel very comfortable in BC as a bilingual immigrant and very proud to represent myself as such across the country. I applied for citizenship as soon as I was eligible and became a Canadian citizen on July 9th, 2009.
Moving to Canada was a very tough decision as life back home was always based on family values and leaving family behind was the toughest decision I had to make. I also had to decide to give my own children a different lifestyle that Canada has as opposed to what I was used to and today looking back I Know that I made the right decision. The beginning of a new life in Canada as a young woman with no social and financial support ultimately proved that I am and will remain a fighter – the opportunities here in Canada made my fight simpler although not easy. I had no complex in the choice of work. I started janitorial duties including mopping floors and cleaning toilets as I was of the firm belief that I make my own destiny and not depend on government assistance. Thus began my career in Canada.
In my early years in Canada, as I went through the inevitable period of adaptation and positively dealt with challenges that most immigrants face, I developed a keen interest in helping newcomers to Canada, specifically to BC. I initially helped fellow Mauritians; I encouraged friends, acquaintances and family to choose BC to settle in and later approached immigrant/newcomer stakeholders to help new immigrants from other countries, particularly Africa and especially Francophones. I picked them at the airport, interacted with them before they even left their originating countries in order to better prepare their initial settlement and to equip them with all the useful tools to successfully establish themselves in Canada.
My interest in volunteering is motivated by my admiration for public life and the sense of duty that I carry towards Canada and Canadians for welcoming me and my family and for giving me the incredible opportunity to serve my community and grow as all Canadians should. I have a particular soft spot for the Francophonie because I am bilingual – a language heritage from my country of birth, Mauritius which was itself a French and later a British colony. I am a bilingual francophone woman from an ethnic minority (I am of Hindu faith).
Today I am the President of the Federation des Francophones de la Colombie Britanique, a position that I have held since June 2015 after being a board member for eight years. I also became the President and Founder of the Canadian Mauritian Association of B.C in 2017. In November 2017, I was elected as the Representative of the Spokesperson Organizations at the Fédération des Communautés Francophones et Acadienne du Canada.
I have served in different capacities at different organizations such as Le Centre Culturelle Francophone de Vancouver, Reseaux Femmes Colombie Britannique and founded the Societe InForm’elles (a telephone line service for women in distress). I have volunteered for the CIBC Run for Cancer, the Vaisakhi festival and the World Partnership Walk in 2017, an initiative led by the AGA Khan Foundation. I have actively been involved in the United Way Campaign through my work at the Canadian Tourism Commission, the British Columbia Lottery Corporation as well as with my current employer, the British Colombia Automobile Association. Just recently I joined the VIBC (Vancouver International Bangra Celebration Society) as a Board Director. I am also a member of the Women Executive Network. My lengthy years of services is documented and recognized by the community.
In my current role as President of the FFCB, I deliver speeches at various functions in both French and English. I take time off work (my vacation times) to travel to events, functions and meetings across BC and Canada. I meet with many political figures and do countless non-partisan meetings to promote the bilingual necessities Canadians need to embrace since Canada is a country where both English and French matter equally. I have been fortunate to interact with community workers of various organizations and met thousands of immigrants, both English and French speaking.
I have a very intimate knowledge of various regions of BC and I am very conversant with regional needs and local aspirations of those regions. In the course of the many years as a volunteer and community worker, I have met and developed excellent relationships with people in public life from every level and differing regions. I have remained apolitical with a focus on my work for the betterment of those I am called upon to serve and help grow and prosper across BC.
I am of the humble opinion that I bring forth a considerable amount of diversity and can positively contribute to any opportunity where I see the very basis of our cherished values of democracy and diversity function and grow every day. I am prepared, ready, willing and able to play a meaningful role and bring my contribution to the community.
The future remains to be seen but my desire to serve in a country that I have adopted as my own is my primary goal in life. My potential to achieve greatness and make a difference remains a dream that I yearn to fulfill.