Sikhs have made a significant contribution to the Canadian way of life in numerous fields, i. e. agriculture, industry, art, music, health, education, urban development, media and communication, charity and politics. This journey was not a cake walk. The pioneers of the community had to labour hard physically and mentally in strenuous conditions to pave the way for their posterity. Their slogan, to beat the harsh situations was: Situations will hate you, rate you – Shake you, and break you – But how strong you stand – is what makes you.
By Zile Singh
British Columbia is a beautiful place. That is why conversely it is called, BBC – Beautiful British Columbia.
After a hectic and turbulent posting as Indian Consul General in Herat (Afghanistan) from August 2002 to July 2004, Government of India gave me a choice to choose a posting at either of the following stations: Canberra (Australia), New York (USA) and Vancouver. I chose the latter . I had never dreamed that this latter place would be my retirement destination after serving as Ambassador of India to North Korea, officially known as the Democratic Peoples' Republic of Korea (DPRK). Factually speaking, democracy has its own connotations depending on the place, time and the situation; and ultimately by whom and for whom.
While serving as the Political and Consular Officer in the Consulate here I had the opportunity to know the Canadian and Indo-Canadian communities from a close quarter. There were incidents when the Canadians exhibited a great appreciation of India and its cultural heritage and its 'Unity in Diversity '. On top of all – the largest democracy of the world. Most of them stayed, even overstayed, in India in different Ashrams to dig deeper into Indian religions and its philosophy. The interaction with the Indian diaspora was something refreshing and unimaginative. I realized that the famous quote by Lao Tzu: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step” has come true for Indians in this land of true democracy, multiculturalism and abundant opportunities. Some conspicuous achievements of the Indian community, particularly the Sikhs from Punjab on this thousand miles journey are:
Sikhs started settling in BC during the last decade of 19th century.
The right to vote was granted to Canadians of Asian origin in 1946.
Mr. Moe Sihota was the first Indo-Canadian to be elected as MLA in 1986.
Mr. Ujjal Dosanj was the 33rd Premier of BC from 2001-02. Also a Member of Parliament (2004-2011), including as Minister of Health from 2004 to 06.
Mr. Wally Oppal held the post of Attorney General of BC.
In 2015 Federal Elections 20 Indo-Canadians won as MPs. Four of them are in the Cabinet with Mr. Harjit S Sajjan as the Defence Minister.
So far four Indo-Canadian women have held the post of MP.
Mr. Amrik Virk was holding the Ministerial charge in the last Liberal government in BC.
Abbotsford Gurudwara, built in 1911 was given the status of National Historic Site during its centennial celebrations in 2011.
The Khalsa Diwan Society was established in 1908
City of Surrey is the largest Sikh settlement outside of Punjab with roughly 42 per cent of city's population. Participation in Vaisakhi Nagar Kirtan (Parade) goes up to 400 thousand every year..
Punjabi is the second largest immigrant language spoken in Canada.
Month of April has been designated as Punjabi Heritage Month by the Canadian government.
Sikhs have made a significant contribution to the Canadian way of life in numerous fields, i. e. agriculture, industry, art, music, health, education, urban development, media and communication, charity and politics. This journey was not a cake walk. The pioneers of the community had to labour hard physically and mentally in strenuous conditions to pave the way for their posterity. Their slogan, to beat the harsh situations was:
Situations will hate you, rate you.
Shake you, and break you.
But how strong you stand
is what makes you.
Elections, at set intervals are the festivals of democracy. Let us take it in a sportsman spirit and be ready to elect and be-elected. Canvassing for the BC Legislative Assembly elections to be held on May 9 is in full swing. Canada follows the Parliamentary form of Democracy with Federal and Provincial governments. Unlike India, but like several other Commonwealth countries, Canada constitutionally owes allegiance to Her Majesty the Queen of England through her representative as 'Governor General'. The two main political parties, the Liberal and the New Democrat are rattling with each other in political debates on TV and house-to-house visits by the party agents to elicit votes. The Green party is also trying to advance their numbers in the new Assembly, because it is the environmental issues which would be one of the main planks of good governance in future. The agenda is by and large the same as in any provincial elections – taxes, health, education, employment, housing and environment etc.
There are about a dozen nominated representatives from the Indo-Canadian community from both parties who have tightened up their lion's cloth to fight in the arena on the 9th. As far as the Indo-Canadian community is concerned, one important and eye catching scenario is whether the two turbaned Sikhs, one from the Liberal and the other from the NDP who are in the fray will make it to the Assembly. If they, it will be the first ever occasion. There is a conspicuous presence of Turbaned MPs at the Parliament Hill, but not in Victoria so far. During the TV debates by party leaders an interesting phenomenon of ' touch-me-not' has given the political scientists a food for thought. An elbow touching, though inadvertently, has happened at the Parliament Hill some time back.
Coming to the BC context, ultimately, it is the voters' responsibility to rise above the ethnicity and other extraneous reasons and elect suitable candidates.
Right to Vote is a fundamental right. It must be used under any circumstances whatsoever. Going to cast a vote may look small, but it is a great and noble duty. It will be appropriate to put the following quote as a catalytic agent for the voters:
“I long to accomplish a great and noble task; but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble.” – Helen Keller
Zile Singh is a former Ambassador(Retd.) of India and a Vipassana Meditator. He can be reached at email@example.com .