Toronto: In a first for the million-strong community, a top Indo-Canadian honcho has donned military fatigues by joining the Canadian armed forces as an honorary lieutenant colonel.Hari Panday, who launched ICICI Bank in Canada eight years ago and currently heads PanVest Capital Corporation, has already undergone tough training with Canadian armed forces as part of his new role.
A known Indo-Canadian face in corporate Canada, Kanpur-born Panday landed in Canada in 1975 with just $5 in his pocket.
“It is a unique honour from Canadian armed forces for me as a visible minority and for the Indo-Canadian community that I am the first person to be given the title of honorary lieutenant colonel. I have already undergone training with 25 Service Battalion which is a reserve force based in Toronto,” Panday said.
Asked what prompted a top corporate honcho to don the army uniform, he said: “When I saw Canadian soldiers deployed in Afghanistan coming back home in body bags, I felt the pain of Canadians lining up to welcome their heroes. I felt we visible minorities should stand shoulder to shoulder with our Canadian brothers and sisters to honour these brave men and women. I just wanted to do something for our military men and women.”
Panday said he got in touch with armed forces chief General Rick Hillier (now retired) who then decided what civilians like him could do for the country’s armed forces.
“First, I got involved in regimental support group and got to know the army’s work…that’s how my involvement with the military began. Basically, I wanted to be seen with these brave people and know their sacrifices.”
In this role, the corporate executive said he is undertaking many initiatives for rehabilitating retired and disabled Canadian soldiers.
“We are mounting an Indo-Canadian initiative to establish scholarships to help children of soldiers who died serving Canada. We are also creating a venture capital fund for returning and retired soldiers to help restart their life,” he said.
“Right now, I am helping three former soldiers find employment. Since we Indo-Canadians have not yet acted as sons and daughters of soil, I am undertaking these things for our soldiers,” said Panday.
He said he is headed next to harsh military exercises in freezing North Arctic regions of Canada. By Gurmukh Singh