British Columbia

Creative Punjabi writing contest for B.C. youth launches in Surrey

A new creative writing contest for B.C. youth studying Punjabi launches in Surrey this week.

Province-wide Punjabi short story contest is considered to be the first of its kind in Canada

The Dhahan Youth Prize is a short story contest in Punjabi and English. Grade 11 and 12 students studying Punjabi across B.C. are able to submit their work to win a $500 prize. (

A new creative writing contest launching in Surrey, B.C. this week is considered the first of its kind for youth studying Punjabi in Canada. 

The Dhahan Youth Prize will award $500 prizes to eight B.C. Grade 11 and 12 students in a short story contest. 

"Each language carries its own knowledge, its own spirituality, and its own cultural and intellectual richness," said prize founder Barj S. Dhahan.

"I've seen how the loss of language can be devastating to a person, family,and community. I am committed to preserving our mother tongue and the wealth of history and stories embedded in Punjabi."

The submissions must be between 800 and 1000 words and be written in Punjabi and English. 

"For South Asian students, it's not only the language learning, it's basically connecting to your heritage," said Gurpreet Kaur Bains, a teacher and head of L.A. Matheson Secondary school's language department.

Gurpreet Kaur Bains is the department head of modern languages at LA Matheson Secondary school in Surrey. Bains says many of her students will be participating in the Dhahan Youth Prize contest. (Gurpreet Kaur Bains)

Bains hopes the prize will encourage students to explore their cultural identity.

"When we bring in Punjabi books from other countries like India, sometimes the cultural context is not the same. So, the kids will be reading the classroom and say 'how does this apply to me?'" 

"I live here and our social setting is a bit different so we don't have short stories available to us that speaks from the point of view of our youth," said Bains. "I think this is a great initiative to get the youth involved."

Punjabi is the third most spoken language in Canada behind English and French.