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Then and Now: A look at the experiences of Asian-Canadian members from British Columbia who serve in the Canadian Armed Forces

The Canadian Armed Forces serves all Canadians and the members in uniform reflect the diversity that exists in Canada. Learn about the experiences of four distinguished military representatives of the army, navy and air force based in British Columbia who have Asian-Canadian heritage. Join us to hear how Canada continues to build a military workforce that leverages the diversity of Canadian society, and will help enhance military operational effectiveness by drawing on all the strengths of Canada’s population.

Moderated by Ms. Avneet Sandhu.


Ms. Avneet Sandhu works as a communications officer for the Department of National Defence and is responsible for assisting on diversity and inclusion files. She supports the Advisory Council on Diversity to Commander of the Royal Canadian Navy Maritime Forces Pacific Formation (MARPAC) and Joint Task Force Pacific (JTFP), and the Advisory Group on Intersectionality to the Commander of Military Personnel Generation. 

Avneet also supports announcements and engagements for senior officers, and connects women-led organizations, university faculty and students with the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces. Avneet graduated from Simon Fraser University in 2019 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Studies and a minor in Education. She is the co-founder, vice-president and director of external relations for She Connects – a nationwide mentorship program for girls in high-school.


Major Anh Foort

Major Anh Foort escaped war-torn Vietnam as one of the boat people. In July 1979, her family was welcomed as refugees into Canada, a place she now calls home. 

Anh joined The Loyal Edmonton Regiment in the Canadian Army Reserve as a finance clerk after completing the Summer Youth Employment Program in 1987. She was accepted to Royal Roads Military College, but decided instead to pursue both a civilian and military career. She graduated from Simon Fraser University a year early and holds an Applied Sciences Degree with a major in Communications and a minor in Political Science. In 1989 she transferred to 12 Service Battalion as a Vehicle Technician. In 1999, Major Foort was commissioned in the rank of Second Lieutenant in the Logistics Branch. 

Over her extensive military career, Anh has served as a Non-Public Funds Accounts Officer, a Battalion Finance Officer, and as a Supply and Transport Platoon Commander. She has also held company commander positions within 39 Service Battalion

Major Foort completed the Army Operations Course in 2014, and was promoted to her current rank in 2015. She currently serving as 11 Company Commander, and Company Commander of the Territorial Battalion Group which responds to domestic operations in British Columbia. 

In her civilian career, Anh is a Manager of Injury Services with the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC). She joined ICBC in 1996, and has moved through the corporation rapidly from Claims Adjuster to her current position. 

Major Foort has volunteered with the Vancouver Police Victims Service Unit, Immigrant Service Society Host and Leadership Program, and the Vietnamese Canadian Seniors’ Society. She is currently an executive board member for the Chinese Canadian Military Society and the President of the Mess Committee of the Sherman Armoury Officers’ Mess. 

Anh and her husband Peter reside in Richmond, BC. Their daughter Ayden is studying Communications at Simon Fraser University. 

Lieutenant-Colonel Vincent Virk

Lieutenant Colonel Vincent Virk joined the Canadian Armed Forces (Army) Primary Reserves in 2001 as an Armoured Reconnaissance Officer. He has held various positions including Officer Commanding Reconnaissance Squadron,  Regimental Second in Command and Chief Instructor of 39 CBG Training Establishment. He is currently the Commanding Officer of the British Columbia Regiment (Duke of Connaught’s Own) which is an Armoured Cavalry Regiment in Vancouver, BC.

He has supported domestic operations on two occasions as the Domestic Response Company Commander with Operation LENTUS (2018) in the fight against the BC Wildfires and most recently with Operation LASER (2020) as part of CAF pandemic response plan. 

He attended the University of British Columbia and completed various military courses such as the Information Operations Course at the Peace Support Center and the Joint Command and Staff Programme (Advance Joint Warfare Stream) with the Canadian Armed Forces College. In 2013 he was awarded the Queens Diamond Jubilee medal for his efforts in recruitment diversity.

When not in uniform he is President of the Pallas Group of Companies, which focuses on vertically integrated hospitality-based businesses from conception, development, acquisition, and operations. As an avid industry advocate, he has formerly held the roles with the Intercontinental Hotel Group Owners Association as Chair of the Canada Region and Vice-Chair for the Americas Region. In 2021 he was inducted as a Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographic Society.

He lives with his wife and two daughters in North Vancouver, BC and is an avid skier, hiker, and reader.

Lieutenant-Commander Justin Wong

Lieutenant-Commander Justin Wong has Malaysian heritage, and he grew up in West Vancouver, B.C. Justin enrolled in the Canadian Armed Forces in the late 1990’s under the Regular Officer Training Plan (ROTP)  attending McGill University in Montreal, Q.C., and graduating with a Bachelor’s of Commerce. 

On completion of his initial Royal Canadian Navy training, he joined the Pacific Fleet in 2003. Justin first served onboard Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Algonquin as a bridge watch-keeper, and then specialized as the ships Anti-Submarine Warfare Director until 2007.  On completion of his director tour, he became a Clearance Diving Officer and went on to lead a dive team during Operation PODIUM at the Vancouver Olympics in 2010. 

In 2011, Justin was selected for a Canadian Armed Forces member posted Outside of Canada (OUTCAN) role, and he became the Officer in charge of Royal Navy’s Northern Diving Unit in Faslane, Scotland and Southern Unit 2 in Portsmouth, England. He earned the British Armed Forces Joint Service improvised explosive device (IED) qualification and conducted bomb disposal and IED operations under Operation TAPESTRY in Northern Ireland and Scotland. During this time, he also qualified as a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) Submarine Rescue Supervisor and conduced multiple NATO exercises around Europe.

In 2014, he returned back to Canada and was appointed the Executive Officer of Fleet Diving Unit (Atlantic), where he continued to support Arctic operations and dive training missions in the Caribbean.

 In 2016, Justin completed his Operations Room Officer (ORO) Course and served onboard two navy ships as the Weapons Officer.  Deployed on Operation RENAISSANCE, the humanitarian and relief mission to Turks and Caicos and Dominica Island in 2017, followed by a deployment on Operation REASURANCE as part of a NATO mission in the Baltic Sea, and a subsequent deployment on Operation SEA GUARDIAN as part of a further NATO mission off the Syrian coast in 2018.

Justin was later posted ashore to Naval Fleet School (Atlantic) before assuming duties as the Operations Division Commander, followed by Deputy Commandant.

In 2021, Lieutenant Commander Wong was appointed the Commanding Officer of Fleet Diving Unit (Pacific).

Major Lewis Williams

Major Lewis Williams was born in Mississauga, ON, and raised in Georgetown, ON, from a British father, and a Malaysian-born Chinese mother. He joined the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) in 2005, under the Regular Officer Training Plan while attending the University of Western Ontario Commercial Aviation Management Program where he received his Multi-IFR rating, key step in progressing to type ratings on larger airplanes, and commercial pilot licenses. 

After completion of his degree, he went on to earn his Pilot Wings in 2010 as a Helicopter Pilot, being first posted to 103 Search and Rescue (SAR) Squadron in Gander, NL, where he trained for two years to become a SAR Aircraft Commander on the CH149 Cormorant Helicopter flying over 1,000 hours on type there. 

In 2016, he was then fortunate enough to be posted to Comox, B.C., to 442 Transport and Rescue Squadron, where he went on to earn qualifications as a Maintenance Test Pilot, Training and Standards Pilot, Instructor Pilot and eventually become the Chief Check Pilot of the squadron. Now on his third posting, he was sent to be the Cormorant Pilot Representative on the Search and Rescue Standardization and Evaluation Team (SARSET) which oversees standards for the entire fleet of Cormorant Helicopters in Canada. He was promoted to his current rank of Major in January 2021, and currently has over 2,500 hours on the CH149. 

Lewis has approximately 17 years of service and hopes to retire one day in Comox. In his spare time he enjoys coaching and playing on the base volleyball team, or spending it with his girlfriend outside mountain biking, snowboarding or hiking.