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Two Richmondites among British Columbians honoured for dedication to service

By Richmond Sentinel

Published 3:45 PST, Mon December 5, 2022

Last Updated: 12:46 PST, Thu December 29, 2022

Two Richmondites are among the 15 British Columbians who are receiving the Medal of Good Citizenship this year for their dedication and selfless service to their communities.

"It's an honour to award these individuals with the Medal of Good Citizenship," said Premier David Eby. "Each one of them embodies the traits of generosity, kindness, and sacrifice for the benefit of others. Their actions touch so many lives, creating better communities throughout B.C. I commend each one of them. They are an example to all."

The recipients, including Richmond’s Winston Sayson, K.C. and Rishika Selvakumar, will be presented with medals at in-person ceremonies throughout the province in 2023. Established in 2015, the medal acknowledges people's remarkable service to community life.

Winston Sayson, K.C.

Sayson is a Filipino-Chinese Canadian who personifies the Medal of Good Citizenship virtues as demonstrated through his three-decade long legal career, steadfast service to victims of crime, dedication to the rule of law, and volunteer work. 

As a teen, Sayson immigrated to B.C. from the Philippines. With a strong work ethic and street smarts, he became a successful lawyer and community leader. Sayson, now retired, was a criminal barrister whose trials were prosecuted to the highest standards. He recognized that victims of crime frequently come from diverse ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds with many intersectional vulnerabilities, understood how testifying could re-traumatize victims, and was always able to communicate effectively with witnesses and victims to give them the strength and resiliency to take the stand. Sayson was a pioneer in combining wellness practices with legal work and taught lawyers trauma-informed practices to minimize re-traumatization. He worked many hours above and beyond his normal workday to ensure victims were well supported. 

Sayson’s work dealt with violence that included cases of vehicular homicide, domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse. This took a toll on him, and he experienced PTSD, anxiety, and secondary trauma resulting from the nature of his work and the threats he received. Yet Sayson was always courageous; as he healed, he shared his experience to teach lawyers, criminology students, and victims about self-care and resilience. He advocates for bringing mental wellness to the forefront in the legal profession. While a full-time Crown Counsel, Sayson successfully studied to be a counsellor and mentor.

Sayson’s outlook is similar in his personal life, and he is a consummate helper for families and children at his church and in his community. His dedication and valuable service to his community has been recognized with other awards, including:

• Police Victim Services Criminal Justice System Leadership Award (2010) 

• Recognizing Excellence Award, BC Prosecution Service (2014)

• Vision Award, International Association of Forensic Nursing, for assisting the advancement of forensic nursing (2015)

• Leadership Award, BC Prosecution Service (2018) 

• Award of Excellence, Surrey Women’s Centre (2019)

• Lawyer of Distinction, BC Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers (2019) 

• Distinguished Alumni Award, Kwantlen Polytechnic University (2022)

Sayson has the honour of being named a Queen’s Counsel in 2011 for exceptional merit and contribution to the legal profession. At the time, he was the only Filipino-Canadian Crown Counsel in the province. He has had a great deal of influence on his community; one example includes taking another Filipino-Canadian under his wing to mentor. Sayson understood the biases in the legal culture, and his mentorship not only made the individual a better lawyer, but instilled a hope that all lawyers could be a strong voice for justice and make a positive difference in the lives of British Columbians.

Rishika Selvakumar

As a youth, Selvakumar gives others hope for a better world in the future. She is an active member of her community and commits to everything she does. She's also a changemaker, exemplifying the importance of taking initiative and leadership. 

At the young age of 20, Selvakumar has accomplished and supported the community in multiple ways. Seeing a lack of mental health and wellness resources, she founded the first mental health club at her high school, Little Flower Academy, when she was in Grade 10. After high school, she continued on in mental health advocacy by starting The Wellness Proposal. This virtual campaign was hosted by University of British Columbia (UBC) students and aimed to create a positive mental health environment through many projects, including youth-run events and mentorship programs that served nearly 40 undergraduate students. 

Beyond this, Selvakumar supports mental health de-stigmatization by increasing access and awareness of available mental health supports for youth, adults, and seniors as a youth network lead at Anxiety Canada, as a youth advisor and scholarship panelist for the Canadian Mental Health Association’s B.C. division, and as a co-facilitator and communications volunteer for the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Vancouver-Fraser division.

Selvakumar is a passionate advocate and a force for positive change. While pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree at UBC between 2019 and 2022, she volunteered with World Vision UBC and Right to Play UBC, worked to support undergraduate students as an advisor and teaching assistant, and highlighted the sustainable development goals as a campus director for the first UBC chapter of the United Nations’ Millennium Fellowship program. 

Within her community of Richmond, Selvakumar has supported fundraising initiatives and celebrated cultural events as a Bharatanatyam dancer for over 15 years. Previously, she has volunteered to support immigrant families with the Family Services of Greater Vancouver in Richmond. She has endeavoured to de-stigmatize poverty during COVID-19 by organizing educational panels and donation drives with Ignite the Warmth Society, and as an Olympic experience volunteer with the Richmond Olympic Oval to support youth volunteering and increase awareness of Olympic history for locals and tourists. 

Since COVID-19, Selvakumar has transitioned to volunteering for virtual projects with the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association to create educational resources that address accessibility concerns for those who are hard of hearing. She also supports tutoring and volunteer recruitment with the Mentoring the Stars Foundation. 

Selvakumar has acted as vice-president of the Acne Education Project to coordinate presentations around acne management and prevention to over 1,500 elementary school students in the Lower Mainland in 2022 alone. Within her career, Selvakumar continues to show her interest in the mental health field with her work to support program management for the Heartwood Centre for Women, a treatment facility for those struggling with substance use and mental health challenges.

For her efforts, Selvakumar has been awarded the Academic and Artistic Achievement Award from the Mihika Arts Foundation, U-ROC Outstanding Youth Teamwork Award from the City of Richmond, and the Shooting Star Award from Richmond Cares, Richmond Gives. Organizations she becomes involved with are driven by her enthusiasm to create change, and people who meet her are astounded by her positivity and kindness.

Selvakumar’s efforts to serve her community are moving and inspirational, and she refuses to stop even during COVID-19, instead connecting virtually to help those in need. When asked what motivates her, she simply says it is what she is passionate about. Selvakumar wants to make a difference in at least one person's life, and she has changed the lives of many people, creating a community wherever she goes.

"This year's recipients represent extraordinary people in our province who continuously go above and beyond to serve and meet the needs of others," said Lisa Beare, Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture, and Sport, and chair of the medal's selection committee. "It is a privilege to recognize and honour their valuable contributions with the Medal of Good Citizenship."

Nominations for Medal of Good Citizenship are accepted year round. Any current or former long-term resident of British Columbia is eligible for nomination for the medal. Youth aged 15 to 25 and posthumous nominees are welcomed.

In addition to the Medal of Good Citizenship, individuals may be nominated for the province's other honour, the Order of British Columbia, which recognizes people who have served with the greatest distinction and excelled in any field or endeavour, benefitting British Columbians and others throughout Canada and beyond.

For information on the Medal of Good Citizenship, including how to nominate generous and kind role models in your community, visit gov.bc.ca/medalofgoodcitizenship.

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