Canada’s Sikh community cancels festivities due to resurgence in Covid-19 cases
As Canada tightens curbs to control a fresh surge in Covid-19 infections, the country’s Sikh community has cancelled several events that were lined up to mark Vaisakhi, the Sikh New Year festival, as well as the traditional Khalsa Day celebrations.
Community groups had to scramble to call off gatherings last year when the coronavirus pandemic first struck during spring. After the situation somewhat improved, a fresh resurgence of cases in Canada one year into the pandemic has now forced them to cancel plans to celebrate this year’s festive season.
Kultar Singh Gill, chair of the Ontario Sikh and Gurdwara Council (OSGC), has said there’s no question of organising the annual Khalsa Day parade in Toronto, which attracts tens of thousands of participants at the venue in the city’s downtown, and has featured political leaders like Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, leaders of opposition parties and provincial leaders.
Instead, they wanted to hold a motorcycle rally along the route of the parade on April 25, but those plans had to be cancelled because the province of Ontario has enforced stay-at-home orders.
Gill said, “It has to be safety first and everybody understands that.” He was hopeful that Covid-19 cases are expected to subside gradually, so smaller events can be slotted for May.
For now, he said, gurdwaras will mostly hold events virtually as provincial rules permit 15% in-person capacity at indoor events.
That is also the case with Khalsa Diwan Society in Vancouver, which organises an annual parade that has also been attended by Trudeau. The society’s treasurer Kuldip Thandi said there will be no Vaisakhi celebrations this year.
According to provincial authorities in British Columbia, “Indoor in-person religious gatherings and worship services of any size are prohibited.”
Annually, April is observed as Sikh heritage month across Canada. The Nishan sahib, the pennant of the symbol of the faith, has been raised at some municipalities in Ontario, including Brampton.
Local community leader Sukhminder Singh Hansra said it will also be raised at Toronto’s City Hall on April 19. It was raised at the beginning of the month at the city hall in Brampton in the Greater Toronto Area.
Hansra said the community was planning a car rally to celebrate the month and the religious festivities associated with it, but it is no longer possible due to stay-at-home orders.
Canada reported 7,619 new Covid-19 cases on Sunday, an increase of 68% over the last 14 days, taking the total number of confirmed infections in the country to 1,060,162, including 23,315 fatalities.
Pubic health authorities have been cautioning against large gatherings, as Canada’s chief public health officer Dr Theresa Tam said on Sunday, “Several jurisdictions have highlighted social gatherings as an important driver for spread.”