MLA Jagrup Brar hails 40 years efforts of community to fight for South Asians’ voting rights stripped off in 1907

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MLA Jagrup Brar made following statement on April 5 recognizing the 75th anniversary of Sikhs and South Asians successfully winning back the right to vote in BC after a struggle of 40 years. 

Today we celebrate the 75th anniversary of the South Asian community winning the right to vote after 40 years of struggle. The act to amend the Provincial Elections Act was passed in this House on April 2, 1947. At the turn of the last century, South Asians of whom the overwhelming majority were Sikhs from Punjab came to Canada.

From the outset, they fought together against racism and discrimination they faced on the streets of Vancouver and against racist laws that were passed in this assembly. They were designated as untrustworthy, dishonest and undesirable by the government of the day. South Asians were stripped of their most fundamental right, the right to vote, on March 27, 1907 in this assembly.

This decision caused a tremendous uproar in the South Asian community. As a result, the Khalsa Diwan Society of Vancouver, led by Naginder Singh Gill, made the call to fight back. This supported further community activism that was advanced by giants including Darshan Singh Canadian, Hussein Rahim, Dr. Pandia, Didar Singh, and Jagat Singh “Jack” Uppal among many others.

After a long struggle and delegation to Victoria and Ottawa, the franchise was eventually restored in 1947. It is only because of their struggle and activism that you, Mr. Speaker, are seated on that beautiful throne. Many of my colleagues of South Asian heritage are seated in this chamber, now responsible for making the laws to make this province more equal, more just, more fair for all British Columbians. My sincere thanks to the Dr. Hari Sharma Foundation for organizing the first event in Surrey last Saturday to celebrate this historic victory.