[Member spoke in Punjabi]
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.