April has officially been named Sikh Heritage Month in British Columbia.
Premier Christy Clark made the announcement on April 7 and declared that 15 South Asian sites–including Vancouver’s Punjabi Market–would be added to British Columbia’s Register of Historic Places.
“We celebrate our diversity in British Columbia because we know it’s our greatest strength. Now more than ever– we need to continue being an example for the world,” said Clark in a release.
“There are communities in every corner of our province that British Columbians of South Asian descent have left their mark on, enriching us all.”
Sikhs arrived in British Columbia over 100 years ago and early immigrants built a community around their faith. The Khalsa Diwan Society was established in 1906 and constructed the very first Gurdwara (Sikh temple) in 1908 at 1866 West 2 Avenue in Vancouver. The temple was also believed to be the first Gurdwara in all of North America.
“South Asian century-old history in B.C. is replete with province-wide personal travels, subsequent settlements and socio-cultural investments in community spaces,” said Satwinder Bains, professor of Indo-Canadian studies at the University of the Fraser Valley, in a statement.
“A recognition of our unique and rich history is a significant milestone in British Columbia’s historical trajectory of purposeful inclusion and acceptance of the impacts by diverse communities on our province.”
April also marks the celebration of Vaisakhi, an event which honours the creation of the Khalsa in Sikhism. Vancouver and Surrey both host Vaisakhi parades, which are the biggest in North America.
The announcement was welcomed by the Sikh Heritage Society of BC.
Parv Sangha, director of the society, says the declaration recognizes the important role of the Sikh community in British Columbia.
“The announcement made by Premier Clark and the BC Government will provide the Sikh community with a platform to educate, highlight and share the core values, traditions and rich culture of Sikhism with the rest of British Columbia,” he said in a statement.
Some of the biggest celebrations for Sikh Heritage month will take place at the Vancouver Vaisakhi parade on April 15 and the Surrey parade on April 22.