OTTAWA – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wished the Canadian Sikh community as well as the Indo-Canadian community a happy Vaisakhi while recognizing their contributions to the fight against COVID-19.
Due to the pandemic, all the celebratory events such as Vaisakhi parades and celebrations at Gurdwaras have been cancelled throughout Canada and Trudeau recognised the hardships and contribution of the community in countering the impact of the crisis.
Sikhs in Canada, numbering nearly 600,000, observe Vaisakhi with large events like Khalsa Day parades and nagar kirtans. In his greeting to the community to mark the festival, Trudeau said, “In years past, families and friends would celebrate Vaisakhi by gathering at their local Gurdwaras to pray, read from the sacred scripture, and take part in vibrant parades and processions known as Nagar Kirtans. This year, as we continue to feel the impacts of the Covid-19 global pandemic, the Sikh community is celebrating differently, following the recommendations of our public health experts.”
Earlier, Trudeau, during a regular media briefing, had also welcomed the service being provided by the community during the crisis, as he said, “Right now, when people need help most, you’re stepping up once again. In Regina, you’re delivering supplies to your neighbours, while in Mississauga you’re donating to the Seva Food Bank.”
Among the major Vaisakhi events are those in Toronto and Vancouver. The latter staged by Canada’s most historic gurdwara, the Khalsa Diwan Society, was scheduled for April 18. However, the organisers cancelled the parade, which witnessed the participation of Trudeau last year, “keeping in mind public health and safety”. Similarly, the event in Toronto attracts nearly 50,000 people each year and this too has been cancelled, as the Ontario Sikhs and Gurdwaras Council, noted this was done keeping in mind the “best interest” of communities and “safety of people” which were of “utmost importance.”
The premier of Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, Doug Ford, also recognised the role the Indo-Canadians has played during the crisis. He thanked the Canada India Foundation and the Hindu Federation for “using their networks to bring together volunteers and resources to help the vulnerable and those most in need during Covid-19, whether its delivering groceries, donating cooked food, providing medical supplies, or transportation.”
The BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha, meanwhile, has donated 13,000 medical-grade protective face masks to hospitals in the country. These were originally acquired by BAPS Charities for their health drives and blood donation camps. But, Shirish Shah, President of BAPS Charities, Canada, said, “We feel that the healthcare professionals are vital to our community and with the level of risk they are undertaking, they need to be well protected. If they are safe, we are safer.”