The World Sikh Organization of Canada and members of the Lower Mainland Sikh community took part this weekend in the Walk for Reconciliation in Vancouver, British Columbia. Organized by Reconciliation Canada, participants numbering tens of thousands came out to be part of the reconciliation process.
During the event, Navnit Singh, a survivor of the anti-Sikh genocide of November 1984, was ceremonially recognized by Reconciliation Canada. Singh attended in honour of survivors from all communities across Canada.
“We honour Navnit Singh”, said Reconciliation Canada Executive Director Karen Joseph, “for his resilience so that he and others like him know that they are not alone. We all have a shared history, and through this ceremony we symbolically lift up Navnit and everyone he represents.”
The event’s keynote speaker Dr. Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King, Jr. took the stage to deliver her address and said, “struggle is a never ending process. Freedom is never really won. You earn it and you win it in every generation. And that means that there must be persistent, consistent determination to see a new Canada where all people are respected and included in the culture, in the economic climate, in the forward moving process.”
The Walk for Reconciliation was the culminating event of Reconciliation Week which began Monday, September 16, 2013. From September 18th to the 21st, the Truth & Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s (TRC) held their national event where for four days they gathered testimony from survivors of Canada’s residential school system, which was set up to eliminate parental involvement in the intellectual, cultural, and spiritual development of Aboriginal children. During the approximately 150 years the schools were open, over 150,000 aboriginal children were taken, and many experienced physical, mental and sexual abuse.
The hearings were accompanied by a series of workshops and events to raise awareness about what happened in residential schools in Canada to aboriginal children. During Fostering Reconciliation through Education Day on September 19, many elementary and high schools including Khalsa School in Surrey participated in learning activities along with a youth forum and youth tribute.
On Saturday, September 21st, WSO President Prem Singh Vinning along with Rattan Singh Girn, President of Akali Singh Sikh Society of Vancouver, Surindar Singh Jabal, Public Relations Secretary for Canadian Ramgarhia Society, Gurmail Singh Brar, President of Gurdwara Kalgidhar Darbar Sahib Society Abbotsford, Rajinder Singh Dhaliwal, President of Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara Society, Harbhajan Singh Athwal, President of Khalsa Diwan Society New Westminster, and Gurmeet Singh Dhaliwal, Vice President of Sri Guru Singh Sabha Association shared an expression of reconciliation on behalf of the Sikh community.
“We are here today in the Sikh spirit of Sarbat Da Bhalla, a mandate in our faith to actively work towards the upliftment and benefit of all. Our faith requires us to come to the aid of our neighbours in their time of need”, said Vinning. “As Sikhs, we have not yet had the opportunity to engage in truth telling and reconciliation as a community with respect to the thousands lost in India in 1984 and after. In this we will be looking to our Métis, First Nations and Inuit brothers and sisters for inspiration as we work together to lay a foundation for a new way forward.”
The TRC was presented with a set of four videos prepared by the WSO about the reconciliation process as well as a framed copy of the statement.