Sikh-Canadians mark milestone in resettlement of Afghan Sikhs and Hindus during Sikh Heritage Month

THE Manmeet Singh Bhullar Foundation (MSBF) and the World Sikh Organization of Canada last Saturday marked Sikh Heritage Month at Surrey City Hall with the settlement of 200 Sikh and Hindu refugees in Kelowna, Surrey and Calgary.

“This is a milestone moment for us, by keeping Manmeet’s commitment to these families, knowing these families are finally feeling a sense of safety and freedom,” said Tarjinder Bhullar. “However, while we celebrate the opportunity these families have to settle, go to school and to contribute to our communities, we know that many more families require our support.”

The arriving families fled Afghanistan to India in 2015 and were sponsored through private applications spearheaded by the Manmeet Singh Bhullar Foundation with support from the World Sikh Organization of Canada, community groups and individuals carrying on the legacy of former Alberta MLA and cabinet minister Manmeet Singh Bhullar. The WSO has assisted with arranging sponsors as well as in the settlement of the refugees in Canada.

“This initiative began following an attack in July 2018 when the entire leadership of the Sikh and Hindu communities was killed in a suicide bombing and Daesh took responsibility for the attack,” says Balpreet Singh, WSO. “This was followed by yet another devastating Daesh suicide attack on Guru Har Sahib Gurdwara in Kabul, where 25 Sikhs were killed, including four-year-old Tania Kaur.”

Since then, the community has been the target of bomb attacks, kidnappings, and repeated storming of the remaining active gurdwara in Kabul.  Less than 200 Afghan Sikhs and Hindus remain in Afghanistan.

“When our family arrived in Canada, we knew we were finally safe and that my children could finally go to school, my wife could work and we no longer needed to fear for our lives because of our religion,” says Shamsher Singh. “We are truly grateful for the work being done by Manmeet Singh Bhullar Foundation and the WSO.

Manmeet Singh Bhullar was the youngest member to be elected to Alberta’s 27th legislature and the first turbaned Sikh cabinet minister in Canada. He championed this cause prior to his tragic passing in November 2015, arranging  for the evacuation of Sikhs and Hindus from Afghanistan’s Helmand province in early 2015 after they became the target of intolerance and attacks. Tragically, Bhullar passed away while attempting to help a stranded motorist during a trip to Edmonton, Alberta.

Sikhs and Hindu refugees who left Afghanistan after 2015, particularly those who fled after the suicide attack on Kabul’s Karte Parwan Gurdwara in March 2020 and those that fled after the Taliban seizure of Kabul in 2021, continue to wait for Canada to create a pathway for their sponsorship. Since 2015, the WSO has repeatedly called for the creation of an expedited pathway for approximately 1,000 Sikh and Hindu Afghan refugees to come to Canada.