Mr. Speaker, it is my honour and my privilege to rise today in the House to speak to Bill C-376, an act to designate the month of April as Sikh heritage month.
I must first commend the member for Surrey—Newton for all of his hard work in bringing this bill forward. I know that this piece of legislation means a lot to Sikh Canadians in my riding of Brampton North, as well as Sikhs across Canada and abroad.
The passage of this bill would recognize the contributions of Sikhs to Canadian society and educate future generations about our language, traditions and history in Canada. I look around at my fellow Sikh members of Parliament, listen to their persona! stories, and cannot help but acknowledge and be grateful that we have had the opportunity to be here today because of the hard work and struggles of the Sikh community before us.
Since arriving on Canadian shores, Sikhs have been active members of our society. Canada is now home to one of the largest Sikh populations in the world, and the Sikh community has become known for their compassion, work ethic and entrepreneurship.
The month of April holds particular significance to Sikhs, as it is the time of year when the community celebrates Vaisakhi, which marks the birth of the Khalsa Panth. Sikhism is rooted in the teachings of equality, unity, selfless service and social justice, values that all Canadians hold dear and strive to incorporate into their daily lives. Sikh values are in fact Canadian values.
However, it has not always been easy. The Sikh community has been a victim to racism, discrimination and violence. Generations of Sikhs have struggled to find their place. Our clothing, our turbans, our kirpans, our food and our traditions were not welcome. From the rejection of Sikhs aboard the Komagata Maru to the desecration of gurdwaras, the history of Sikhs in Canada has dark chapters.
However, those dark chapters are now coming to a close, because as a country we have grown. I, the daughter of Sikh immigrants, today, have the opportunity to stand in the House and speak to legislation that recognizes the importance of my heritage, so that tomorrow, Sikh youth can take the utmost pride in who they are and be able to share and celebrate that heritage.
Sikhs have found their place in this country, because our proud legacy of multiculturalism does not ask us to chose between our faith and our religion. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms has allowed Sikhs to physically and spiritually be who they are without giving up being Canadian. The implementation of the charter has ensured that equality and diversity have become the pillars and strength of our nation.
I have been fortunate to be able to travel to every province and territory, and to see how the contributions made by Sikhs are evident from coast to coast to coast.
I went to Nunavut early last year, and I visited a Sikh who is working on a Liberal campaign and for a riding association. I met Sikhs in New Brunswick who were driving taxis. I know Sikhs who are running homeless shelters, food banks, and a lot of other services, including meals on wheels. I have met Sikhs who are teaching Bhangra in Whitehorse and in Halifax. They have made contributions to celebrate our heritage all throughout the country.
With Bill C-376, we are able to share and celebrate Canadian heritage through a Sikh lens. As our Prime Minister stated when he visited the Sikh Heritage Museum of Canada, the story of the Sikh community in Canada is, in fact, just the story of Canada.
This summer, I was excited to be on hand as we announced funding for the museum and a project aimed at creating a Canadian Sikh heritage trail and a travelling Canadian Sikh timeline exhibition, along with a web portal and interactive mobile application showcasing facts, figures and Sikh personalities that have shaped the civic life of Canada. The project will allow current and future generations of Canadians to learn more about the struggles, sacrifices and successes of Sikhs, as they travel across this beautiful country.
As I speak about our heritage and history in Canada, I wanted to take a moment to highlight the contributions of Canadian Sikh women. In 1912, Harman Kaur and Kartar Kaur fought for the right of women and children to join Sikh men in Canada. In 1946, Ajit Kaur defended herself at city council when her neighbours did not want her to move in because they feared the family would lower their property values. In 1949 and 1950 respectively, Dr. Sarjit Kaur Siddoo and Dr. Jagdis Kaur Sidoo graduated from the University of Toronto as the first female Sikh doctors in Canada.
More recently, trailblazers like Palbinder Kaur Shergill, Lilly Singh and very our own hon. government House leader are contributing to our place in Canada and showing the next generation that anything is possible.
As I reflect on what Bill C-376 means to me, I am reminded of one of Rupi Kaur's verses, entitled “progress”:
our work should equip
the next generation of women
to outdo us in every field
this is the legacy we'll leave.
I want to once again applaud the member for Surrey—Newton for his work in leaving behind a legacy where every April we, as Canadians, celebrate our Sikh heritage and the contribution of the Sikh community to Canada. I would like to also thank him for his work and efforts on the Komagata Maru apology. He has been working hard on the issue since 1999.
I join my colleague in looking forward to seeing all members in the House passing this bill so we can honour and retell the Canadian stories for future generations to come.