Multiculturalism Day: a festival to celebrate diverse cultures


“Through selfless service, eternal peace is obtained” – Guru Granth Sahib (Sikh Holy Scripture)

Harnoor Gill, Georgetown, Ontario

A festival that’s being celebrated more and more each year throughout the region of Halton, Multiculturalism Day has indeed become a great success. Multiculturalism Day is a festival to recognize, as well as celebrate the diverse cultures that define us as Canada today. Ever since the establishment of the Dominion of Canada in 1867, high immigration rates have resulted in a culturally diverse environment. So hop on board and learn more about this great festival with me!

Many people are not aware of the existence of Multiculturalism Day as it is a new term for people to grasp. National Aboriginal Day falls on the same day as well, but the reason multiculturalism is integrated instead is to value all of Canada’s people and not just one culture. The celebration of diverse culture brings people together as a community, communities as a province, provinces as a country and countries into the world itself. These types of gatherings raise awareness about the ever-growing culture around us. This festival is also celebrated around the end of June before Canada Day to signify our unity in all aspects of life within Canadian culture.

In particular, I am always excited about this event as I can instantly relate this concept of multiculturalism to the thought and vision propagated by the Sikh Guru’s in the late 1400 AD. Their notion was to evolve a culture that “rises above Religion and selflessly serves humanity”; their vision was a world, free of any kind of discrimination.  Once again, I was proud to be a part of the annual multiculturalism festival hosted by the Halton Multicultural Council (HMC). This time there was something even more sensational, there was a booth for “turban adorning” which was a unique way of displaying Sikh ideals and culture.

I know the turban is a part of all cultures from ancient Judaism, Islam, Christianity and Eastern cultures, but on that day I learned something really special about the significance of the turban and its integration into the Sikh Culture.

In 15th century India, the turban was primarily an entitlement only for the rulers, nobles and aristocrats. In context of the thought Self-respect is the fruit of self-discipline. When you have both of these firmly under your belt, you shall have the courage to stand up for yourself and for others…Life is not about the way you live it, but about the courage you bring to it”, the Sikh Guru’s while evoking the right to self-respect of the common oppressed man, irrespective of his caste, creed, gender or status in society, encouraged him to adorn the turban. Guru Gobind Singh, in the year 1699, finally made it a part of the day-to-day discipline, by making it a part of the essential attire for the Sikhs. This gesture uplifted the dormant self-esteem of the common oppressed man, who had now started seeing himself at par with the higher class. Eventually, the effect of awakening the sense of self-discipline and self-respect in the common man was so enormous that under the leadership of the Guru, the same people who were once  terrified and victims of injustice, now successfully stood up for the rights of their fellow brethren by challenging the policies of mighty rulers. Subsequently, Sikhs emerged as a very powerful spiritual as well as combatant force, who the British later coined as the “martial race”.

The other important aspect that I understood was how the wearing of a turban caused the Sikhs to have a distinct appearance making them responsible for their actions in public and the reflection that their conduct would have on a wider society.

The turban thus, is not merely a piece of cloth worn on the head, but to a Sikh, it is the Guru’s energy living within him and driving him to act socially responsible and accountable at all times.