Archive | Vaisakhi Special

Happy Vaisakhi!

Posted on 14 April 2016 by admin

Sikhs across the world are celebrating Vaisakhi with a great deal of fanfare this week. Canada is no different. Sikh Canadians have played a prominent role in the growth and prosperity of Canadian fabric.

Generation Next asked elected representatives to share with our readers what Vaisakhi means to them and how they celebrate it:

Vaisakhi is a day of thanks  MPP HarinderMalhi

What does celebrating Vaisakhi means to you here in Canada. How do you celebrate it?

Every year, on Vaisakhi, my family and I visit the Gurdwara together, to attend prayers.

One of the most important observances in the Sikh religion, Vaisakhi commemorates the founding of Sikhism in 1699 by Guru Gobind Singh Ji. It is also celebrated as a day of thanks and the beginning of a new year and a new harvest season in Punjab across India.

What is the significance of having a Sikh Heritage Month here in Ontario. What does it  mean for community?

In Ontario and throughout Canada, family and friends gather together at the Gurdwara and participate in Nagar Kirtans across the province. We speak many languages, embrace every culture and have links to every part of the world and the Sikh community has enhanced our society on many levels.

Canada is home to one of the largest Sikh communities outside of India, so having a Sikh Heritage Month, here in Ontario, is a proud moment for me, as well as for Sikhs in Ontario and around the world.

‘The story of Sikh community  … is story of Canada’

Raj Grewal, Liberal MP from Brampton East

What does celebrating Vaisakhi means to you here in Canada? How do you celebrate it?

Vaisakhi is a significant day for Sikhs and one of the most celebrated events in the Sikh calendar. It occurs during mid-April every year and traditionally concurs in Punjab annually with the first harvesting of crops. Since 1699, Vaisakhi has been celebrated to mark the creation of the Khalsa by Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji. Sikh Canadians keep the celebrations of Vaisakhi alive and well.

Each year my family and I celebrate by attending the annual Vaisakhi Nagar Kirtans, visiting our Sikh temples to partake in special ceremonies and celebrating with our loved ones. One thing is for sure you will be greeted with a smile at any Vaisakhi Celebration.

What is the significance of having a Sikh Heritage Month here in Ontario? What does it mean for community?

Sikh Heritage Month celebrates the contributions and ambitions of all Sikh-Canadians. This month gives all Canadians and opportunity to develop a greater understanding and appreciation for our diverse heritage. This month represents Sikh Canadians that have lived in Ontario since the mid twentieth century and have made significant contributions to Canada’s growing and dynamic population. Like our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said “…the story of the Sikh community in Canada is, in fact, just the story of Canada.”

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April is Sikh Heritage Month Celebrating Sikhs In Canada

Posted on 11 April 2015 by admin


Sikhs have called Canada their home for over a century, and today, hail from all parts of the globe and play a pivotal role in the fabric of Canadian society.

Sikhism is a major world religion that traces its origins back to the 15th century in what is known today as Punjab.

Sikhism was started as social revolution by first teacher, Guru Nanak, who laid the foundation for a distinct and unique monotheistic faith based on the principles of equality and social justice.

Sikh Heritage Month aims to celebrate the contributions and aspirations of all Sikh-Canadians and develop a greater understanding and appreciation for a rich, unique and diverse heritage.


Why Sikh Heritage Month

Sikh Heritage Month aims to celebrate the contributions and aspirations of Sikh Canadians throughout Ontario.

The Month of April was proclaimed as Sikh Heritage Month by the legislature of Ontario in 2013 (Bill 52).

Unanimously supported by Liberals, Conservatives and the NDP, the proclamation of April as Sikh Heritage month recognizes the important contributions that Sikh Canadians have made to Ontario’s social, economic, political and cultural fabric.

“Sikh Canadians have lived in Ontario since the middle of the 20th century,” said Singh. “They represent a growing and dynamic population. Sikh Canadians have made significant contributions to the growth and prosperity of Ontario and that’s what we’re celebrating this month.” – Jagmeet Singh, NDP MPP

April was specifically chosen given its importance for Sikhs, as it is in April that Sikh Canadians celebrate Vaisakhi, which marks the formalization of the Khalsa and the Sikh articles of faith.Sikh Heritage Month is an opportunity to remember, celebrate and educate our future generations and society at large about Sikh Canadians and the important role that they play in communities across Ontario.



Celebrate Sikh Heritage Month this April at the Peel Art Gallery, Museum and Archives

BRAMPTON, ON. (Mar. 27, 2015) – The Peel Art Gallery, Museum and Archives (PAMA) launches its newest community collaboration for the month of April. All PAMA visitors can enjoy FREE general admission in April courtesy of The Sikh Foundation of Canada. Connect with your neighbours this April and experience The Spirit of the Sikhs through art and history exhibitions, performances and interactive demonstrations. PAMA will host an entire month of special events and activities for the entire community to take part in!

Thursday evenings at PAMA are the place to be this April! Join us for a variety of fantastic entertainment from open mic night hosted by popular Punjabi artist Fateh Doe, a spoken word evening and film night profiling works by local artists.

Weekends in April will be packed with family fun, discussion and exciting exploration. There is something for everyone from kids and adult yoga with Guru Fatha Singh, to family art exploration, play time and story time with the Khalsa


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Ontario’s Success is Rooted in Our Diversity

Posted on 11 April 2013 by admin

Kathleen Wynne
Premier of Ontario

It’s always a privilege to attend Vaisakhi events. The sea of saffron orange colours — symbolic of wisdom — is breathtaking to behold.

But Vaisakhi is more than just a parade. It’s a celebration of the Sikh nation and a chance to give thanks. And for Hindus, it’s the beginning of the New Year – a time for worship and joy.

As new Premier of Ontario, I know that our society is stronger because of this diversity, because of our shared values of community, hard work and service.

Indeed, as our government is charting the way forward for Ontario, we’re doing it by drawing on the strength of our diverse population.

Our economic future is bright because of the ingenuity, creativity and dedication of Ontario’s people. You work so hard for your families, your employers and your communities, and you are helping us build a strong economy and a fair society, a place where we can all work hard and succeed.

I’m so proud of what we’ve achieved, together, but I know there’s more to do.

This spring, our government is focused on job creation. We want to create the conditions for small businesses and entrepreneurs to succeed. That means cutting down on red tape, helping ease the strain on our transportation system and helping young people and the unemployed develop the skills they need for today’s economy.

We all want a brighter future for our children. That’s why we encourage them to work hard, to study and learn more about the world. Ontario is continuing to invest in world-class education. Class sizes are down and test scores are up; we’re ensuring full-day kindergarten and high graduation rates. I want our young people to embrace technology and science; to learn to problem solve and work in teams.

We’re also dedicated to helping young people find internships and opportunities to become apprentices, so they can learn the skilled trades of today’s marketplace. And, we’re making college and university more affordable – ensuring 30% off tuition for low- and middle-income families and capping tuition increases around the rate of inflation.

A great education system is the best way to ensure a strong economy. Like you, we want our youth to be prepared for an exciting future, equipped with the skills they need to be civic minded, entrepreneurial and successful.

For Ontario to succeed, Ontario cannot be stuck in traffic gridlock. That’s why I’m so committed to improving our highways and building new transit in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area. I want people to get where they need to go quickly and safely, whether they’re driving at work or going home to see their family.

Our government is committed to creating a strong economy – we’re investing in research and innovation, supporting small businesses and building the vital infrastructure we need to move our goods across Ontario and ensure an easier, faster commute.

Going forward, I know Ontario’s success is rooted in our diversity, and that we’re all stronger if we work together. That’s why I’m so thankful for your community and all you do to make Ontario great.

Kathleen Wynne is the new and first female Premier of Ontario.

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A chat with Balwinder Singh, Gen Secy, Ontario Sikh and Gurdwara Council

Posted on 11 April 2012 by admin

Bhaswati Ghosh

Given the significance of Vaisakhi in the Sikh religion, it is only natural for diaspora Sikh and Punjabi populations to celebrate the festival with pride and fanfare. And Toronto is no exception, with the Khalsa Day Parade being the third largest event in the city. Generation Next recently had the opportunity to speak to Balwinder Singh, General Secretary of Ontario Sikh and Gurdwara Council (OSGC), an umbrella organization of gurdwaras in Ontario. Excerpts from the conversation:

GN: Since when are you associated with OSGC? How did your association start?

BS: My association with this organization started back in 2003, and I’ve been involved since its conception; I was a founding secretary. OSGC has 60 per cent individual participation and 40 per cent participation comes from gurdwaras. 13-14 gurdwaras are members of this organization.

GN: How many people attend the services during Vaisakhi? Are any special events held on the occasion?

BS: Every individual gurdwara celebrates Vaisakhi. Back in 1699, the order of Khalsa was established by our tenth guru, Guru Gobind Singh, and Vaisakhi used to be celebrated even before in the region as a festival of harvest, but our tenth guru added the element of faith to it. All gurdwaras around the world this festival in a big way. In Ontario gurdwaras, kirtan(singing of songs from the holy scripture) is arranged; free kitchen is always there, preachers from India and other parts of the world are invited.

Apart from that, collectively, all the members of our organization arrange for a Khalsa Day parade in Downtown Toronto, which is the third largest parade in Toronto area. It’s been almost close to 30 years now, and it has grown from just 2,000 participants to 80,000. Our highest turnover was in 1999, when we celebrated 300 years of Khalsawhen 1,20,000 people attended the event. The ceremony starts at 9 in the morning, with kirtans and reciting of religious hymns. Close to 1 pm, the religious ceremony concludes and then it takes the form of a parade, which goes till City Hall. It’s held on the last Sunday of April—29th April this year.

GN: Sevaor voluntary service is a big aspect of the Sikh faith. How are volunteers recruited? Can anyone join as a volunteer? How are they trained?

BS: It basically comes from the family. As a young person, you start going to gurdwara with your family and see the environment there. The entire management and day-to-day functions of any gurdwara or any religious place such as temples or mosques, is done on a volunteer basis. Seva is a big aspect, not just with Sikhs, but all across South Asian culture. As a young person, you see people working in gurdwaras, cleaning floors, vacuuming, cleaning utensils, preparing food in the free kitchen, distributing food, cleaning shoes of devotees, and it builds up in you that this is selfless service.

Training depends on what you want to do. If you do your seva in the kitchen area, there will be a person or two responsible for the management of that aspect of the seva, and they will guide you. Even if you are doing seva, you have to follow the decorum and the guidelines of the faith.

GN: What different activities do the volunteers have to do, both inside and outside gurdwaras?

BS: Inside the gurdwara, the majority of the work is related to the upkeep of the place—preparation of langar, which is free kitchen, cleaning…Some people also volunteerwith respect to the paperwork or other requirements. Outside the gurdwara, there are other events that are organized. For example, we connect with Canadian Blood Services and help with their donation camps, which may or may not be in the gurdwara. The police also recently organized drives against drugs and other substance abuses. So in activities like these, which are more social in nature and require a degree and level of commitment, as well as an understanding of other communities, volunteers depending on their skill levels, join.The gurdwara provides them with infrastructural and financial support, but all the other work is done by volunteers. Another movement called the Seva Food Bank, established two years ago, has become very big and will soon parallel the mainstream food banks. It’s a totally volunteer-run organization.

At any given time, you need 60-70 volunteers in a day to run the Dixie gurdwara. On weekends, more than 200 volunteers participate. And for the Khalsa Day Parade, we have close to 1,000 volunteers. They start training a month and a half ago to coordinate with the police and city staff.

GN: How involved do you find second-generation Canadian-Sikh youth with the various gurdwara activities?

BS: It’s quite encouraging. In the last 10-15 years, it’s becoming more and more engrained in the new generation. When it goes out in the media about what your religion is all about—at the end of the day, it’s a service to the humanity. Those things are common to all religions, but what gurdwaras do is to provide a platform for the young generation to help materialize their altruistic goals. We have noticed in recent years that activists who also take part outside gurdwara activities also become a part of gurdwaras.

GN: What is the response to gurdwara activities from non-Sikhs?

BS: This is a very good question. Dixie gurdwara and some other gurdwaras have become big attractions. I know people who even come from the U.S. to see the Dixie gurdwara. Similarly, if they go to Vancouver, they want to see the main gurdwara there. If you go to these gurdwaras, you see a lot of people who do not belong to the Sikh faith, but they have a background or they simply want to see how the organization is run. More than a million people attend the Dixie gurdwara alone in a year. School trips are also arranged to visit gurdwaras, police people in training are brought to gurdwaras to show them how it works and for them to develop better understanding of different religions and diversity in Ontario.

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