28 August 2011
Abbotsford, British Columbia
Good morning ladies and gentlemen.
Vahiguru ji ka Khalsa, Vahiguru ji ki Fateh.
Thank you, Minister Ed Fast for that introduction, and also, in front of all your constituents here in Abbotsford, thank you for the great work you’re doing, not just as Member of Parliament for Abbotsford, but also as our Minister of International Trade.
Greetings as well to Premier Christy Clark, to Mayor George Peary, to all representatives of provincial and municipal governments, as well as to all of my Parliamentary colleagues who are here: James Moore, John Duncan, Tim Uppal, Nina Grewal, Randy Kamp, Mark Warawa, Ron Cannan and Devinder Shory.
I want to begin by thanking the Khalsa Diwan Society and its president Kabul Hundal for inviting me to be part of this historic event. I want to congratulate the Society, and all those responsible over the last century for the preservation, restoration and operation of this landmark Canadian Gurdwara.
The centennial of the Gur Sikh Temple is an opportunity to remember the brave pioneers from the Punjab who built this sacred place and to celebrate the enormous contributions that generations of Sikh immigrants and their descendants have made to our great country.
It is also an opportunity to reflect on the many challenges the community faced and overcame on the path to becoming full and equal partners in the mainstream of Canadian life.
This National Historic Site, the longest-standing Sikh Gurdwara in North America, speaks volumes about Canada’s singular role in the world as a sanctuary and place of opportunity for immigrants from every point on the compass.
But as the Sikh community knows all too well, early Indo-Canadian immigrants endured the cruel sting of discrimination in this country. At the dawn of the 20th
century, even as hardworking Sikhs, like the loggers who built this temple with their volunteer labour, were making their mark in the forest, mining, construction, farming and railroad industries, the community was singled out for discriminatory immigration, labour and citizenship treatment.
Nothing can be done to change history. Like the mighty Fraser River that courses near here, it flows inexorably out of our past, through the present and into our future. But part of what makes Canada such a peaceful, cohesive country is our ability to move on, leaving old wounds and arguments behind.
Canadians – both newcomers and native-born – do not let the events of previous generations imprison us. Instead we celebrate what has ultimately bound us together as Canadians, like the extraordinary success of the Sikh community in our great country.
In every field of human endeavour, business, science, medicine, the arts, even politics - especially politics – Sikhs have succeeded in Canada. Successes like Nina Grewal, a first-generation Sikh Canadian who became Canada’s first female South Asian MP and member of the first husband and wife MP team when she was first elected in 2004, and like Tim Uppal, a third generation Sikh Canadian born here on the west coast, who now sits in our federal cabinet.
Also, successes like the brave Sikh-Canadian members of the Canadian Forces who have served our country so proudly in Afghanistan and upheld the legacy of their ancestors, including the veterans of the British Army who were among the first Sikh settlers in Canada, and builders of this temple.
The Gur Sikh Temple, with its beautiful new centennial monument and museum, is a shrine to Sikhism in Canada. Future generations of Sikh Canadians - and many others – will come here to learn about the courage, hardships and perseverance of our earliest Sikh pioneers. They will learn of an adventurous, proud and devout people, who passed on all these noble characteristics to their descendents and made our Canada stronger and better.
Once again, congratulations.
Vahiguru ji ka Khalsa, Vahiguru ji ki Fateh