Thousands attended the Baisakhi parade in Vancouver on Saturday. Organised under the banner of Khalsa Diwan Society, the oldest Sikh body in Canada, the annual parade attracted people from across North America.
What added to the enthusiasm of the Sikhs was the presence of defence minister Harjit Singh Sajjan, who is an MP from Vancouver South. He is the first turbaned Sikh to be appointed as defence minister of Canada. His posters greeted visitors from different spots.
The celebration followed the recent announcement by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about the official apology for Komagata Maru episode coming next month. Significantly, Sajjan had previously led the regiment that was responsible for forcing the Komagata Maru ship to return in 1914. Also in attendance was Raj Singh Toor, whose grandfather was aboard the ship.
Encouraged by the upcoming official apology, the members of the East Indian Defence Committee also displayed a banner along the parade route seeking recognition of Mewa Singh as a Canadian hero. Mewa Singh was hung in 1915 for assassinating a controversial immigration inspector William Hopkinson who was instrumental behind Komagata Maru episode. Already, a petition has been launched to get Mewa Singh recognised as martyr for standing up against racism. Meanwhile, in the light of forthcoming assembly election in Punjab next year, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) had pitched a tent to raise awareness among the NRIs on the occasion. Notably, the BC is also headed for assembly election next year. Not only the BC Premier Christy Clark and her cabinet colleagues paid obeisance at the Ross Street Sikh temple before the parade started, the opposition NDP caucus team was also present. Clark emphasised that Baisakhi was no more a South Asian festival, but it has rather become a Canadian festival. It is pertinent to mention that baisakhi was also recently celebrated at Parliament Hill in Ottawa.
A significant number of Chinese and Caucasians also participated in the parade. A float also carried a portrait of Bhim Rao Ambedkar to mark his 125th birth anniversary.