Tue. Dec 7th, 2021

A street in a new development in Winnipeg has been named after the first Native American-born Canadian elected to a provincial legislature.

Cheema Drive takes its name from Dr. Gulzar Cheema, elected to the Manitoba Legislative Assembly in 1988.

“It’s really remarkable that I’m here … in the city where it all started,” said Cheema, who now practices family medicine in British Columbia, at an event that unveiled the new street name in northwest Winnipeg on Saturday.

“We will never forget this place.”

Cheema said he hopes his legacy helps inspire people to get involved in their communities, as he did many years ago.

“I think people from the ethnic community, they reach the highest possible level because we made sure they know it can be done,” he said.

“It’s so important to get involved. Be heard, be honest, be determined.”

Cheema is standing with a group of supporters as the new street is unveiled. (Darin Morash / CBC)

Coun. Devi Sharma (old Kildonan) said that the diversity among the people named Cheema was a testament to how far-reaching his influence was – including on herself.

Sharma said she remembers seeing the Cheema campaign in her neighborhood when she went to high school.

“I think that was the moment he became a role model for me. I learned not only to campaign, of course, but more importantly, that it was possible to be involved in public life and to run for public office. office, “she said.

“Dr. Cheema is a pioneer. He lit a path for others like myself.”

Sharma said the street name is permanent, “meaning as long as Winnipeg stands, the name must be Cheema Drive.”

Denis Rocan, a former member and spokesman for the Manitoba Legislative Assembly, said he remembers working with Cheema.

As one of the only French-speaking MPs at the time, Rocan said he and Cheema — the only Punjabi-speaker — formed a bond.

Denis Rocan, a former member and spokesman for the Manitoba Legislative Assembly, said he remembers working with Cheema. (Darin Morash / CBC)

“We had a kinship, if you will. We were not outsiders, never think about it, but we had a bond,” he said.

“It’s a very moving experience to discover that a man of his caliber, Dr. Cheema, [is being] remembered in this way. “

Cheema was first selected to the office as an MLA in Winnipeg’s Maples riding.

He later moved to BC, where he was re-elected as MLA and served as Prime Minister of Mental Health and Minister of State for Immigration and Multicultural Services.

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