Mable Elmore, Parliamentary Secretary for Anti-Racism Initiatives, has released the following statement to mark Sikh Heritage Month:
“April is Sikh Heritage Month, an opportunity to celebrate the significant contributions that Sikhs have made to British Columbia. April is a particularly important time in Sikhism as it marks the occasion of Vaisakhi, the beginning of spring harvest and the start of a new agricultural year.
“In the late 19th century, the first Sikh settlers arrived in British Columbia to work in lumber mills, the logging industry, on farms, and the railway with Chinese migrants.
Many early Sikh settlers arrived in Golden to work at the local lumber company. In 1905, Sikhs in Golden built North America’s first Gurdwara, which was destroyed by fire in 1926. Today, North America’s oldest, operational Gurdwara, built in 1911, is located in Abbotsford.
“Throughout the ensuing decades, Sikhs were denied the right to vote, subjected to hate and violence, and kept from their families through unjust immigration policies. Despite all of this, the Sikh community persisted – being strong advocates for equality, social justice and service to others in neighbourhoods across B.C.
“The term “sevā” means selfless service that is performed without any expectation of result or award for performing it and is a main tenet of the Sikh faith. During the snowstorm last December, a group of volunteers with the Gurdwara Sahib Sukh Sagar in New Westminster demonstrated sevā by opening their temple to motorists who were trapped overnight on the Queensborough Bridge. The volunteers provided food, hot tea and a place for people to warm up and sleep safely. This is just one example of how Sikhs have stepped up to help others.
“While this is a month to celebrate, we can’t pretend the hate and discrimination many early Sikh settlers experienced isn’t still very much alive today. Last month, a Sikh international student was brutally attacked in Kelowna in a suspected hate crime. Incidents like these are horrifying and unacceptable. We must come together in solidarity to support each other, embrace our differences and defend everyone’s right to live as themselves.
“Our government is working to make our province more inclusive and welcoming for everyone. Through the Anti-Racism Data Act, we’re working to identify the barriers Indigenous and racialized people face when accessing government programs and services. To improve equity throughout the public school system, we launched the K-12 Anti-Racism Action Plan, and through the Resilience BC Anti-Racism Network we’re supporting community-led efforts to address hate and support anti-racism initiatives.
“There is more work to do to dismantle systemic racism and we’re committed to leading this important work in honour of the many early settlers who didn’t have a chance to see the advances we have made to improve equity so far.
“This Sikh Heritage Month I encourage all British Columbians to learn more about the incredible and selfless contributions that Sikh Canadians have made – and continue to make – in shaping our province. By taking the time to celebrate and learn about the diverse communities in our province, we can make B.C. a more inclusive and welcoming place for everyone.”
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