Jinny Sims: Working Towards a Fair and Just Society
BY GARY THANDI
Every March 8th, we celebrate International Women’s Day. In recognition of the importance of the date, DRISHTI Magazine has decided to profile community leader and social justice activist Jinny Sims.
Sims, who lives in Surrey, has demonstrated a strong commitment to equity issues within both organized labor and political movements for decades.
Jinny Sims is the oldest of four children. She was born in India and immigrated to England at the age of nine. “That was a very hard transition for me,” she recalls. “It was a significant shift. I didn’t speak English.”
What worked in Sims’s favor was her love of learning. “That, and I had great teachers,” she adds. “I had a history teacher who made history come alive. She encouraged me to read more; she pushed me.”
After high school, Jinny earned a Bachelor of Education at the University of Manchester. “I don’t think I ever consciously decided I wanted to be a teacher, my life just took me in that direction,” she notes. Upon completion of her degree and facing bleak job prospects as a result of a cut to social services and public education, Sims and her husband — also a teacher — made a life-changing decision to move to Canada. From 1975-1977, they taught in Quebec before moving to Nanaimo, BC, where they settled and raised their family. Before entering public life, Sims was a high school teacher in Nanaimo until the late 1990s. In addition to teaching History and English, Sims served as a guidance counselor.
Quite by accident, she landed at the bargaining table for the first time, fighting for maternity leave on behalf of her colleagues. “It wasn’t planned,” she says. “A coworker was supposed to attend, but at the last minute she couldn’t and asked me to go.”
When she learned that her male colleagues were entitled to five days of paternity leave, but women were not afforded any paid leave at all, Sims was fired up. “I was the only woman there,” she says, “So I gave an impassioned speech about the absurdity of men having paid leave while women had none.” After a short break, the bargaining unit members returned to the table, “And we had paid maternity leave,” she finishes, smiling.
Jinny was elected president of the BC Teachers’ Federation in 2004. She is proud of the work the BCTF has done over the years: “If you look at any social justice issues that have come to the public’s attention in the last decades, the BCTF has led the way forward, justly and equitably.”
She vows she will spend the rest of her life fighting for marginalized groups: “We cannot take our achievements for granted because that puts us at risk of losing the gains we have made. We must stand up for the rights of the most vulnerable.”
Sims’s particular concern for children and youth is evident. “We need to invest in our children. They are our future. By investing in them, we can significantly reduce instances of addiction, mental health, and gang involvement.” Then, she lights up as she talks about the close relationship she shares with her three grandchildren.
Sims served as Member of Parliament for Newton-North Delta from 2011-2015. Currently, she is the NDP candidate for Surrey-Panorama in the upcoming provincial election.“My life has been blessed — I’ve had so many opportunities,” she says. “And I firmly believe that I have an obligation to give back.”
Sims says that education, healthcare, employment, transportation and traffic gridlock, and the lack of supports for seniors are key issues in the riding. “I see these issues as a political candidate, but more compellingly, I see them as a resident,” she says. “I live here, too.”Whatever your political views, DRISHTI reminds its readers to get out and vote in the provincial election and have your voice be heard!
“We need to invest in our children. They are our future. By investing in them, we can significantly reduce instances of addiction, mental health, and gang involvement.”