Canadian PM joins oldest Baisakhi parade in North America

Though the exact numbers are unknown, Canada is home to about 400,000 Sikhs.

Vancouver: Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper joined thousands of Sikhs here on Saturday for the weekend Baisakhi celebrations. Called the Baisakhi Parade, it is one of the oldest and biggest Sikh celebrations in North America.

Welcoming the over 10,000 participants in the Baisakhi parade, the Canadian Prime Minister shouted the Sikh religious slogan of `Waheguruji Ka Khalsa, Waheguruji Ki Fateh` amid applause.

British Columbia provincial premier Christy Clark, former Canadian health minister Ujjal Dosanjh, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and many other leaders also joined the Baisakhi parade which carried the Sikh scripture from the city`s 100-year-old Ross Street Gurdwara through main thoroughfares.

In fact, the mayor became the centre of attraction as he came dressed in a jersey of the city`s national ice hockey team called the Canucks.

Along the long procession, people dressed in colourful clothes danced to drum beats as loudspeakers blared music in the city`s Little India area.

Diane Watts, mayor of the neighbouring Sikh-dominated city of Surrey, walked in the procession wearing colourful salwar-kameez.

"Baisakhi is an event that is all about inclusion, it is all about pride, it is all about families, it is all about those things that we want for British Columbia (province)," said Watts who went on an 11-day business mission to India in February.

Thousands of non-Sikhs also joined the procession to have fun with the community and feast on free food and delicacies. People had set up free food stalls along the route of the Baisakhi Parade.

Similar weekend Baisakhi processions will also be taken out in Surrey and Toronto last this month.

Though their exact numbers are not known, Canada is home to about 400,000 Sikhs. They were the first Indian community to land in this country in the Vancouver area in the 1890s.


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