ORANGEVILLE: Unknown to many Canadians, those of Sikh faith and heritage have a rich history in Canada.
On Apr. 1, a small group of dignitaries gathered outside the Town of Mono building to raise a flag in recognition of that heritage.
“Sikhs have been a part of the fight for equality, helped build industries, and today provide the services we all depend on as Canadians,” explained Narinder Paul Singh, a Dufferin County resident and member of the Sikh Heritage Celebration Committee. “(There are) 120 years of struggle, hard work, and success.”
Canada was the first country to celebrate Sikh Heritage Month, marking it nationwide as of 2019, and recognized in Ontario beginning in 2013.
“The Sikh heritage is a very rich heritage,” said Sukminder Singh Hansra, member of the Sikh Heritage Celebration Committee.
Sikhs began to arrive in Canada at the end of the 19th century, and the majority arrived in the country from 1904 to 1908.
The month of April is an important month for Sikhs worldwide. During April, they celebrate Vaisakhi. For Sikhs, the significance of the celebration dates back to 1699, when Guru Gobind Singh created the order of the Khalsa.
“Sikhism really talks about equality,” said MP Kyle Seeback, during the flag-raising. “It was remarkable at the time when it was being written. There are so many other wonderful things about the Sikh religion, and we should all take the opportunity to learn more about the people.”
Hansra noted that as the Sikh community has slowly grown in Canada over the past hundred years, it was not common to educate people on who they were. With worldwide events occurring that highlighted Sikhism in a negative light, it made them more aware of the importance of sharing that.
Mayor Laura Ryan, who attended the flag-raising on behalf of the Town of Mono, was present during the first raising prior in Orangeville. Last year, the town was unable to host the event themselves due to the COVID-19 lockdown.
“I’m very happy that we are able to do it here this year,” said Ryan. “It’s important. Many of (the) new members of our community (are) of the Sikh religion and heritage. It is with great pride we put the flag up.”
Singh added the month is as much about understanding the ways and importance of the contribution of immigrants to Canada as it is about their own heritage.
“When we better understand the complete history of Canada, the equality, justice, and service, our diversity — and ultimately our country — will become stronger,” said Singh.
The flags will be raised in honour of Sikh Heritage Month at Shelburne Town Hall on April 7 at 10 a.m. and at Orangeville Town Hall on April 15 at 10 a.m.