The Golden Tree, a first ever memorial of its kind dedicated to farm workers in Canada, was unveiled in Abbotsford near here Saturday morning.
Built in memory of three Punjabi women farm workers, who died in a road accident in March 2007, the monument was unveiled at Friendship Garden by the relatives of the victims.
Three women-Amarjit Kaur Bal (52), Sukhwinder Kaur Punia (41) and Sarabjit Kaur Sidhu (31)-had died when overloaded van carrying farm workers flipped near the highway. The monument designed by Dean and Christina Lauze has three faces of women embedded in it.
The relatives of the slain women were present at the time of the unveiling.
Sarabjit Kaur Sidhu’s husband Jagjit Singh Sidhu was among the speakers who addressed the gathering. He announced that his struggle for the improvement of the working conditions in the farming industry will continue.
“The monument is the culmination of our struggle for justice. However, this journey isn’t over and I will continue my fight.” He mentioned that how he was often discouraged by others from pursuing for justice, but he never gave up.
Sidhu separately told HT that women working in the farming industry still face lot of exploitation due to their vulnerability. “Although things have improved with more checks and road side inspections since the time of my wife’s death, but more needs to be done.”
His daughter Avneet Kaur also spoke on the occasion.
Following public outcry, a coroner investigation was held into the accident in 2009. The inquest found that the vehicle was unsafe and poorly maintained, besides there were not enough seat belts. The inquiry had resulted in 18 recommendations to improve working conditions of farm workers.
The project was funded by BC Federation of Labour (BCFED), Progressive Intercultural Community Services, Canadian Farm-workers Union (CFU) and Indian Rationalist Society, while the land was given by the City of Abbotsford.
Others who spoke at the event included former BC Federation of Labour president Jim Sinclair and MLA Raj Chouhan, who is also the former president of Canadian Farm-workers Union. He reminded that there have been many other deaths in the farming industry in the past before the 2007 accident.
Among those present were former BC Human Rights commissioner Harinder Mahil, Indian Rationalist Society leader Avtar Gill, director of Vancity Lily Grewal and MLAs Bruce Ralston and Shane Simpson.
Balbir Singh Paras and party sang a dhadhi waar(ballad) dedicated to the victims.