Saturday, April 12, 1997
Singh Mann likes to live in the past.
home is filled with antiques and artefacts, including a rare
handwritten copy of the Sikh holy book, silver swords and
portraits of his ancestors.
rich past that enables us to face the present with pride,"
says Mann, 40.
It was this
conviction that motivated him to help organize activities to
celebrate the 100th anniversary of the arrival of Sikhs in
perception is that we (Sikhs) just came off a boat and are here
to make a quick buck," observes Mann, a lawyer.
important to let the public know that the first Sikhs landed in
Canada in 1897. Like every other pioneer immigrant community,
these people worked hard, faced enormous barriers and paved the
way for us to enjoy the fruits of their labor."
non-Sikhs alike can learn some history during the year's events,
says Mann, who helped organize the Centennial Foundation,
dedicated to Sikh Canadians celebrating a century in Canada.
In his treasured
collection, Mann has a painting of Capt. Kesur Singh, one of the
first Sikhs to land in Canada. Singh was a member of a
contingent of soldiers serving in the British-Indian army who
were invited for Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in England.
At the invitation
of Canadian soldiers they met in England, a group stopped in
Canada on their return to Hong Kong.
subjects, a number of them, including Singh, decided to stay and
made their home in British Columbia.
is being celebrated all over Canada this year. In the Greater
Toronto Area, the Centennial Foundation hosts a gala dinner at
the Lionhead Golf Club next Saturday.
For T. Sher
Singh, a Guelph lawyer and avid student of Sikhism, the
centennial celebrations "will be a start of understanding
our roots while allowing us to celebrate both cultures, East and
Singh, one of the
key persons behind the Centennial Foundation and a Toronto Star
columnist, says his involvement is about heritage.
"I want my
daughter to understand that being Canadian begins with a deep
knowledge of our own heritage."
Singh, 47, Saturday's event will include a historical exhibit
featuring Sikh pioneer towns of Canada, an award ceremony
honoring both Sikhs and non-Sikhs who have made outstanding
contributions to Canada, traditional dancing and a performance
of the play The Komagata Maru Incident.
The play, by
Canadian playwright Sharon Pollack (twice recipient of the
Governor-General's award), dramatizes events around the 1914
arrival of a shipload of Sikh immigrants on the west coast.
will also launch events going on throughout the year.
means Sikhs will have two things to celebrate this month.
Tomorrow is Baisakhi, or Solar New Year, a multifaceted festival
of entertainment and serious worship. Other communities also
celebrate Baisakhi, including Hindus and Jains.
Baisakhi marks the establishment of the "Khalsa" order
(meaning "pure") by the 10th Guru of the Sikh faith
called Guru Gobind Singh. Among his numerous writings are the
words "Recognize all the Human Race as One."
Balwant Singh Mann, a Cambridge University graduate and retired
engineer, explains the significance of the two events this way:
someone asked me, 'Are you Canadian or Sikh?' How can I convince
people that I am both?
"If I am a
good Sikh," Balwant, 70, continues, "I am
automatically a good Canadian because my Sikh values complement
my Canadian ideals. These are the values I learned from my
ancestors and have passed on to my children and grandchildren.
Baisakhi and the centennial celebrations all over Canada are a
solemnization of these values."
Reflecting on the
negative stereotyping of Sikhs, Harry Mann points out that Sikhs
"are peace-loving by nature and have contributed very
positively to Canada, both economically and socially."
at a Sikh temple in Surrey, B.C., a few months ago should not be
used to tarnish the image of an entire community, he says.
reaction of a few individuals should not reflect on all of us
and in order to avoid this in future, we need to educate the
host community about who we are and what we stand for."
household, where four generations live under one roof, is a
perfect example of heritage and traditions combined with a
progressive Western lifestyle.
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