Sikh Heritage Month Act

An Act to designate the month of April as Sikh Heritage Month

Sponsor

Sukh Dhaliwal  Liberal

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

First reading (Senate), as of Nov. 7, 2018

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-376.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment designates the month of April in each and every year as ″Sikh Heritage Month″.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

Nov. 7, 2018 Passed 3rd reading and adoption of Bill C-376, An Act to designate the month of April as Sikh Heritage Month

Sikh Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

November 1st, 2018 / 5:55 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Madam Speaker,

[Member spoke in Punjabi]

[English]

I proudly rise today to speak to the bill from our hon. colleague for Surrey—Newton, Bill C-376, in recognition of Sikh heritage month. I thought I had missed this today. I was pleasantly surprised when I was asked if I would take the opportunity to speak to this.

In my riding of Cariboo—Prince George, we have six Sikh temples or gurdwaras. I spend as much as time as I can at those temples, sadly not enough because most Sundays I am travelling back to Ottawa. I wanted to rise and speak to the importance of this bill, as well as recognize the contributions of our Sikh community within our country.

Every spring, from the time my kids were very young, we have participated in an event, which is called the Vaisakhi, ringing in the Sikh new year. It really is a celebration of the spring harvest festival. I have marched in it. It is a great event that brings our community together.

Since being elected, I have had the opportunity to speak at these events. I am so proud of our community when we come together as one and we recognize and celebrate each other. I say that we come together as one, because the fundamental beliefs of Sikhism, in the sacred scripture of the Guru Granth Sahib, is the belief in one creator, divine unity and equality of all mankind. Sikhs believe in selfless service, justice, benefit and prosperity of all. Sikhism is based on the spiritual teachings of Guru Nanak, the first guru, and the nine gurus that succeeded him.

Members may be interested to know that God in Sikhism has no gender. They do not discriminate between genders.

The first Sikh who was recorded to have landed in Canada was Major Kesur Singh. He and a group of Sikh officers from the British army arrived on the shores of Vancouver, around about 1897, to celebrate Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. It was shortly after that that we started to see more Sikh immigration to Canada, largely within British Columbia. They worked in our mills. They worked laying the tracks of our railroads.

In 2002, I was proud to introduce a new air service into my community of Prince George, and it was direct air service into Abbotsford. At that time, when I was in Abbotsford, I had the opportunity to visit one of the very first Sikh temples in Canada. The very first one was in the Kitsilano area in downtown Vancouver. The Gur Sikh Temple in Abbotsford has been designated a historic site. It is one of only three, I believe, historic sites in the world for Sikh temples, the other ones being in Pakistan and in the Punjab. Our hon. colleague from Surrey—Newton will correct me, if I am wrong.

I grew up in Williams Lake. The first time I attended a Sikh temple was with one of my very best friends. We were celebrating a wedding. Sikh weddings go on for what seems like weeks. It is a week of festivities, and it truly is a celebration with all families. As I was preparing for this speech I was trying to remember how old I was when we attended that wedding, but I had to have been under 10 years old. It really was a unique experience.

When I went to Abbotsford back in 2002 to introduce this new service, I was speaking to some of the community elders. They were so proud to show us the heritage site. I was not aware of this, but the langars and gurdwaras will never turn anybody away. The langars are there to feed whoever would like to attend and receive free food. They will not turn anybody away, regardless of their religious beliefs and denominations.

I have visited India a number of times, most recently back in 2017 with my wife. Actually, those were our summer holidays. One would not expect that to be a hot spot most people would circle on their map, but it was on ours. We visited members of our community's families who were there, people I have known since I was probably eight, nine or 10 years old. We went to Chandigarh and Amritsar, and we were in Ludhiana, Pandharpur and Jalandhar. We went to the Golden Temple. It is true that attending the Golden Temple gives one a very particular feeling. I cannot explain it, but it is there.

Aside from visiting the homes, communities and small villages of our family friends and experiencing the generosity of the people and stunning beauty of the countryside, one of the other memorable moments was visiting the Rock Garden of Chandigarh. It was started by a government employee by the name of Nek Chand, who over the course of years would secretly take household and industrial waste and turn it into art. It has grown into about a 40-acre park, and it is absolutely beautiful.

We also visited a gurdwara in Fatehgarh Sahib. Right after being elected, I went and watched an animated movie about the two sons of Guru Gobind Singh. The movie talked about their strength against men who wanted to do them harm. Fatehgarh Sahib is named after the seven-year-old son of Guru Gobind Singh, and his brother, who were buried alive a long time ago.

I wish I could have spoken longer on this. Some of my closest friends, who I call family, are Sikhs. I am so proud to stand and walk with them. I am proud to call them my friends. They silently make contributions in our community. They donate to our communities. They make sure those who are hungry get the food they need. As I said earlier, the langars are opened 24 hours a day. When people need them, they are there.

I am proud to stand and support our hon. colleague's bill, Bill C-376. Sikhs in our country have contributed to many areas within our economy and politics. Indeed, there is a lesson to be learned from their stick-to-it-iveness. It has not always been easy for Sikhs in Canada, but they love this country. My friends love this country and are very proud to call Canada home.

I urge all our colleagues to take any chance they get to visit a gurdwara in their community and attend the langar.

With that, I will cede the floor. I thank my hon. colleague from Surrey—Newton for bringing this important bill forward.

Sikh Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

November 1st, 2018 / 6:05 p.m.
See context

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to support Bill C-376, an act to designate the month of April as Sikh heritage month.

I know that in previous Parliaments we have had motions on a number of different things concerning Sikh culture. I would say that one of the most important heritage moments for social justice was when the Komagata Maru incident was recognized. The incident was raised by Jasbir Sandhu and Jinny Simms in previous Parliaments. During the former Harper government, an official apology was given here in the House of Commons. It was an important part of Canadian heritage to recognize that injustice. We carry on that work.

In Windsor-Essex County which I represent, we have the fourth-largest diverse community in terms of city population. For over 100 years a number of different groups and organizations have made the social fabric of our area very special, especially given the fact that we are on the front line to the United States. Diversity and multiculturalism, especially the way we express it as Canadians, is quite unique. We see it in our streets, businesses and services. The Sikh culture in Windsor-Essex County is a very important part of that.

This proposed Sikh heritage month act also builds on the efforts that have been done in the past in Ontario. Ontario passed Bill 52, an Act to proclaim the month of April as Sikh heritage month. It received royal assent on December 12, 2013. It was a private member's bill by the former NDP MPP for the provincial riding of Bramalea—Gore—Malton, Jagmeet Singh, our current leader of the NDP. That bill was the first in Canada and also the world, which recognized the contributions of Sikhs to the community. It is nice that in Canada we are going to have a sister bill for that legislation. It shows the importance we place on educating others and recognizing the contributions made by those of Sikh heritage in Canada.

It is important to note that it takes a lot of, I guess, courage and moxie to come to a new country, to build a new life and contribute. One wants to be able to have the type of supports not only to maintain and showcase and provide links back to the home of origin but also to have those things here. That extension is very important.

As New Democrats, we believe in family reunification, for example, in immigration and visitation. It is a big issue and one that has occupied my office to make sure that people who have come to Canada also get a chance to have continued relationships with people they left behind. That includes my own family and my wife's family, as well as the families of other members. The Sikh culture and community in my riding deserve that same respect, especially due to the fact that their contributions are significant.

Harjinder Singh Kandola is the president of the Sikh Cultural Society of Windsor. We have a temple, the Gurdwara Khalsa Parkash in Windsor, as well. It is not just a place of worship. It is also a place of contribution. Most recently, I was extremely impressed by the Sikh youth in our community who donated over 1,000 items of clothing to help those in need as well as 600 items for a food bank which was very important.

What is not often known is that the population of my riding of Windsor West varies from the very affluent to the poor. It was recognized in Campaign 2020's report as being one of the places with high poverty and child poverty.

The Sikh contribution to the community and the Sikhs' philosophy when we think of Vaisakhi really emphasize traits of selflessness, love and compassion. It is connected to the actions we saw with the clothing and food donations. It is a recognition of how well this fits within the Windsor-Essex County framework for giving.

I would add that when we have discussions about Sikh heritage month, we need to understand the professionalism and contributions that Sikh members of the community have made. I know for a fact that we have seen this in the auto sector.

I cannot tell members how many times I have been impressed, whether it was with the assembly component, the engineering component or other services that are part of our successful auto sector. We have seen immigration and this contribution be very successful. We have also seen it with regard to education, health care services, and other types of contributions to our economy.

It is very important that these heritage months be part of our national framework. There have been several passed here to recognize diversity in Canada. They also provide opportunities for public education and involvement.

Prior to my work as a member of Parliament, I worked as an employment specialist on behalf of persons with disabilities and new Canadians. Part of that work included work at the Multicultural Council of Windsor and Essex County. We had a number of newcomers to Canada from various types of backgrounds, including the Sikh community, and we had some Canadians, and we mixed them together in a program that had a 90% success rate for either returning to school or finding employment. What we found was that there were a number of prejudiced or unintended assumptions people had. In fact, we have a society where we are still dealing with racism and bigotry. There is no doubt about that. It is often faced by people who are visibly different from the majority.

One aspect of this program was to expose individuals from the school system and the employment system to different cultures and experiences they had not had before. We found that we had great success with that formula, because in that mix were individuals who were not experienced or open before, and they made assumptions about people. That is one of the reasons we have been supporting not only this particular initiative but also many others, because they help erode some of those things.

As I mentioned earlier, the opportunity we have here matches what we did in Ontario with Bill 52. I have been at the ceremonies in Windsor and Essex county, where people of all persuasions and different backgrounds in the community really enjoy having that validation. We have a flag-raising ceremony, the last one being when our mayor, Drew Dilkens, took part. It is held at City Hall Square, and a number of different people come from the community. Bill 52, with respect to Ontario Sikh Heritage Month, is very much part of that.

The member should be congratulated for bringing this to the chamber, because it now affords the opportunity for this to not just be an Ontario experience or a city flag-raising experience but a national experience. That is important, because we will see the impact not only in Windsor-Essex but also across our country.

Sikh Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

November 1st, 2018 / 6:15 p.m.
See context

Kamal Khera Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Development, Lib.

Madam Speaker,

[Member spoke in Punjabi]

[English]

I rise today to speak on Bill C-376, the Sikh heritage month act. First and foremost, I want to take this opportunity to thank my good friend from Surrey—Newton for bringing this bill forward. This bill would help to provide recognition of the contributions made by the Sikh community to Canada. As a proud Sikh Canadian myself, I am proud to speak to this legislation.

Sikhs have a long history in Canada. In 1897, the first Sikhs came to Canada as members of the British Indian Army, on their way to Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, with the first Sikh settler being credited to be Kesur Singh, a risaldar-major in the British Indian Army. Sikhs found employment working as manual labourers, including laying tracks on the Canadian Pacific Railway, and in a few years the Sikh population numbered in the thousands. Unfortunately, though, public opinion at the time was not favourable to the Sikh population, which led to many discriminatory laws being passed.

All this tension came to a head when, in 1914, a ship named the Komagata Maru attempted to dock in Vancouver, carrying mostly Sikh passengers from India. Because of the laws at the time, this ship was not allowed to dock and was, instead, diverted back to India. When it arrived back in India, the British fired at the ship and 20 of the passengers were killed. This incident was a dark period in our country's history, but I am very thankful and proud that our government delivered a formal apology for these actions in 2016.

From humble beginnings, the Sikh community in Canada has grown to over 500,000 today, with Sikhs from coast to coast to coast calling Canada home. The Sikh community in Canada is represented in all professional fields today: medicine, business, law, academia and politics. One very prominent Sikh business leader in Canada today is Manjit Minhas. Some who are fans of the show Dragons' Den may recognize her name, as she has been one of the dragons since 2015. She, along with her brother, founded Minhas Craft Brewery and Minhas Micro Distillery when she was just a young student at the University of Calgary. Today, Minhas Craft Brewery is the 10th largest craft brewery in the United States, with operations in Canada as well. As a prominent Sikh business woman, she is a role model for young women all across Canada and an example of what is possible with hard work and determination.

The Sikh community has great representation in Canadian politics as well. In the 2015 election, 17 Sikh members of Parliament were elected, in stark contrast to the situation just 100 years ago. This means that Punjabi, a language spoken among Sikhs, is now the third most spoken language in the House after English and French.

Of these 17 members, four are currently ministers in our government's cabinet, including the hon. government House leader, who is the first woman, regardless of ethnicity, to hold the position. I am also very proud to see the appointment of the first-ever Sikh senator, Senator Sarabjit Marwah, as well as the appointment of Palbinder Kaur Shergill to the Supreme Court of British Columbia, as Canada's first turbaned female Supreme Court judge.

From the national level here in Ottawa to local communities across Canada, the contributions of Sikh Canadians are an important part of our Canadian identity. Sikhism was founded on the fundamental principles of equality, unity, selfless service and social justice, values that we are all so proud to share as Canadians. These values are exemplified by many local organizations making a difference in our communities.

In my riding of Brampton West, the Gurdwara Sikh Sangat is a place not just for the Sikh community but for all community members to come together as well.

As is customary in all Sikh places of worship, the langar, also known as a community kitchen, provides free food to the masses. Meals are served each and every day to Bramptonians regardless of their faith.

The Gurdwara Sikh Sangat also takes part in local food drives and recreational programs for our youth in our community. As well it partners with local organizations like the Seva Food Bank to help hundreds and thousands of individuals in the region of Peel.

As Remembrance Day is just a few days away, I would be remiss not to mention Private Buckam Singh. Buckam Singh arrived in Canada in 1907 in British Columbia and later settled in Toronto. At the onset of World War I, Buckam Singh enlisted in the Canadian Armed Forces and became just one of nine Canadian Sikhs to fight in the war. Buckam Singh served with the 20th Canadian Infantry Battalion in the battlefields of Flanders were he was wounded twice in two separate battles.

After his service in the war, he contracted TB and passed away at the young age of 25. His grave in Kitchener-Waterloo is the only one known to be of a Canadian Sikh soldier.

The sacrifices made by Private Buckam Singh, along with all the other young men and women during that time is the reason we can enjoy the freedom that we have today.

Since the time Buckam Singh enlisted, the Canadian Armed Forces have welcomed many Sikhs to their ranks, most notably our current Minister of National Defence, who became the first Sikh to command a Canadian regiment.

I also want to take this opportunity to acknowledge and thank a member of our Royal Canadian Air Force, my brother, Gurwinder Khera, who is an aviation engineer stationed at Canadian Forces Base Trenton.

The passage of this bill would recognize the rich history of Sikhs in Canada and help promote greater appreciation of our achievements by future generations of Sikhs. I encourage each and every member of the House to support this bill.

Once again, I want to take this opportunity to thank all the community leaders, all the stakeholders, advocates and of course, my good friend from Surrey—Newton for bringing the bill to life.

I want to take this opportunity to wish all the Sikhs celebrating this month the birth of Guru Nanak Dev Ji. Happy Gurpurab to all of them.

[Member spoke in Punjabi]

Sikh Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

November 1st, 2018 / 6:25 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Eva Nassif Liberal Vimy, QC

Madam Speaker,

[Member spoke in Punjabi]

[Translation]

I am pleased to rise today at third reading of Bill C-376, an act to designate the month of April as Sikh heritage month. This bill was sponsored by my colleague, the hon. member for Surrey—Newton, and it highlights the many contributions made by Sikh Canadians. It is estimated that 500,000 Canadians of Sikh heritage live in Canada. According to some sources, Canada has the second-largest Sikh population in the world.

I would like to explain why I support this motion. It is in line with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which officially recognizes multiculturalism as a Canadian value. It is also in line with the Canadian Multiculturalism Act, which is based on a multiculturalism policy designed to preserve and enhance the multicultural heritage of Canadians.

Vaisakhi is celebrated in April. This month marks the birth of Khalsa and his teachings of equality, community service and social justice. For many years, I have participated in these celebrations with the Sikh community in Vimy, in Montreal, and I can say that this community contributes significantly to Canadian society. The Sikh heritage and the richness of this community's language and culture must be protected for future generations.

[Member spoke in Punjabi]

Sikh Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

November 1st, 2018 / 6:25 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Anju Dhillon Liberal Dorval—Lachine—LaSalle, QC

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Winnipeg North. I have a lot to say in two minutes, so I am going to try to get through it as quickly as possible.

First, I would like to thank the member for Surrey—Newton for introducing this bill to designate April as Sikh heritage month. I myself am a member of the Sikh community. I am also the first Sikh from Quebec to ever be elected to any of the three levels of government. What is more, I was the first Sikh to practise law in the courts of Quebec.

I would like to talk a little about the Sikh religion. Sikhs believe in a single God, who is the sole creator and who takes care of us. That sums up the Sikh philosophy. Sikh principles are in keeping with Canadian values. Sikhs must earn a living through honest work and give generously to the poor and those in need, always mindful that God is the one who gives us everything. When we share what we have been given, we are sharing it with others who were created by Him.

I am very proud of all my colleagues who talked about the Sikh community and this bill. It really warmed my heart to hear them talk about their visits to India and their own experiences in the community. It is very important for our community, whether here in Canada or elsewhere in the world, to help one another and to see one another as human beings. Kinship and solidarity are very important. I listened with great interest to everything my colleagues had to say, and I am very proud that all of the members of all of the parties in the House support this bill. I am very proud of them, and I thank them.

Members of the Sikh community abide by a code that governs the way we live and behave. For example, we must always accept the will of God. If something bad happens in life, we always say that it is God's will and everything He does is for our own good. This is how we keep the peace amongst ourselves and accept the will of God. There are a lot of bad things that happen in life, and they cannot always be explained, but it is important to understand this. Everyone has their own way of thinking or practising their religion, but Sikhs believe in respecting God's will and working hard to help one another.

Furthermore, the Sikh community has made great contributions to Canada, as we have heard in many of our colleague's speeches in the House of Commons.

For all these reasons, the Sikh community has been able to integrate well into the Canadian community. I think we can call it a success. Members have talked about the Komagata Maru and about the negative response to the Sikh community when it first arrived here. This community was subjected to a lot of violence and suffering. However, we eventually managed to integrate into the Canadian community, and now, like my hon. colleague just said, there are 17 Sikh members of Parliament here in the House of Commons.

[Member spoke in Punjabi]

Sikh Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

November 1st, 2018 / 6:30 p.m.
See context

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker,

[member spoke in Punjabi]

[English]

What a pleasure it is to rise this afternoon and speak to what is a really significant and historic piece of legislation. I thank my colleague from Surrey—Newton for introducing this legislation. He has been able to manipulate it by working with other MPs to get it to the stage it is at today. From here, the legislation will go to the Senate.

Knowing the desire of so many in this chamber to recognize the month of April as Sikh heritage month, and because of the fine work and outstanding lobbying done by the member for Surrey—Newton, I am confident that we will see Sikh heritage month in law in April 2019. I am very grateful for that.

Earlier today, I spoke about the 50th anniversary of the Sikh Society of Manitoba. It is one of the Gurudwaras that I have actually attended since 1988.

I also have a very good Gurudwara close to my home, the Gurdwara Kalgidhar Darbar, which is on King Edward Street in my riding. I often pay a visit to it. There is also Singh Sabha on Sturgeon Road, which I have had the opportunity to visit over the years. By visiting these Gurudwaras, I have been able to develop many wonderful, blessed friendships that I really value today in a personal way.

I have a very special friend, someone who was elected at the same time I was elected, and I am speaking of Dr. Gulzar Cheema. Dr. Gulzar Cheema was the very first Sikh elected to a legislature in Canada in 1988. It was a very proud day when we saw that take place. Dr. Gulzar Cheema, who now lives in Victoria, went from the Manitoba legislature to the British Columbia legislature. An individual being elected to two provincial legislatures is very rare. Dr. Gulzar Cheema “baptized” me into the Sikh community. I am so grateful because of what I have been able to witness over the years.

In 1999, I had the privilege to introduce in the Manitoba legislature a recognition of the Khalsa in the form of a resolution. The Conservative government of the day, working with New Democrats, was able to pass that resolution unanimously, recognizing the importance of the Khalsa to the Sikh faith. One gets a better understanding of why the turban is so important.

My colleague and friend was talking about what one could expect when going to a Gurdwara. People sit on the floor as equals. After some worship and some meditation and some beautiful hymns, a free meal is provided to the worshippers to continue that fellowship.

I was really touched by the Prime Minister, within the first year, finally offering a formal apology for the Komagata Maru. Many of us were aware of what had taken place many years ago and how far we have come. Today the Sikh community is in every aspect of our society, whether political, economic or social. In every aspect, the Sikh community is part of our Canadian identity.

I wanted to share those few thoughts. I thank my colleague for making sure that we have this legislation. I hope that it will be passed into law very soon.

Sikh Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

November 1st, 2018 / 6:35 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Liberal Surrey—Newton, BC

Madam Speaker,

[Member spoke in Punjabi]

[English]

I want to start by thanking all members in the House for their support for this bill to have the month of April designated as Sikh heritage month. I would like to give special thanks to the heritage committee chair, the hon. member for Toronto—Danforth, and all committee members for the quick and unanimous passage of the bill at the committee stage. I would also like to thank my good friend and hon. member for Etobicoke Centre for allowing me to move up on the order of precedence and have the final reading of the bill today.

This bill is close to me because it not only represents the journey and growth of Canada, but it speaks to my personal journey and that of so many other immigrants who have made our great country their home.

When I migrated to Canada in 1984, I would never have imagined that I would be standing here today, representing the riding of Surrey—Newton and presenting this bill, which I hope will leave a legacy for all Canadians for many generations to come.

It has been a very humbling experience and it has been made possible because of the support from my family, my constituents, my colleagues and from individuals throughout our great country. So many people have supported me in my personal, professional and political life. The passing of the bill would represent another step in the progress we as Canadians have made in becoming a more diverse, welcoming and equal nation.

The days of intolerant laws being enacted through the House, in denying entry of Sikhs into Canada or denying Sikhs the right to vote, have long since passed but cannot be forgotten. Sikh Canadians have fought to earn the right to become equal members of society, where we have become contributing members in all walks of life, whether in business, arts, sports, media, philanthropy or politics.

I am proud to say that Sikh Canadians have been elected to all levels of municipal, provincial and federal governments. The year 2016 also marked the appointment of the first Sikh senator, Hon. Sarabjit Singh Marwah, who I am proud to say will be sponsoring this bill in the Senate. I thank Senator Sabi Marwah.

Before I continue further, I would also like to thank and praise Senator Salma Ataullahjan for all her hard work as critic and supporter of the bill in the red chamber.

This is a story unique to Canada, and we must recognize and celebrate all of the moments and individuals who have shaped our great nation. This is not just the story of Sikhs; this is the story of Canada. We are known around the world as a proudly welcoming, diverse and tolerant nation, but this did not happen on its own. It happened because people from all ethnicities, languages and cultures worked together to ensure Canada over time became this great nation of which we are so proud of.

Learning about the deep roots of Canadian history helps to strengthen our diversity. To quote the Prime Minister and hon. member for Papineau:

Canadians understand that diversity is our strength. We know that Canada has succeeded—culturally, politically, economically—because of our diversity, not in spite of it.

This is why I urge all members to support the bill, to honour the remarkable story and to share it with all Canadians today and with future generations, so that we remain a resilient, strong and diverse nation.

Sikh Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

October 30th, 2018 / 6:20 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Liberal Surrey—Newton, BC

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise once again in the House to debate this bill. The speed at which this is being supported and moving through the stages is a sign of how much support the bill has on all sides of the House.

We have heard throughout this process, members sharing their views on why the bill must pass, the history and contribution of Sikh Canadians and the journey it has been from the days when those early Sikh pioneers arrived in Canada to the present day where this nation stands tall as a leader for equality, diversity and compassion. The very purpose of the bill is for all Canadians to fully understand our history and the significant role the Sikh community has played in it and for us to become even more of a proud multicultural country.

By passing the bill to designate the month of April as Sikh heritage month, we will ensure we bring attention to the lesser known moments and key individuals who played a role in shaping our country. That is what I want to do today. I want to share with members some of the important moments and individuals who have been part of the Sikh Canadian journey to what it is today.

The arrival of Sikhs in Canada began in 1897, as members of the Hong Kong military made their way to Canada through Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. These soldiers were celebrated with local papers printing headlines, “Turbaned Men Excite Interest”. They appreciated this welcome and liked the similarity between British Columbia's climate and land to that of Punjab and made plans to immigrate here.

In 1904, Sikhs began to migrate and by 1908, almost 5,000 Sikhs moved to Canada.

By 1911, Sikhs began heading east from B.C. to Ontario. One of them was Buckam Singh, who came to Canada in 1907 at the age of 14. In 1915, he joined the Canadian forces to become one of the nine Sikhs who served in World War I. He fought in the battlefields of Flanders Fields, where he was wounded twice and treated at the hospital run by one of Canada's most famous poets, Dr. Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, who wrote In Flanders Fields.

This shows us the parallels between well-known Canadian history and the Sikh Canadian history. The bravery and sacrifice of soldiers like Buckam Singh is a part of the legendary contributions Canadians made in Flanders Fields, which is part of our identity today.

Unfortunately, while there was initial excitement and acceptance in the early arrival of Sikhs and a desire on the part of Sikhs to become an equal part of Canadian society and serve with their brothers, sentiments changed and laws began to be passed that would restrict Indian immigration.

In 1908, an order in council declared there must be a continuous journey to come to Canada, and it was this law that would stop the Komagata Maru in 1914.

This is the incident we all know. It has shown Canada transform from its darkest moment to one of our greatest moments when the current Prime Minister, the member for Papineau, offered an apology in the very House where those prejudicial laws were passed. This incident also showed the determination of Sikhs who made it their mission to become equal citizens of Canada. Many early pioneers peacefully protested and worked to stop the discrimination that was taking place.

As these issues progressed, gurdwaras began to open and play an important role within our community.

Gurdwaras were a place that the community could gather, find support and discuss the issues they were facing. They were also key to Sikhs retaining their identity and religion, providing them a safe place to worship, including reciting prayer, reading scripture and singing hymns. At the centre of any gurdwara is the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the holy scripture and eternal guru for Sikhs. Bhai Arjan Singh brought the first Guru Granth Sahib to Canada in 1906 to a house in Port Moody.

From there, the Khalsa Diwan Society opened the first gurdwara in North America in Vancouver in 1908, as well as organizing the first Nagar Kirtan. There was a small gathering that marked this occasion and today the Nagar Kirtan held in my riding of Surrey—Newton is the biggest in the world outside of India, with over half a million people attending each and every year. As the community grew, more gurdwaras opened in Victoria, Fraser Mills and Abbotsford in 1912, followed by the Akali Singh Sikh gurdwara in 1952 and the first gurdwara in Ontario in 1965.

The growth of the community and the close-knit nature of Sikh Canadians resulted in the formation of Paldi, British Columbia, by Mayo Singh and named after his birthplace in the village of Paldi in lndia. This became one of the earliest towns for Punjabi settlers. It was a complete town with its own lumber mill, school and postal office, and the centre of the town was the gurdwara built in 1919.

Today, there are over 100 gurdwaras across Canada, offering not only a place of worship but also food and shelter for the public, as well as a place for the community to gather.

These early gurdwaras have become home to the history and struggles of the community and continue to stand as a reminder of how far the community has come. A historic moment for the Sikh Canadian community came when the right hon. prime minister Jean Chrétien declared the Gur Sikh Temple in Abbotsford a national historic site in 2002. lt is the oldest existing Sikh gurdwara in North America and is now the only gurdwara outside of lndia and Pakistan that is designated a national historic site.

Through all of these early struggles and the determination of the pioneers, Sikh Canadians began to receive the recognition and equal standing in society they deserved by the late 1940s. Sikh Canadians were given full voting rights in 1947 after a 12-man delegation, including members of the Khalsa Diwan Society, presented their case to British Columbia Premier Hart. This outreach resulted in the first minor victory, with the right to vote being given to all those from the Asian and South Asian communities who had fought in World War Il.

The lobbying continued with Kartar Singh, Kapoor Singh, Dr. Pandia and Mayo Singh leading a delegation to the 1946 municipalities conference in Harrison Hot Springs, British Columbia. By April 1947, all South Asian males were granted the right to vote in both provincial and federal elections. Beginning in the 1980s, the barriers to wearing Sikh articles of faith were removed and it became easier for Sikhs to practise their religion while succeeding in their careers.

It started with with Inspector Baltej Singh Dhillon, who fought to wear his turban as part of the RCMP uniform in order to complete his dream of becoming a Mountie.

In 1993, with the election of the Hon. Gurbax Singh Malhi to the House of Commons, it changed the rules that had previously prevented members of Parliament from wearing turbans in the House of Commons.

These are just some of the key moments and individuals that need to be honoured, recognized and celebrated so we can become an even more proudly diverse society.

The history of Sikhs in Canada is a story of compassion, hard work, persistence and progress. From the first Sikh Canadians arriving in 1897, to the community becoming a large part of Canada's social, economic and political fabric, Sikhs have played an integral role in the country from business and philanthropic leaders, to hard-working Canadians who work across various sectors throughout our vast country. For example, in my riding of Surrey—Newton, over the past three years, a group of young Canadian Sikh men and women have held food and toy drives every holiday season. They have collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in food and toys for the Surrey Food Bank and the Vancouver Children's Hospital. This has inspired other groups within our city to do the same, and this will soon be the largest organized effort of giving food and toys to those less fortunate in the entire nation.

Another great example of the Sikh Canadian community giving to others is expressed through the Blood Donation by Sikh Nation campaign, that also started in Surrey—Newton. This annual blood donation campaign has saved the lives of more than 130,000 Canadians. It has now grown to include clinics across Canada, the United States, Australia and other countries worldwide.

These are some of the many examples where Canadians of Sikh heritage have played a key role from coast to coast to coast and become an equal part of the Canadian fabric and society. This is why we need to make sure that the rich history and contributions of Sikhs in Canada are not forgotten and they are remembered so that every generation knows the journey of this community and our country.

Mr. Speaker, thank you for giving me an opportunity to address the House. I thank all members for supporting this bill.

Sikh Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

October 30th, 2018 / 6:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for bringing forward this initiative, and for his speech on the subject. I was planning on supporting it anyway, but if I had not been his speech certainly would have convinced me.

I want to ask him two questions. I appreciated the remarks he made about the military service that has happened through the Sikh community. It has not always historically been recognized. We know that in India, as well as here, there has always been significant representation of the Sikh community in the military service. I wonder if he wants to speak more to that point.

The second question I want to ask is about the plight of the Sikh community in Afghanistan. This is something that has been discussed in the House. I know the declining population of the Sikh community in Afghanistan is a major concern for the community. There is a significant need there. There is opportunity for private sponsorship here in Canada and engagement of the community here in Canada around that issue. I would like to hear his perspective on that, and what we can do to help that segment of the community.

Sikh Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

October 30th, 2018 / 6:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Liberal Surrey—Newton, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his support and encouragement on this bill. I am very indebted to all members, and particularly this member, for asking this question about the military.

As I mentioned, 1897 was the first time Sikhs participated in the military in Canada, and since then, the tradition remains. We are fortunate to have the Minister of National Defence, who was a colonel in the military and served in Afghanistan.

The hon. member asked about the plight of the Sikhs in Afghanistan. In fact, that is a very compassionate issue the hon. member has raised. Mr. Bhullar, the late MLA from Alberta, is the one who brought this issue forward.

The minister responsible for immigration is working on that file, and we will make sure that Hindus and Sikhs in Afghanistan who need help are given a chance for a good life.

Sikh Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

October 30th, 2018 / 6:40 p.m.
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NDP

Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to start by thanking my friend from Surrey—Newton. I had the honour of seconding his bill. I appreciate very much what he has brought forward to the House to celebrate the importance of the Sikh heritage to our democracy.

Moe Sihota was the first Sikh elected to federal or provincial office anywhere. I am proud that he comes from my province of British Columbia. In 1991, he became the first Sikh minister.

Does the member agree that having Mr. Jagmeet Singh, the first Sikh and visible minority leader of a national party, in this House would be another historic event? I wonder if the member will work with us to make sure that happens just as soon as possible.

Sikh Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

October 30th, 2018 / 6:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Liberal Surrey—Newton, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Victoria for seconding my bill. It is not my bill. In fact, it has become a bill from everyone here.

The hon. member mentioned the leader of the NDP, Mr. Jagmeet Singh. We are very proud that he is the leader of a major party. If members were to go through my previous speeches, they would see that I mentioned him and that this is a history-creating event. The Prime Minister is working diligently, and in the coming weeks and months, we will be able to see that opportunity arise.

Sikh Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

October 30th, 2018 / 6:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, since being elected, I have had the honour of getting to know Canada's Sikh community very well. In particular, I have worked extensively with the community on human rights issues. When we speak of Sikh heritage, standing up for human rights is in the community's DNA.

The Sikh faith began at a time and in a place of significant pre-existing interreligious conflict, and in the context of deeply ingrained caste-based discrimination. “Caste” describes a cultural and religious system whereby people are seen as having greater or lesser dignity and value as a result of their birth. It has implications for the occupations people can undertake, but also for the fundamental way people are treated and viewed.

While most of us might take for granted the idea that people are of equal dignity regardless of who their parents are, that has not seemed obvious in many different places and times. Caste hierarchy was the assumed background of the place and time in which Sikhism emerged. From the beginning, the Sikh faith rejected the idea of caste. It advanced a profoundly countercultural assertion of universal human equality.

Sikh gurus recognized that even after being formally rejected, the caste system might live on in the subtle impressions of people, so they sought to introduce practical changes that would do away with the systemic racism of the caste system.

Langar was established, whereby Sikhs and members of other faiths would be welcome to enjoy a meal at a gurdwara at no cost. People would sit on the floor together enjoying delicious food, regardless of their background or social station. Langar operationalized this idea of social equality.

Names could also be an indicator of caste background, so the tenth guru, Guru Gobind Singh ji, assigned the last name “Singh” to all Sikh men and “Kaur” to all Sikh women. This served the important objective of obscuring caste background and promoting the practical recognition of equality and universal human dignity.

As a Christian, I see many practical parallels between the social history of Christianity and Sikhism. Both came on the scene in highly unequal societies and championed the rights of the poor and the oppressed. I feel a great deal of kinship with the Sikh community because of a shared appreciation for the role faith can play in impelling us to work for a more just society.

Equality and universal human dignity are not ideas that came to us through scientific discovery. Equality is a normative idea, not subject to experimentation and not falsifiable through the scientific method. It is a matter of indisputable history that faith, in the way it invites us to go beyond things that are knowable through reason alone, has led us to see the dignity and worth of all human beings. From its very inception, Sikhism was defined by its rejection of the caste system, the prevailing system of inequality.

When I was in India about three years ago, I had the honour of meeting with Dr. Udit Raj, a leading activist for the rights of Dalits and a member of India's Parliament with the governing BJP. Caste-based discrimination continues to be a major challenge, despite the best efforts of many from all faiths and in all parts of Indian society to combat it.

I was glad to have met Dr. Raj before visiting Sri Harmandir Sahib, or the Golden Temple, because by explaining the ongoing impact of the caste system, he helped me understand in a particular way the vital importance of Sikhism's rejection of it. It made my visit to Sri Harmandir Sahib that much more meaningful. The Golden Temple is more than just a temple. Continuing the Sikh tradition of Langar, tens of thousands of people are fed at that temple every single day. However, we do not have to go that far to get a good meal; our local gurdwara offers the same.

Early Sikhs did not just fight against caste-based discrimination, but also defended freedom of religion, even for those who were not part of their community. The ninth guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur ji, gave his life to defend the religious freedom of the Hindu community, then under pressure to convert to Islam. He set an example of courage and self-sacrifice, which Sikhs have continued to follow to this day.

In a time of intensifying conflict between different communities, Sikhs sought to advance freedom and justice, and have continued to do so until the present day. The Sikh experience in Canada has been defined by remarkable successes, including rich contributions in commerce, culture, philanthropy and politics.

Canada is a community of communities, a place where people can celebrate and practise their distinctiveness and recognize particular community with those who share their culture or faith, while still being part of a larger and united community that is one nation. I do not believe we should think of ourselves as a postnational state, but rather as a state that seeks unity in the midst of its diversity. Sikhs have become a vital part of our community of communities, of our cultural mosaic.

However, Sikhs have faced some particular challenges in Canada as well. The Komagata Maru incident and other cases of official discrimination come to mind, as do continuing instances where the Sikh community is falsely portrayed as violent or where minor instances of proposed religious accommodation are spuriously rejected.

The Sikh community members have a long history of standing up for their rights and the rights of others. We must always stand with them to defend religious liberty, understanding that the principle of religious liberty is not about seeking special accommodation for one group or another, but it is about defending an idea that protects us all.

The right of a Sikh to wear a turban while working in the public service, the right of a Muslim physician to refuse to participate in or refer for euthanasia, the right of a Quaker not to join the military, the right of a Jew to receive time off work during holy days and the right of an atheist not to participate in civic prayer are not special rights. These are fundamental rights. These are not rights invented by newcomers. These are rights contained in our implied bill of rights since 1867, reaffirmed in Diefenbaker's bill of rights and in the charter.

We would never have had a country without the clear protection of the rights of minority faith communities. They are fundamental to who we are, and as Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji understood when he gave his life for Hindus, we put our own fundamental human rights on shakier footing when we fail to uphold them for anyone else.

There is a difficult history whereby Sikhs have come to be portrayed in some quarters as violent. In June of 1984, in the context of escalating tensions overseas, the Indian army invaded the Golden Temple Complex. This was called Operation Blue Star. It was aimed at rooting out militants. However, the attack left many civilians dead who simply had gone to their faith's most holy site in order to pray. After this attack, Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by a Sikh bodyguard, and this was followed by a campaign of organized violence, torture and slaughter against the Sikh community in parts of India. These events had a searing impact on the Sikh community.

When I was at the Holocaust museum in Israel, our guide told us that Israelis are a post-traumatic people; that is, they live in the shadow of and are deeply impacted by this experience of violence that their community has been through. The post-traumatic aspect of Sikh identity is an important part of Sikh history, and it reinforces the community's commitment to fighting for human rights, their own and those of others.

The call for remembrance and for justice and reconciliation is always important. We do not move forward by forgetting the past. Rather, we move forward by remembering it and by seeking to learn its lessons.

On the heels of the violence of 1984, Canada experienced the largest act of terrorism in its history, the bombing of Air India Flight 182. This terrible event was linked to ongoing tensions in India, and it unfortunately furthered negative stereotypes about the Sikh community, even though many of the victims were themselves from the Sikh community.

Unfortunately, this has led at times to the confused lumping together of violent extremists with those who legitimately advocate for human rights. So let us always be clear as parliamentarians that violence has absolutely no place in this country, but people who advocate peacefully for human rights or for political change have every right to do so. The Sikh community in Canada is a model community, no more violent or extreme than the Christian community or the Jewish community. These painful events of the past are important to remember and reflect on, and we can move forward in a way that draws from the wisdom of the gurus, who taught understanding, peaceful coexistence and commitment to universal human dignity.

Today, the Sikh community members continue to be leaders in the fight for human rights, for human rights here in Canada and in other parts of the world. It has been a pleasure to work recently with different organizations to advance the cause of the persecuted Sikh and Hindu community in Afghanistan. I was pleased to join so many of my opposition colleagues last week tabling petitions supporting their cause.

The response from the Sikh community to the crisis facing their fellows in Afghanistan is quite revealing. They want to see Canada offer refuge to these incredibly vulnerable people, but they want to be part of the process by which these refugees come as private sponsors. All the government has to do is allow this process to happen. We know how successful private-sponsored refugees are in general, because they come into existing communities of love and support, which can help them integrate into Canadian life.

In the last election, Conservatives promised to create a special program to allow vulnerable religious minorities in Afghanistan to be directly sponsored to Canada. I made a statement on this issue in December of 2015, and I wrote to the Minister of Immigration again this summer. The government has had three years to take action, and nothing would make me happier than to see it take real action on this file, sooner rather than later.

I focused my remarks today specifically on issues around human rights, which is an area of great passion for me and I know for the Sikh community as well. I look forward to continuing to work with these great Canadians to advance the cause of justice and to make sure that all people, regardless of their background, are recognized by their community in the same way that they are recognized in the eyes of God: as people with intrinsic and immutable dignity and value.

Sikh Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

October 30th, 2018 / 6:50 p.m.
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NDP

Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, in April of this year, for the first time in more than 100 years, the Sikh community of Victoria celebrated Vaisakhi with a parade. Over 1,000 people came out. It was full of light. It was full of colour. It was full of energy. That summarizes what the Sikh community has brought to our community.

I was so pleased to second my friend's bill when he brought it forward to recognize the contribution of the hard-working people of Sikh ancestry who live in our community. It is particularly relevant on Vancouver Island, because so many of that community came here in the early part of the 20th century to establish themselves and create a new life for their family.

In fact, we have had a community of Sikh immigrants, who first established themselves in our community of Victoria in 1904. People forget just how long they have been an integral part of our community. We have had a few gurdwaras, especially the Khalsa Diwan Sikh temple on Topaz Avenue, the Punjabi Akali Sikh temple on Graham Street and the Gurdwara Singh Sabha temple on Cecelia Road. We have a large and vibrant community, heirs to that tradition of which I spoke, people who come to make a better life for themselves in our community.

During his remarks, my friend for Surrey—Newton properly paid tribute to the history and success of this community. Through hard work, it has made such a difference in our community.

For example, he talked of some of the travails of that community, which I would also like to refer to, such as the Komagata Maru incident of 1914. However, some of the successes also need to be celebrated. The hard work of that community has led to success in so many different fields.

I would like to pay tribute to the Jawl family, which is famous in the business community for its work in development and is celebrated for what I call a “handshake” business. A handshake from the Jawl family is all one needs to create multi-million dollar enterprises. It is revered and loved in our community for its charity as well.

I always tell the story when new Canadians are sworn in. Mr. Gordy Dodd, a gentleman of Sikh tradition from south India, came here. Mr. Dodd sat in the parking lot of his furniture store business, on a platform about 100 metres over that. He had people come and donate money to the Red Cross to help the victims of the flooding in Calgary. When I asked him why he was doing that, he said, “Because we're all Canadians and we stand together”. I am proud to call that community the Sikh community of Victoria.

I am also proud because I had the opportunity to teach Moe Sihota when he was at law school. He will not remember that. He was the first Sikh elected to a federal or provincial seat in all of Canada, when he was elected in British Columbia. He served until 2001. In 1991, he became the first Sikh cabinet minister anywhere in our country. He has made enormous contributions not only to my party, but to the people of British Columbia as well, for example, the major expansion of B.C. parks. His commitment to the environment is legendary in our community.

We have another Sikh leader who is seeking to join us in the House of Commons. His name is Jagmeet Singh. He is the first visible minority to serve as leader of any of the major parties and is of course a proud Sikh himself. I was buoyed by the comments of my hon. friends about the efforts that the government would soon make to allow him to join us in the House of Commons and continue the tradition of service for which the Sikh community is so noted. I was pleased to hear the word “days” not “months” being used by the hon. member in his remarks.

I must mention the travesty of the Komagata Maru incident of 1914. Just as we are soon going to give a long overdue apology to the Jewish community for the MS St. Louis incident, this was the subject of apologies that were long overdue.

Imagine hundreds of people on a boat, British citizens, as part of the Empire, who were coming to establish themselves as Canadians but were unable to do so essentially due to racism against what were then called Asiatics. Rules were made in 1908 by the Canadian government to stop them from coming here. They were required to pay an enormous sum of $200. They were required to come to Canada via a continuous journey from India, even though there were very few ways to continuously journey from India in order to get to Canada. All sorts of fraudulent hurdles were put up in order to stop them. What they have contributed since that community finally established itself is legendary.

I am so proud to stand here today and support my friend for bringing to the attention of the House the need for Sikh heritage multiculturalism to be established.

I point out that in 2005 former NDP leader Jack Layton said, “It will be a wonderful day when a motion could be adopted in the House of Commons to recognize the five Sikh symbols.” Also, former NDP member the hon. Judy Wasylycia-Leis moved a motion in Parliament that year to give proper recognition and respect for Sikhism and an equal place for Sikhs in Canada. Therefore, I can say that our friend is continuing a proud tradition that our party has worked with. It is not a partisan issue. We all want to see this established.

I salute my friend for bringing this bill forward. I look forward to enthusiastically supporting it when it comes to a vote.

Sikh Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

October 30th, 2018 / 7 p.m.
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Liberal

Randeep Sarai Liberal Surrey Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, Sikhs first came to this great country in 1897. Today there are over half a million Sikhs in Canada, making up approximately 1.5% of the population.

The story of this bill began in 1897, with Risaldar Major Kesur Singh, of the British Indian Army, landing on the shores of this great land. Kesur Singh and his fellow Sikh soldiers were in awe of this land's abundance and beauty, so when they went back, they told their families and friends, and a few years later, Sikhs started to migrate and settle in Abbotsford, working in the forestry and agriculture sectors.

By 1906, there were 1,500 Sikhs in Canada. They faced many challenges: the anti-Oriental riots of 1907, a push to have them moved to British Honduras, legislation to prohibit them from owning property, and not being allowed to vote, and the list goes on.

ln 1914, the Kamagata Maru landed in Burrard Inlet with 376 passengers, 340 of whom were Sikhs. They were ordered to leave, and when they returned, 19 were shot and killed. However, they were not to be deterred. They worked hard and pushed for the right to vote. They built communities, gurdwaras and industry.

They joined the Canadian army, beginning with Private Buckam Singh, who served in the 20th Canadian Infantry in Flanders. Private Singh was one of approximately 10 Sikh Canadians who served in the Canadian army during the Great War. He was wounded on the battlefield and sent back home to Kitchener after he contracted tuberculosis. He would later pass away and be buried there. Every year on Remembrance Day, Sikhs in Kitchener-Waterloo go to his grave for a special ceremony.

ln 1943, the Khalsa Diwan Society, the first Sikh society in Canada, sent a 12-person delegation to seek the right to vote in Canada, and by 1947, they had received that right, thanks to the society. Though many officials tried to thwart their efforts to strive, specifically the likes of William Hopkinson, and two Sikh pioneers, Bhai Bhag Singh and Bhai Battan Singh, even lost their lives to his manipulative and racist actions, the Sikh pioneers continued to push ahead.

Sikhs in Canada have always had a passion to build institutes and co-operatives to help their communities succeed but at the same time preserve and cherish their faith, language and culture. In fact, they are the most visible of visible minorities, sporting steel bracelets, turbans and beards.

Besides gurdwaras, they founded the Guru Nanak Mining and Trust Company, in 1909, in Lions Bay, West Vancouver, under the guidance of Professor Teja Singh. Today there is a Khalsa Credit Union, with almost half a billion dollars in assets, and there are more than a dozen Sikh private schools, including the Khalsa School, the Sikh Academy Elementary School, the Guru Angad Dev Elementary School and the Gobind Sarvar School, to name a few. They have built their own non-profit crematoriums, including the Riverside Funeral Home and Crematorium, to help with the funeral rites of Sikh and Hindu Canadians. They have built free kitchens, feeding thousands daily in their gurdwaras from coast to coast to coast and also through Guru Nanak's Free Kitchen on the Downtown Eastside.

This bill is about the story of my family and many like myself. ln 1959, my father, Mohan Singh Sarai, immigrated to Canada, settled in Abbotsford, worked in the sawmill industry and bought a small farm. He loved this country and sponsored my mother, Amrik Kaur Sarai, in 1967. Subsequently, my whole immediate and most of my extended family made Canada home. Sarais, Bains, Randahawas, Bahais and Dosanjhs all made Canada their home. However, none of this would be possible, including me being here today, if it was not for the pioneers who first settled, who fought for basic labour and voter rights, and who cleared the path for equal opportunities for all Canadians.

Members may wonder why we need these heritage months. Why celebrate diversity and the cultures and faiths that call Canada home? It is because that is what Canada is all about. I think Canada is this way because of our indigenous peoples. Our first nations welcomed all to this great land, even though the thanks and gratitude were not always as such. They shared this abundant land's bounty and beauty, and although there have been times when Canada has not kept up to that reputation, the pendulum always swings back because of these elders and their values. Therefore, on behalf of Sikh Canadians, I want to thank all the indigenous nations of this great country who welcomed us and allowed us to be who we are and celebrate our diversity.

The bill will mark April as Sikh heritage month. This will mark a month which for Sikhs is so important. It will commemorate Vaisakhi, the day the Khalsa was initiated, a day on which hundreds of thousands walk the streets of Surrey, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg and Toronto, singing hymns, sharing food and recognizing the human race as one, the freedom to worship as we please and social justice as a human right.

The bill will commemorate the Sikhs in Canada whether it is Private Buckam Singh; or industrialists Asa Singh Johal and Suneet Singh Tuli; or farmers like Rashpal Sing Dhilon; or women like pioneers Harnaam Kaur or Justice Shergill; or policing firsts like Inspector Baltej Singh Dhillon; or judicial firsts like Wally Oppal; or political firsts like Dr. Gulzar Cheema, the Hon. Herb Dhaliwal and Moe Sihota; or journalists like Belle Puri and Simi Sara; or athletes like Arjan Bhullar, Robin Bawa and David Sidoo; or our comedians, Lilly Singh and Jus Reign. All of these are just a sprinkle of the thousands who have contributed to the beautiful fabric of this land.

It is equally imperative that we recognize many of the lawmakers who really changed the way Canada saw its immigrants and diverse cultures. Notably the Right Hon. Pierre Trudeau and the Right Hon. Jean Chrétien, who implemented the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the policy of multiculturalism. If it were not for these two key bills, we would not be tabling and debating this bill today.

Let us celebrate the achievements of Sikhs in Canada and leave stories for our children.