SURREY – Senior Akali leader and Secretary General of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa concluded a historic and very successful visit to Vancouver and Toronto where he was welcomed by crowds at banquet halls and stadiums and select families who welcomed him to their houses.
Dhindsa’s visit to Canada comes on the heels of much hyped regarding of filing human rights cases by Canadian Sikh groups against SAD party president and Deputy Chief Minister of Punjab Sukhbir Badal, forcing him to cancel his scheduled official visit to Canada later this month.
But Dhindsa told a gathering at the residence of Surrey-realtor Jaspal Kahlon on Tuesday evening, the last day of his Vancouver stay before his departure to Toronto to conclude his week-long visit, that his visit was most fruitful and that he met with many supporters of his party as well as other members of the Punjabi community and received nothing but warmth and good wishes.
“This has been a very memorable visit and I’m humbled by the great love and support that has been shown to me and our party by everyone I met and I will take that message of support back to Punjab,” Dhindsa said.
Dhindsa’s busy Vancouver schedule included numerous big and small stops along with his personal assistant Jaswinder Singh, who made an earlier visit to Vancouver to arrange everything for his boss and meet the people who will be integral part of Dhindsa’s.
Locally, the man who accompanied Dhindsa everywhere was his friend Baldev Grewal, a Doon school graduate who is very well connected in India, both in Punjab and nationally.
Dhindsa’s significant local stops included a huge gathering at Paul Brar’s Bombay Banquet Hall last Saturday, where a house-full, standing room only crowd came to support Dhindsa and welcome him to Surrey. More stops followed the following day Sunday, including the free Punjabi mela in Cloverdale, where Dhindsa addressed over 5000 crowd. That was followed by a Kabaddi sports tournament in Abbotsford as well as a stop to address more than 200 young members of the Indo-Canadian Youth Club, also in Abbotsford. The young men showed great enthusiasm for Dhindsa and vowed to support his party fully in the upcoming national elections.
On Monday, it was a media day as Dhindsa visited many media outlets – Punjabi radio stations and newspapers including the VOICE & LINK offices to personally address questions. There was some talk in the Punjabi media that he didn’t make himself available to the Punjabi press club and some were upset with the senior Akali leader for cancelling his appearance on Monday afternoon at the last minute. But his handlers had done that because Dhindsa was very tired. Despite being tired from his hectic schedule, Dhindsa still wanted to attend the press conference but his advisors told him that due to his trip to Victoria the following day, he should rest up and Dhindsa later agreed that it was good advice. But he made himself available to all media at a number of events during his short visit.
On Tuesday, it was off to Victoria for Dhindsa and his entourage to meet Finance Minister Michael de Jong, whom the senior Akali leader described as a good friend. De Jong welcomed Dhindsa into his Quarterly Press Club meeting and introduced the visiting dignitary to the media and asked him to address members of the mainstream BC and national Canadian media. Dhindsa also took the time to visit the Victoria Sikh temple and meet with the local Punjabis.