Watch: Canadian minister Sajjan dances on Bollywood-themed float at LGBT parade

While Harjit Sajjan has participated in Pride parades earlier, this was possibly the first time he publicly joined the celebrations of an LGBT group from his community.
Canada’s Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan next to Sher Vancouver’s Pride of Bollywood VI float, standing alongside Alex Sangha, Sher Vancouver’s founder.(Image courtesy: Sher Vancouver)
Canada’s Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan next to Sher Vancouver’s Pride of Bollywood VI float, standing alongside Alex Sangha, Sher Vancouver’s founder.(Image courtesy: Sher Vancouver)
Updated on Aug 07, 2017 03:54 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, Toronto | By, Toronto

As the desi LGBT support organisation Sher Vancouver joined the Vancouver Pride Parade on Sunday, with its Pride of Bollywood float, they had a surprise guest join them on board and dance along:Canada’s defence minister Harjit Sajjan.

While Sajjan has participated in pride parades earlier, this was possibly the first time he publicly joined the celebrations of an LGBT group from his community.

Obviously thrilled at this development, Sher Vancouver’s founder Alex Sangha told the Hindustan Times: “This is very important symbolically as he’s a very senior federal cabinet minister. By doing this act in public, he has sent out the message that LGBTs of our community need to be treated with respect, dignity and equality. It’s one thing for an activist like me to shout about this but it’s different when people in positions of power do that.”

Sangha said, “He has a lot of influence in our community, lot of people look up to him. When people like him stand up for us, other people are more likely to also support us.”

Sajjan’s impromptu act came even as homosexuality remains a controversial subject within the Indo-Canadian community, including Sikhs.

Sajjan first started dancing to the beats on the street before leaping on to the float and joining those who were already on it. (Image courtesy: Sher Vancouver)
Sajjan first started dancing to the beats on the street before leaping on to the float and joining those who were already on it. (Image courtesy: Sher Vancouver)

The interlude lasted about five minutes. Sajjan was marching with the Federal Liberal Party contingent at the Parade as the music blaring from the Bollywood float, with its mix of Hindi film songs, bhangra and fusion, attracted the attention of his family. Sajjan first started dancing to the beats on the street before leaping on to the float and joining those who were already on it, even as his security detail watched.

While Sher Vancouver had a Bollywood float regularly feature at the Vancouver Pride Parade between 2008 and 2012, that ceased after the tragic death of their then social coordinator January Marie Lapuz.

But as their group grew, younger people were increasingly interested in celebrating at the parade in ethnic style, Sangha pointed out . As a result, the Pride of Bollywood float returned this year.

It was a success, as Sangha said, “We had to tell people to get off because we were afraid people would fall off.”

The few danc steps that Sajjan showed off on the float could be a major stride for the Indo-Canadian, specially the Sikh, LGBT community. “He’s really being a pioneer, helping us moving further ahead in our social justice work,” Sangha said.

Sajjan’s open support matters because by doing so he “is helping to break down barriers in our community.  We thank him for that.  He made our Pride,” he added.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Anirudh Bhattacharya is a Toronto-based commentator on North American issues, and an author. He has also worked as a journalist in New Delhi and New York spanning print, television and digital media. He tweets as @anirudhb.

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