OPINION: Why do we celebrate Sikh Heritage Month?


NDP MLA for Richmond-Queensborough


THIS April, we’re celebrating Sikh Heritage Month.

The story of Sikhism began oceans away from here, in Punjab, India. Its early chapters were written by the first ten Gurus: from Guru Nanak, whose teachings are fundamental, to Guru Gobind Singh, who declared Sikhism a distinct faith at the Vaisakhi harvest festival. At the heart of this story and of Sikhism itself is an essential belief in equality and respect for all.

If this fierce devotion to equality and respect is the heart of Sikhism, then the concept of sewa is the hand—it is the aspect of our spirituality that frames how we move through the world. Sewa is about lifting everyone around you and never leaving anyone behind. It is a defining principle of Sikhism, and I am proud to say that it is one that aligns with our government today.

The first Sikhs who reached Canadian shores worked in the lumber mills and the logging industry, as well as on farmlands and on the railway with Chinese migrants. Most of them came by themselves through Hong Kong, a journey that I happened to take myself in coming here.

Over the following years, 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 in what their spirituality taught them. They believed in equality, so they continued to fight for enfranchisement. They believed in sewa, so they valiantly gave their lives as soldiers in the First World War. They built gurdwaras, Sikh places of worship, all over the province.

Today, there are Sikh communities in every province in Canada. I sit now in the BC Legislative Assembly, along with 7 other Sikh colleagues in the government, and we are indebted to those that came before us.

The racism that my ancestors faced has not fully disappeared; it has only transformed. We celebrate Sikh Heritage Month not only to commemorate the resilience and achievements of the community but also to remember that there is much more to do. This month reminds us that we must remain vigilant in protecting all our civil rights, rights that for some are still under threat today. The story of Sikhism lives on in each Sikh across Canada, and we are banded together in this defense of equality and respect, in honour of sewa.

After all, Sikhism is like that—it pushes its people to not only take care of each other but to stand up, with love and courage, against injustice.