Hearts are heavy in and at the City of Vernon.
Coun. Dalvir Nahal, 45, died at Vernon Jubilee Hospital Sunday, Sept. 5, after a decade-long battle with cancer.
“It is with profound sadness that we announce Councillor Nahal’s passing,” said Mayor Victor Cumming. “On behalf of the city, we extend our deepest condolences to her family, friends and loved ones. Our thoughts are with you during this difficult time.”
Nahal was in her second term as a councillor.
She was first elected in 2014, finishing fifth out 14 hopefuls for the six seats with 3,919 votes. Nahal was re-elected in 2018, finishing third in the voting with 3,891 votes, just 13 checkmarks ahead of longtime friend Kari Gares.
“It is with a heavy heart that I say goodbye to Dalvir – my teammate…my friend…my soul sister,” wrote Gares on her Facebook page. “She was brighter than any light in the night sky. Her smile lit up a room with such intensity that you knew she was there without speaking a word.
“I have so much to say but I’m at a loss for words. What can you say about this beautiful person that most don’t already know? Her smile was infectious. No matter the pain, sorrow or mental fatigue she ensures she always put a smile on. I absolutely loved that part about her. She was so strong – stronger than she knew herself to be. She got up every day and went to work no matter how difficult or challenging. And she did so with love in her heart. Love for her family, for her friends and for this community. She was the bravest woman I ever knew.”
Something Nahal didn’t know about Gares was how much she inspired the rookie councillor.
“I looked up to her and she would laugh at me saying how much she looked up to me,” said Gares through tears. “She was my mentor. She gave me purpose and she gave me confidence. She had a mission and I told her I would do everything I can to fulfill her mission.”
During her tenure, Nahal served on many city committees including the Affordable Housing Advisory Committee, Audit Committee, Biosolids Advisory Committee, Greater Vernon Advisory Committee, North Okanagan Regional District, Okanagan Basin Water Board, and the Tourism Advisory Committee.
She also served as a representative of city council with the Arts Council of North Okanagan, Columbia Shuswap North Okanagan Regional Hospital Board, Drought Response Team, Kelowna Airport Advisory Committee, North Okanagan Regional Library, O’Keefe Ranch and Historical Society, Regional Agricultural Advisory Committee, and the Vernon Winter Carnival.
Nahal founded the incredibly popular Bollywood Bang fundraiser back in 2013, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for local charities. Sharing Indian culture was the premise behind the event.
“This event also brought us all together, where we celebrated our community’s diversity and generosity,” said Vernon-Monashee MLA Harwinder Sandhu on her Facebook page. “This is such a big loss for our community.”
In March of this year, Nahal was named the month’s Community Champion by Respect Works Here, an initiative of the Social Planning Council of the North Okanagan, for intertwining cultures to break stereotypes.
She also volunteered on Vernon Jubilee Hospital’s Foundation board raising enough in three years to name two emergency and treatment rooms.
Nahal’s fundraising experience began through celebrating Lohri, an annual Sikh festival that involves going door-to-door collecting money for a cause.
All together, her initiatives raised nearly half-a-million dollars for local charities.
“When I got cancer (first diagnosed, she said, at age 35), I didn’t know what my purpose was, but I realized I had a higher purpose in this community,” said Nahal in March 2021. “If not for cancer I wouldn’t have started Bollywood, I probably wouldn’t have run for council, but I thought what do I have to lose, except to prove I’m as good as a boy.”
Sandhu said Nahal maintained a positive outlook about life and inspired many.
“Her legacy will live on,” she said.
No funeral arrangements have been announced.
Nahal’s passing marks the third consecutive term a Vernon councillor has died in office.
Bob Spiers passed away in June 2018 and Patrick Nicol passed in January 2014.