ManyVancouverresidents would be surprised to discover that a quiet street in Kitsilano is the site ofNorth America’s first Sikh temple, built in 1908.
The Second Avenue Gurdwara (temple) was located on 1866 West 2nd Avenue and was a hub for Vancouver’s growing Sikh community from 1908 to 1970. Though apartment buildings now stand on the site, the temple was recently commemorated with a plaque as part of the Vancouver Heritage Foundation’s Places That Matter project.
One hundred and fifty people gathered on the front lawn of 1860 West 2nd Avenuefor the plaque unveiling. Mayor Gregor Robertson, former Attorney General Wally Oppal, and plaque sponsor Ajaib Sidoo and other prominent members ofVancouver’s Sikh community attended and spoke at the event.
After a speech by the mayor, the ceremony included a prayer by Ross StreetTemplehead priest Harminder Singh, and speeches from former prosecutor and city council candidate Sandy Garossino, and former Second Avenue Temple presidents Dr. Gurdev Gill, Dr. Jack Uppal, andDr. Mohinder Singh Gill.
“Dr. Uppal spoke eloquently about the Gurdwara being a space for Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs and a centre for community activity,” said Naveen Girn, a South Asian-Canadian cultural historian who attended the plaque’s unveiling.
“From hosting Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore to Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to celebrating the everyday activities of the community, the Second Avenue Gurdwara was the soul of the community,” he added.
Places That Matter was launched in 2011 to celebrateVancouver’s 125th anniversary, was designed to highlight 125 places, events and people that have shaped the city as voted byVancouverresidents.
Garossino and her husband’s family, the Sidhoos, nominated the site. Garossino said she nominated the site because it was living proof of the living history of other cultures in BC history.
“I think in the popular imagination we see British Columbia as a Western European — in fact British — community,” she said. “But in fact, it has been right from inception a community that’s had many immigrants. The Gurdwara is evidence that all of these communities built BC together.”