Timeline of Sikhs in Canada

1809 – Present


Treaty with a King


In 1809, as a representative of the British East India Company, Charles Metcalfe, 1st Baron Metcalfe, signed the Treaty of Lahore with Maharajah Ranjeet Singh leading to the establishment of the Sikh Kingdoms, Metcalfe also married a Sikh lady from the Lahore court.

Metcalfe eventually moved to Canada and was appointed by the Peel Ministry, to the post of Governor General of the Province of Canada and Lieutenant Governor of Canada West and Canada East, from 1843-1845.



The Lion of Punjab, Maharajah Ranjeet Singh passed away. The Sikh Kingdom became vulnerable and would soon be exploited by the British East India Company.



The Anglo Sikh Wars were a series of 1840s conflicts between the British East India Company and the Sikh Empire. There were two Anglo Sikh Wars, the First War took place between 1845-1846, and the second between 1848-1849.

The Sikh Empire dissolved in 1849. British Prime Minister, Sir Robert Peel (after whom the Region of Peel was named) in writing to Lord Hardinge, Governor-General of India after the battle of Ferozeshah against the Sikhs, stated "Your loss has been very severe. It demonstrates the extent of the danger and the necessity of unparalleled exertion. We are astonished at the numbers, the power of concentration, and the skill and courage of the enemy."



The Indian Rebellion of 1857 began as a mutiny of sepoys of the British East India Company's army. In Punjab, the Sikh Princes backed the Company by providing soldiers and support. Two of Canada's first three recipients of the Victoria Cross were awarded for their participation in the Indian Rebellion. These included Herbert Read, from Ontario, in the battle of Delhi and the first Canadian Black recipient of the Victoria Cross, William Hall from Nova Scotia in at the battle of Lucknow. Asa result, two towns in Ontario were aptly named Delhi and Lucknow.



A Royal Resident


On the heels of the valour of the Sikh soldiers in the Anglo Sikh Wars and the Indian Rebellion, the Sikhs quickly gained a reputation as one of the world's bravest armies. This reputation made it all the way across the Atlantic to Canada. The first Prime Minister of Canada, Sir John A. Macdonald, following the British North America (BNA) Act, penned a letter to a friend in India, in 1867. In his musings about the possibility of war one day between England and the USA, he wrote "War will come someday between England and the United States and India can do us yeoman's service by sending an army of Sikhs ... across the Pacific to San Francisco and holding that beautiful and immortal city with the surrounding California — as security for Montreal and Canada."



Prince Victor Albert Jay Duleep Singh, the grandson of the late Maharajah Ranjeet Singh, was educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge. In 1887, he entered the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, with a special Cadetship and left the following December to be commissioned as Lieutenant into the 1st (Royal) Dragoons. In 1888, Prince Victor Duleep Singh was posted to Halifax, Nova Scotia as Honorary Aide-de-Camp to General Sir John Ross, commander of British forces in British North America, making him the first Sikh in Canada. He returned to England in February 1890.




The Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria was celebrated in June 1897 in England. At the suggestion of Colonial Secretary Joseph Chamberlain, this pomp occasion was made a festival of the British Empire. The Prime Ministers of all the self-governing Dominions were invited, and the Queen's Diamond Jubilee procession through London included troops from all over the empire including Sikhs. Various countries of the Commonwealth also celebrated the Queens Diamond Jubilee, including Canada with festivities across Canada. Sikh Regiments from the procession came to Canada as part of ongoing celebrations.


The Pioneers


The initial wave of Sikh migrant pioneers arrived to Canada in the first decade of the twentieth Century, with the peak reaching approximately 5,500 Sikhs, predominately living in and around Vancouver, British Columbia. The Sikh Pioneers worked in the lumber mills and logging industry. They also toiled the farmlands and worked on the railway. Other Sikh Pioneers worked on the docks and in the cement factories. Unfortunately, for these men, their wives, children, and families were not allowed to join them because of restrictive government immigration policies.



The first Sikh Temple (Gurdwara) in Hong Kong was originally built by Siri Guru Singh Sabah in 1901 and later managed by the Khalsa Diwan Society. It served as a refuge to almost all Sikhs arriving by ship along the Pacific/West Coast to either Canada or the United States of America (USA), as it was a key stopover for the pioneer journey from Punjab. It also served as the architectural inspiration for Canada's first Gurdwara built-in 1908.



Sikhs settled in Frank, Alberta as railway workers and miners



Bhai Man Singh brought the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (Sikh Scripture) to Canada.



Although formed in 1902 in Canada and the USA, the Khalsa Diwan Society was formally established in 1906 in Vancouver. Its purpose was to meet the social, political, cultural and spiritual needs of the Sikh Pioneers. The Khalsa Diwan Society laid the foundation stone for the establishment of the first Sikh place of worship in Canada. Construction was completed in 1908 and the Sikh Temple (Gurdwara) at 1866 West 2nd Avenue opened its doors to all in January of that year. Except for the roof lines, the Sikh Temple in Canada mirrored its counterpart in Hong Kong.


In March 1907, British Columbia Premier Bowser introduced a bill to disenfranchise all "natives not of Anglo-Saxon parents". A Vancouver alderman stated " far as Canada is concerned it shall remain white". In April, Sikhs were also denied the right to vote in Vancouver when changes were made in the Municipality Incorporation Act, thus excluding Sikhs from the Federal vote by default. Sikhs would be barred from the political process in Canada for the next forty years.

The Bellingham riots occurred on September 4, 1907, in Bellingham, Washington, USA. A mob of 400-500 white men, predominantly members of the Asiatic Exclusion League, rounded up hundreds of Sikh lumber mill workers, beat them in the streets, and then forced them out of town. Because of the proximity to the Canadian border, this scene of violence was repeated in Vancouver just a few days later and became known as the Anti—Asian Riots.


The Canadian government adopted a new policy and issued two orders-in-council on January 8, 1908, designed to stop all immigration from India. The first order-in-council stated, "All immigrants must come to Canada via a through ticket and by continuous journey from their country of birth or citizenship." The Canadian Government then pressured the only shipping company directly traveling from India, the Canadian Pacific Steamship Company to discontinue its service from India. The second read as follows "All immigrants from Asia must have in their possession $200." This was clearly discriminatory since white immigrants, from anywhere, were required to have only $25 in their possession upon arrival in Canada.

In the fall of 1908, the future Prime Minister of Canada William Lyon Mackenzie King was the key architect and mastermind behind a mischievous plan to get rid of all the Sikhs in Canada. It consisted of a plan for the mass relocation of Sikhs who settled in Canada, to the closest British Territory with a "warmer climate" — British Honduras (now Belize). Bhai Sham Singh and Bhai Nagar Singh were also forced to travel with Canadian Officials to British Honduras to survey the plan. Sikhs flexed their political activism and roundly rejected the British Honduras plan.


 Professor Teja Singh established the Guru Nanak Mining and Trust Company to organize and secure the economic welfare of the Sikh Community.



Not wanted by greatly needed


The Khalsa Diwan Society was the collective agency in establishing Gurdwams. In 1911, the Abbotsford, Victoria, and Fraser Mills Sikh Temples were built along with New West Minister and Golden.


Over the winter of 1911/12, Dr. Sunder Singh visited Toronto to agitate for immigration reform. On December 28th, he delivered a speech carefully constructed so appeal to Ontarian and Christian sensibilities at the Canadian Club. On the principle that mutual understanding would reduce prejudice, Singh began by earnestly outlining the history and beliefs of the Sikh religion, emphasizing its monotheism and drawing parallels between its origins and Martin Luther's Protestant Reformation.

He then demonstrated the long, enthusiastic support Sikhs had shown the Royal Crown, including their military service during the Indian Mutiny, and throughout the Empire from Afghanistan to Somaliland to Hong Kong. "In fact, the history of India would have been different if it had not been for the Sikhs," explained Singh.

Dr. Sunder Singh's allies included John K. Macdonald, founder and president of Confederation Life; lawyers John A. Paterson, K.C., and H.E. Irwin, K.C.; University of Toronto president Robert A. Falconer; and a missionary, the Rev. Dr. John Wilkie.


The Sikhs of Canada
Dr. Sunday Singh
January 25, 1912 - Toronto

"We are subjects of the same Empire; we have fought, we have sacrificed. We have fought for the Empire, and we bear her medals; we have an interest in this country; we have bought about $2,006,000 of property in British Columbia; we have our church and pay our pastor, and we mean to stay in this country,"

(Great Canadian Speeches, Dennis Gruending, 2004)


On January 4, 1912 the Parkdale Presbyterian Church in Toronto passed a resolution urging the Canadian government to alter the existing conditions so as to secure for our fellow British subjects reasonable access to and opportunities for their residence with their families on Canadian soil. On Jemmy 5, 1912 a letter was sent to Ottawa bearing this resolution with regard to the Silas, and on January 6, 1912, the Prime Minister, Robert Borden who then forwarded it to Hon. Robert Rogers, Minister of the Interior, received it.


1912 Hardial Singh Atwal was the first Sikh to be born in Canada on August 28, 1912, in Vancouver, British Columbia.


The Ghadar Party was an organization founded by Indians (predominately Punjabis) in the United States and Canada with the aim to gain India's independence from British rule. The call for members was simple: "Wanted 8,000 Gbadarites. Pay-Dcath. Reward-Freedom." Key members included Sohan Singh Bhalma, Kartar Singh Sarabha, Lala har Dayal and Rashbehari Bose. Ghadar di Gunj, an early Ghadarite compilation of nationalist and socialist literature, was banned by the British Indian Government.



An official expression of long-standing Canadian animosity towards non-white people took place in 1914 in Vancouver harbor when Canada's brand new navy amid cheers from Vancouverites ashore, forced the Komagata Mara steamship with its 376 passengers, mostly Sikhs from Punjab India to leave Canadian waters on July 23. This would be the first time in Canadian history that Canada, fumed away a ship of would-be-migrants. Literally, two months later, the same British Subjects who were not wattled, but greatly needed, voluntarily answered the call to fight in the Great War for Civilization in WW1. It took Canada 102 years to officially apologize in the House of Commons for the Komagato Mara tragedy. After 102 years, in 2016 Canada finally officially apologized in the House of Commons for the Komagata Mom tragedy.

Sikhs start to settle in Ontario, including Bhai Piara Singh Langeri, Kartar Singh Honda], Kapoor Singh Sidhu, and Buck= Singh. They all worked on a lakeshore country estate at Rosebank, thirty kilometers east of Toronto, near the town of Pickering. The owner was none other than William Moore, a Toronto lawyer, railway executive, and one who would later become a Member of Parliament. Moore was a friend to a small group of Toronto Theosophists and his Sikh group including Dr. Sunder Singh was introduced to a number of prominent Toronto citizens including activist and suffragette Dr. Lelia Davis. They also met with Albert Stafford Smythe, whose son Conn Smythe's name became synonymous to represent hockey for generations of Canadian sports fans after he purchased a Toronto hockey team and renamed it the Maple Leafs.


Private Simla Goojer Singh was the first Sikh to enlist with the Canadian army during the First World War (WWI). He enlisted in Montreal with the 24th BN (Qubec Regt.) on Jan 6, 1915. Soon a handful of others would join him including Private Waryam Singh, Private Lachman Singh, and Private Buckam Singh. Private Santa Goojer singh was also the first casualty. He was killed in action early in the war in the trenches near Kemmel, Belgium, just south of Ypres, in October 1915. His headstone bears the Gurmukhi script as part of its inscription. In 2018, in the town of Smiths Falls, Ontario, the names of Private L. Singh and Private W. Singh were added to the town Cenotaph that commemorates soldiers who served in WW1.


A bitter result of the Komagata Mani incident, and harassment from Canadian government officials, caused the Silch community to implode in the last half of 1914. The harassment included the desecration of the 2nd Avenue Sikh Gurdwara in September when Inspector William Hopkinson's agent Bela Singh shot and injured nine, while killing two other Sikhs. One of the dead was Bhag Singh, the Sikh Gurdwara's Granthi (Priest). Mewa Singh who witnessed the whole ordeal was devastated. He could no longer bear to see the Sikh community be tom apart and further intimidated, including he himself being threatened. Mr. Hopkinson was to appear in court on October 21, 1914 to testify in favour of the killer Bela. Mews Singh went to court that same day and shot and killed Mr. Hopkinson. As a result, Mewa Singh was executed by hanging in New Westminister on January 11, 1915.


The negative attitudes of the press, the public and the politicians in addition to anti-Sikh immigration policies of the Canadian government had a negative effect on the local Sikh population over the previous ten years. From a peak of almost 5500 leading into 1908, approximately only 700 Sikhs remained in Canada in 1918. This did not atop their quest in becoming Canadians, as the town of Paldi witnessed the establishment of a saw mill in 1917 (Mayo Lumber Company) and Sikh Gurdwara in 1919 (Paldi Sikh Temple). The Paldi Sikh Temple officially opened on July 1, 1919 in conjunction with Canada's Dominion Day.



Becoming Canadians


Canadian Prime Minister Borden was present at the Imperial War Cabinet in 1918 and was pressured by colleagues to address and lift the restrictions on Indian Immigration to Canada as a result of the gallant service of Sikh soldiers in WWI. In addition, the collective efforts of the British Columbia Sikh community eventually paid off when, in 1919, the immigration restrictions on bringing out wives and children under eighteen years of age were lifted. Family reunification would be a very slow process. It was not until 1920 that Sikh women and children started coming to Canada from India. This finally gave Sikhs a sense of hope for their future in Canada.



Nahar Singh Mangat graduated from the University of British Columbia (UBC) — He is believed to be the Hon. Nahar Singh Mangat Q.C, who was a very prominent Sikh lawyer and the first Asian to be appointed a Queens Council in East Africa. He was twice named the President of The Kenya Indian Congress. Furthermore, as the specially elected member of the Legislative Council, he was one of the lawyers who represented Jomo Kenyatta in the trial against the British.



Iqbal Singh Hundal graduated from the University of Washington in June 1925 with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. Shortly thereafter, he sought out a job in eastern Canada, specifically Ontario, in the automotive sector. He was successful in securing employment with General Motors in Oshawa.



The Singh family of Kelowna was just recovering from the loss of the family patriarch, Mehar Singh a few years earlier as they decided to move from the 20-acre orchard into the city. Little did they know, that the city folk of Kelowna wanted to have nothing to do with them because of their race. As a result, Mehar's young daughter Ajit Kaur eventually had to take on an entire city and she won. The headline in the Kelowna Courier on August 22, 1946, read "Taxpayers Object to Hindu Buying City House But Girl Openly Defies All Protests".



They say "perseverance pays off', and this indeed was the case for Sikhs in Canada who were disenfranchised forty years earlier. Never did they waiver in their commitment to acquiring full rights of citizenship in Canada. They even mustered the support of previous enemies in the International Workers Association, who now stood in solidarity in their quest for the right to vote. The victory came when changes were made to the Act, giving Sikhs and East Indians the franchise. It was enacted into law on April 2, 1947. The Municipal Franchise was granted in September of the same year. Ironically, literally the same day India became politically free, Sikhs ceased to be second-class citizens in Canada. The Sikhs celebrated by dressing up in their forest threads and going to downtown Vancouver, where they proudly lined up to eat at the fancy restaurants that had previously refused them service. The Sikhs could now call Canada their home, they had finally become Canadians.



Shortly after gaining Independence, India named Sardar Hardit Singh Malik as its first Indian High Commissioner to Canada. Sardar Malik was no stranger to Canada, as during WWI he was the first Sikh Flying Ace Pilot and served with Lester B. Pearson and under the command of Canadian Major William Barker, who later won the Victoria Cross. Sardar Malik also visited Toronto, in November 1939 where he addressed The Empire Club of Canada with a speech entitled India. Ironically enough, Sardar Malik returned again in 1949 to address The Empire Club in Toronto with a little "new" twist to the title — The New India.



The 2nd Wave


Although rights of the franchise were afforded to the Sikhs in Canada in 1947, they still faced other discriminatory rules. This included a rule that an immigrant from India had to wait five years before gaining Canadian citizenship and applying for immigration for a spouse and minor child, while Europeans could apply immediately after becoming landed immigrants. As a result, the East Indian Canadian Welfare Association was formed in 1950 taking over from the Khalsa Diwan Welfare Committee.

Naranjan Singh Grewal became the first Sikh elected to any level of Government in Canada. He was elected to city council in Mission, BC in 1950.


Nsibe Kaur Puri became one of the first Sikh women to graduate from high school.


Famous Sikh novelist Kushwant Singh entered the Indian Foreign Service for the newly independent India in 1947. He started as an Information Officer of the Government of India in Toronto. In the 1950's, he was Press Attaché and Public Officer for the Indian High Commission for four years in Ottawa and London.



Davender Kaur Bains was elected president of Toastmasters in Victoria, BC.



The Sikhs continued to fight discriminatory immigration laws. When the quota system was completely dropped in 1962, it had a huge impact on Sikh migration to Canada. The victory was complete when in 1967 the Liberal Government introduced new immigration regulations for Canada. From 1964 to 1970, more Sikhs arrived in Canada during those six years than the total of the previous eighty years combined.


While the hippie movement was gaining world-wide attention for their slogans on peace and humanity, so too was Raguhbir Singh. From 1968 to 1973 he traveled around the world on a bicycle to draw attention to peaceful co-existence. During his Canadian journey, he traveled 6,700 miles (over 10,000 kilometers), visited 9 Provinces, met 38 Mayors, had 91 speaking engagements, and was featured in over 65 media outlets. After his world tour, Mr. Singh chose Canada as his country of choice to settle.

The Shromani Sikh Society opened Ontario's first Gurdwara on 269 Pape Avenue, Toronto.


Satnam Singh was a member in the late 60's and early 70's of the band The Poppy Family which made it to number one on the charts.



Hey Paki!


Internationally renowned Canadian professional wrestler Tiger Jeet Singh (Jagjeet Singh Hans) wrestled The Sheik in February 1971, in the main event of the first wrestling show in Maple Leaf Gardens history to attract a sell-out crowd of over 18,000. After a successful wrestling career that spanned four decades, along with his charitable and philanthropy work, Tiger Jeet Singh’s resident community in Milton, Ontario named a school in his Honour in 2010.




Sarbjit Singh Dusang, Paul Bubli Singh Chohan, and Kuldip Singh Gosal all represented Canada in Field Hockey at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal.


Daily, open, and advert racism was very rampant against Sikhs in the early seventies following a rise in population. “Paki” name calling, taunting and threats were part of everyday life for Sikh families including children. School became one of the most dangerous places for a Sikh student. Physical assaults became the norm at school and in public places. Things came to a head in 1977, when the resignation of Toronto’s Police Chief, Harold Adamson was sought. His failure to protect Sikhs and other Indians in the streets of Toronto and his indifference to acts of racial violence against them led to a protest rally at Nathan Phillips Square. One of the attendees was 12-year old Harpreet Dhariwal, of Thornhill. “Boys at my school make fun of me and say I look like a girl,” he complained pointing to the traditional Jura hair knot on top of his head. “It gets me into a lot of fights, I can tell you. I’m getting fed up with busting heads”, said Harpreet, who wore a Team Canada jersey for the occasion.


Directed by Beverely Shaffer and produced by Yuki Yoshida, the National Film Board of Canada in 1977 produced a film about Gurdeep Singh Bains. Gurdeep was a thirteen-year-old Canadian Sikh, whose family ran a dairy farm near Chilliwack, British Columbia. They were reported to have retained their language and religion. Attendance at the Sikh temple, playing soccer with his schoolmates, and working on the farm were all part of Gurdeep’s well-integrated life, but sometimes he felt a little different from the other children because he wore a turban.


The Ontario Khalsa Darbar (more commonly known as Dixie Gurdwara) was officially started in 1978 in a small trailer. Steadily more and more money was raised and land was purchased and the current main building was created in 1988. During the 1990s more land was bought, and an outdoor stadium as well as the expansion of the Gurdwara was completed. Today, it boasts as one of the largest Gurdwaras in Canada.


There were literally no Sikh refugees to Canada until the 1970’s when the political situation in the Punjab became repressive. An ad hoc Sikh Refugee Committee prompted the formation of the Federation of Sikh Societies of Canada in 1979. The work of the Federation provided a landmark ruling. On April 4, 1985, the Supreme Court of Canada (Harbhajan Singh v. MEI) said: “The appeals are allowed and from now on refugees cannot be denied a full oral hearing of their claim”. This landmark decision was initiated by the Sikhs and contributes to the judicial process of Canada and guarantees fairness.



Promise & Challenge


The University of British Columbia established the first chair in Sikh Studies in North America.


The son of one of the early pioneer Sikh families who was born in Canada, Wally Oppal as a teen wanted to be a radio deejay. So at age of 17, he went to Chicago and enrolled in a five-month broadcasting course. Eventually, he realised his true calling was his interest in law. Oppal graduated from the University of B.C. Law School in 1968. The Honorable Wally Oppal was appointed a Supreme Court of British Columbia Judge in 1985, and later also served as the Attorney General of British Columbia. He was quoted recently in Mehfil Magazine as follows: “…Without those pioneers who came before me, I could not achieved so much…”




Clare Westcott, Chairman of Metro Police Commission and Police Chief Jack Morris introduced the turban to the Metro Police uniform to make policing more accessible to Sikh officers. As a result, the Metropolitan Toronto Police was the first Police force in Canada to modify their regulation in 1986 for Police uniforms to allow police officers who are practising Sikhs to wear regulation-issue turbans and to keep their long hair and beards.

Born in Duncan B.C., Munmohan Singh Moe Sihota was the first Sikh to be elected to any federal or provincial riding and the first Sikh cabinet minister in a province of Canada. He was elected M.L.A. for Esquimalt/Port Renfrew in 1986.


Pamela Rai from New Westminster, BC, was a freestyle and butterfly swimmer who represented Canada from 1980 to 1987. Rai competed at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, California where she won an Olympic bronze medal in the 4 × 100-metre medley relay. Other notable accomplishments include University of Victoria Athlete of the Year 1986, 1983 Pan American Games silver, and 1986 Commonwealth Games gold medals.


There were literally no Sikh refugees to Canada until the 1970’s when the political situation in the Punjab became repressive. An ad hoc Sikh Refugee Committee prompted the formation of the Federation of Sikh Societies of Canada in 1979. The work of the Federation provided a landmark ruling. On April 4, 1985, the Supreme Court of Canada (Harbhajan Singh v. MEI) said: “The appeals are allowed and from now on refugees cannot be denied a full oral hearing of their claim”. This landmark decision was initiated by the Sikhs and contributes to the judicial process of Canada and guarantees fairness.


There were literally no Sikh refugees to Canada until the 1970’s when the political situation in the Punjab became repressive. An ad hoc Sikh Refugee Committee prompted the formation of the Federation of Sikh Societies of Canada in 1979. The work of the Federation provided a landmark ruling. On April 4, 1985, the Supreme Court of Canada (Harbhajan Singh v. MEI) said: “The appeals are allowed and from now on refugees cannot be denied a full oral hearing of their claim”. This landmark decision was initiated by the Sikhs and contributes to the judicial process of Canada and guarantees fairness.


If you were a young adult in the late ‘80s’ into the ‘90’s, there’s a good chance your musical influences included MuchMusic and your Friday nights – at least some of them – were spent watching Electric Circus. Sound familiar? Then there’s little doubt that you remember the show’s host, Monika Deol, ambassador of all things hip. She began as a reporter for Citytv in Toronto, and later became a VJ for MuchMusic, hosting and co-producing Electric Circus from 1988 to 1996. Deol was also an entertainment specialist on CityPulse at Six, host of MuchMusic’s news shows FAX and RapidFAX, and co-host of Citytv’s alternative fashion and style show Ooh La La.


Dr. Gulzar Singh Cheema has the distinction of being the first Sikh Canadian politician to sit in two provincial legislatures. Dr. Cheema was a member of the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba from 1988 to 1993 and a member of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia from 2001 to 2004.


In 1988, Baltej Singh Dhillon applied to join the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), and met the entrance requirements. He was asked if he would give up wearing his turban in favour of the standard peaked cap or Stetson. He could not, and the dress code kept him off the force. Dhillon applied to the RCMP commissioner, and in April 1989, the commissioner recommended the prohibition against turbans. This set off a firestorm of heated racist debate and protest across the country including threats against Mr. Dhillon’s life. It took another year, but finally the federal government removed the ban and on 15 March 1990, Solicitor General Pierre Cadieux delivered his ruling to allow turbans. Dhillon began police training in Regina and graduated in 1991. His resolve changed the face of the iconic Canadian Mountie…but, the battle was far from over. Diane Francis writing in the Financial Post had this to say on the subject: “To me, allowing a mounted policeman to wear the turban is equivalent to letting someone change the words to our anthem or fly our flag with a fleur-de-lis or stars-and-stripes in the corner.” The young leading national Sikh advocacy organization in Canada, The World Sikh Organization of Canada (WSO) took the lead in the legal defence of the turban.



Mark it with a stamp


After serving 27 years in prison and having just being released from jail, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela visited Toronto Canada. On June 18, 1990, Mr. Mandela was presented with a plaque and thousands of dollars that was raised by the Sikh community for the African National Congress (ANC) and his eventual Presidential bid. This plaque is currently at The Nelson Mandela National Museum, commonly referred to as Mandela House, where Nelson Mandela lived from 1946 to 1962.



Palbinder Kaur Shergill joined the Law Society of B.C. in 1991. She has been a lead advocate and legal representative for Sikh Articles of Faith in Canada. She was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 2012. She is the recipient of numerous awards including Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal for Community Service. Mrs. Shergill continues to be actively involved in numerous landmark decisions in the area of Human Rights & Constitutional Law. In 2017, Mrs. Shergill was appointed to the B.C. Supreme Court.



T Sher Singh burst into national prominence in 1990 when he launched a court challenge against then Prime Minister Brian Mulroney for a Senate appointment of an individual who was under investigation by the RCMP for corruption at the time. T Sher has served on various boards and commissions including in 1992 for the Metropolitan Toronto Police Services Board Task Force on Race Relations. A community innovator, T Sher was a regular columnist with the Toronto Star and appeared as a commentator on radio and television on the CBC and other media outlets.


"We were invited there. They knew weeks in advance that we were Sikhs and that we have turbans. If they had no intention of letting us in I don't understand why we were invited to participate…To ask a Sikh to remove his turban is an insult, not only to him, but to the Sikh religion. You will have to remove my neck before I remove my turban."
– Harbhajan Singh Minhas


Retired Lt.- Col. Pritam Singh Jauhal, a decorated Second World War veteran also fought for the right of Sikhs to wear turbans inside Royal Canadian Legion halls.

Mehfil Magazine was a Canadian based South Asian lifestyle magazine, launched in 1993 by brothers Rana and Minto Vig. It was the first full colour South Asian glossy magazine of its kind in Canada. Their idea was simply to produce a periodical that would not only showcase the community to its own, but also provide a tool and a bridge to foster better cross-cultural harmony and understanding. The word “Mehfil” means “a gathering”.

Mr. Suneet Singh Tuli entered the entrepreneurial world through Widecom Group Inc. and became its Executive Vice President of Sales & Marketing and Corporate Secretary in 1993. He co-found DataWind Inc. and serves as its Chief Executive Officer and President. In September 2012, Forbes magazine named him among the "Impact 15" list of education innovators.

Gurbax Singh Malhi (Bramalea-Gore-Malton) and Harbance Singh Herb Dhaliwal (Vancouver South) became the first two Sikhs elected to serve in the Canadian Parliament. Herb went on to become the first Sikh to hold a Federal Ministerial portfolio when he was appointed in 1997, as the Minister of Revenue. This set the stage for Sikhs to play an active role in politics at all levels and all across Canada ever since. This included the first Sikh women elected to Canadian Parliament, Ruby Dhalla and Narinder Kaur Nina Grewal in 2004. Nina joined her husband Gurmant to become the first Sikh couple to serve in the Canadian Parliament at the same time.


Released in 1994 by Sarjeet Singh Jagpal. Becoming Canadians is the story of the courageous Sikh pioneers, a rich intricate history of Sikhs in Canada, told in their own words and illustrated with their precious family photographs and documents, published for the first time. The book is dedicated “To the pioneers, whose dreams we live today.”



Released in 1994 by Sarjeet Singh Jagpal. Becoming Canadians is the story of the courageous Sikh pioneers, a rich intricate history of Sikhs in Canada, told in their own words and illustrated with their precious family photographs and documents, published for the first time. The book is dedicated “To the pioneers, whose dreams we live today.”


The first two Sikh appointed to the Order of Canada, Gurcharan Singh Bhatia (Edmonton) and Dr. Naranjan Singh Dhalla (Winnipeg) were both awarded on April 17, 1997 and invested on October 22, 1997. Established in 1967 by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the Order of Canada is the cornerstone of the Canadian Honours System, and recognizes outstanding achievement, dedication to the community and service to the nation. The Order recognizes people in all sectors of Canadian society. Their contributions are varied, yet they have all enriched the lives of others and made a difference to this country.



Canadians were once again engaged in racist heated debate over the rights of a Canadian Sikh. Provincial Boxing Champion, Pardeep Singh Nagra was denied the right to compete as a boxer. The hysteria reached its peak when Mr. Nagra’s life was threatened as he was attacked by a scissor and razor-wielding man at the qualifier National Boxing Championships for the Sydney Olympics in Campbell River B.C., in 1999. Mr. Nagra was also the first Sikh to wear a Turban and serve as a member of Peel Regional Police. A Hollywood feature film titled Tiger has been made on Nagra’s boxing journey, starring Oscar-nominated Mickey Rourke as Nagra’s coach.


The Canadian Government and Canada Post issued a commemorative stamp celebrating the 300th anniversary of the Khalsa and the legacy of Sikhs in Canada. The stamp featured the Sikh Khanda and the official day of issue was April 19, 1999.

Raminder Singh Gill was the first Sikh to serve in the Provincial Legislative Assembly of Ontario from 1999 to 2003. Mr. Gill also served as a citizenship judge from 2006 to 2011.


Bobby Singh was drafted by the Calgary Stampeders in the first round of the 1999 CFL Draft. Singh is the only player to have won an XFL Championship, a Super Bowl and a Grey Cup.


Leading the Way


The Arts of the Sikh Kingdoms was showcased at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) from May 27 to August 20, 2000. The landmark traveling exhibition, including the rich artistic heritage of the Sikhs from Punjab, was organized by the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in London, England. This magnificent exhibition was the most extensive exhibition on the art of the Sikh Kingdoms ever shown in North America. Rich colourful textiles, beautiful paintings, ornate weapons and the magnificent Golden Throne of Maharaja Ranjeet Singh were among the 160 fine works on display reflecting the artistic flourishing and rich cultural history of the Sikhs. A painting by internationally renowned UK-based contemporary artists The Singh Twins, Sikhs in Canada was commissioned by the ROM in 2006 and unveiled in 2012. It is now part of ROM’s permanent collection.


Ujjal Singh Dosanjh has had one of the most distinguishing political careers of any Sikh in Canada. In addition to being a MLA, an Attorney General, Provincial Minister, MP, and Federal Minister, the Hon Ujjal Singh Dosanjh on February 24, 2000, also held the distinction of serving as the 33rd Premier of British Columbia.


Canadian-American novelist Shauna Singh Baldwin was born 1962 in Montreal, Quebec. Her 2000 novel What the Body Remembers won the Commonwealth Writers' Prize. In addition, one of her first short stories, English Lessons and Other Stories received the Friends of American Writers prize.


Mr. Sarabjit Singh Marwah, also known as Sabi, had an extraordinary impact in shaping the success and character of one of Canada’s top three financial institutions. In 2002, Mr. Marwah was appointed Senior Executive Vice-President and Chief Financial Officer and six years later became Vice-Chairman and Chief Operating Officer of Scotiabank. Mr. Marwah has also been very active in community, social and arts organizations. He was the recipient of the Golden and Diamond Jubilee Medals and received a Honorary Doctor of Laws from Ryerson University. In 2016, Mr. Marwah became the first Sikh to be appointed to the Canadian Senate.


The Abbotsford Gurdwara (Gur Sikh Temple Abbotsford), the oldest existing Sikh place of worship in North America received designation as a National Historic Site of Canada in 2002.


At the center of Kiran Ahluwalia’s music is love in all its shades, from the yearning romantic of Punjabi Ghazals to the divine love of Sufi Mysticism. She is a modern exponent of the great vocal traditions of India and Pakistan, which she honors intensely yet departs from in masterful, personal ways. With Kiran Ahluwalia’s international appeal, she has been honoured as a two time JUNO Best World Music Album in 2004 and 2011 respectively. In 2017, Kiran provided Punjabi vocals for a newly revised version of Sharon Pollock’s 1976 play The Komagata Maru Incident for the prestigious Stratford Festival.

A new generation of young Sikhs started to enter the political arena. Navdeep Singh Bains ran a successful youth led campaign to become MP for the riding of Mississauga - Brampton South. In 2015, The Honourable Navdeep Singh Bains was appointed as Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, as well as The Registrar General of Canada.

Critically acclaimed and Gemini award-winning filmmaker Ali Kazimi, incorporated a first-person, self-reflexive narration in Continuous Journey (2004), the first feature-length documentary to examine the turning away of the Komagata Maru from Canada in 1914. It premiered to a standing ovation at the Hot Docs International Documentary Film Festival in Toronto. In 2012, Ali Kazimi would release an illustrated history coffee table book, Undesirables White Canada and the Komagata Maru.


Multani v. Commission scolaire Marguerite‑Bourgeoys, [2006] 1 S.C.R. 256, 2006 SCC 6 was an unanimous decision by the Supreme Court of Canada in which the Court struck down an order of a Quebec school authority, that prohibited a Sikh child from wearing a kirpan to school, as a violation of freedom of religion under section 2(a) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.



Calgarian community activist, Manmeet Singh Bhullar, at the young age of 28, was elected to Alberta's 27th legislature. In 2011, he was Minister of Service Alberta and was appointed Minister of Human Resources in 2013. Bhullar was killed when he was struck by a tractor-trailer on a road while he was assisting and helping a stranded motorist on November 23, 2015. The Calgary Board of Education honoured the late Calgary MLA Manmeet Singh Bhullar with a new school. In November 2018, the Manmeet Singh Bhullar Park was officially opened.


Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) Hockey Night In Canada started to broadcast Hockey Games in Punjabi, with hosts Parminder Singh and Harnarayan Singh.


Carrying out work in the Spirit of the Sikh Gurus, with focus on Children, the Guru Gobind Singh’s Children Foundation (GGSCF) had a vision to help other children meet their basic needs while adding meaning to their lives. To mark the organizations 10th anniversary, the GGSCF organized a charity run across Canada, covering 6779 km. Starting on July 1, 2009, Canada Day, the epic journey began in St. John's, Newfoundland ending in Stanley Park, Vancouver, British Columbia on August 30, 2009. The run raised over $150 000 for various charities.


Legacy Building



Seva Food Bank (Sikhs Serving Canada Association) was established in 2010.


Centenarian Marathon runner, Fauja Singh completed the Toronto Scotiabank Marathon at the age of 100 in an official time of just over 8 hours. Singh attempted and accomplished eight world age group records in one day at the special Ontario Masters Association Fauja Singh Invitational Meet. Held at Birchmount Stadium in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Timed by officials in Canada, he ran the 100 metres in 23.14, 200 metres in 52.23, the 400 metres in 2:13.48, the 800 metres in 5:32.18, the 1500 metres in 11:27.81, the mile in 11:53.45, the 3000 metres in 24:52.47 and the 5000 metres in 49:57.39.


With the appointments of Tim Uppal (Minister for Democratic Reform), and Baljit Singh Bal Gosal (Minister of Sport), in 2011, for the first time, two Sikhs held Federal Ministerial positions at the same time in Canada. In 2013, Hon. Tim Uppal would hold the portfolio of Minister of State Multiculturalism while the Hon. Baljit Singh Gosal still retained his post as Minister of Sport.


After becoming a MPP in 2011, Jagmeet Singh became a strong community voice and advocate. It was not long after, that he got the attention of many. Toronto Star named Singh one of Toronto's "top 12 personalities to watch in 2012", calling Singh "a trailblazer in Ontario politics". In the 2013 fall/2014 winter edition of Toronto Life special issue Stylebook, he graced the front cover as one of “Toronto’s Most Stylish”. Through the leadership of Singh, Bill 52 was introduced. It proclaims the month of April every year as Sikh Heritage Month in Ontario. The spring of 2014 witnessed the inaugural Sikh Heritage Month. In 2017, Jagmeet Singh became the first person of a visible minority group to lead a Canadian federal political party (NDP).


In the Toronto area, there is a very successful turbaned face that often pops up in ads in major papers. With his index finger raised, this gentleman announces himself to be the officially anointed Super Fan of the city-based NBA team Toronto Raptors. "I don't drink, I don't smoke, I don't womanize, I Raptorize — that’s all I do," meet the Toronto Raptors 'superfan,' Nav Bhatia. Mr. Bhatia has been organizing the annual Vaisakhi game day event, and in 2014 was named a Community Ambassador for the Toronto Raptors organization.


In the Toronto area, there is a very successful turbaned face that often pops up in ads in major papers. With his index finger raised, this gentleman announces himself to be the officially anointed Super Fan of the city-based NBA team Toronto Raptors. "I don't drink, I don't smoke, I don't womanize, I Raptorize — that’s all I do," meet the Toronto Raptors 'superfan,' Nav Bhatia. Mr. Bhatia has been organizing the annual Vaisakhi game day event, and in 2014 was named a Community Ambassador for the Toronto Raptors organization.



A record of 17 Sikh MPs were elected in the 2015 Federal Election – 16 from the Liberal Party of Canada and 1 Conservative – the highest number of Sikhs ever elected. In addition, four of these MPs were appointed as Ministers, including the first Sikh female Minister, Honourable Bardish Kaur Chagger.


Toronto born Canadian, Gursimran Singh "Sim" Bhullar, is the first Sikh player to play in the National Basketball Association (NBA). Playing for the Sacramento Kings, at 7ft. 5 in., he was the tallest NBA player in 2015. Sacramento has hosted an appreciation night dedicated to “Kaurs, Singhs and Kings.”


Incorporated in 2014, The Sikh Heritage Museum of Canada (SHMC) was granted official Charity Status in 2015. The SHMC provides leading expertise on Sikh history in Canada, and has undertaken a National Exhibition and Lecture Series – Lions of the Sea. The SHMC has provided resources, support and artifacts to exhibits and exhibitions around the world including the UK and the USA. Furthermore, the SHMC was actively involved in the establishment and of the commemorative Komagata Maru Stamp, released in May 2014.


Rupi Kaur is a contemporary Canadian poet, writer and spoken word artist based in Toronto. She is popularly known as an Instapoet for the traction she gains online on her poems on Instagram. She published a book of poetry and prose entitled “milk and honey” the self published edition quickly became a bestseller as it topped North American charts in 2015 went on to become a New York Times bestseller. The book deals with themes of violence, abuse, love, loss, and femininity.


Adrienne Batra was born and raised in Saskatchewan. After graduating from high school, Batra joined the Canadian Reserves where she became her squadron's public affairs officer and eventually she joined the Winnipeg office of the Canadian Tax Payers Association as a researcher then as a director. Batra worked as a communications advisor on a successful Toronto mayoral campaign and subsequently joined the mayor's office, as press secretary. She was also a CFRB Newstalk 1010's municipal affairs correspondent and wrote a column in the Sun on municipal affairs. In 2015, Batra become editor-in-chief for the Toronto Sun.


Manjit Kaur Minhas, although trained as a petroleum engineer has become a leading Canadian entrepreneur, television personality, and venture capitalist. Being a “Dragon” is one of the highlights of Manjit’s career as she joined the cast of the CBC reality television series Dragons' Den in 2015. She also enjoys being a keynote speaker, Manjit frequently shares the secrets of her success with aspiring MBA, engineering and other students as well as entrepreneurs and seasoned business people.



In Lilly Singh’s own words “Spent thousands of dollars on tuition, graduated and got a degree. I make YouTube videos now. I am also a happy unicorn that believes in one love. Join me on…” And join they did in the millions worldwide. Listed in Forbes top ten you tube earners, Lilly aka “Superwoman” has appeared on virtually every U.S. talk show and has written a book and has her own product line.

“A Little Late With Lilly Singh”, is Lilly’s newest adventure as she joins late-night television as a host of her own show.



Tiger, a movie based on the true story of Canadian boxer Pardeep Singh Nagra is released.



Distinguished Professor and cardiovascular science pioneer Dr. Naranjan S. Dhalla is inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame (CMHF) in recognition extraordinary contributions to health.

Harpreet Ghuman is recognized and chosen as one of Canada’s Outstanding Principals.

Military historian Steven Purewal released Duty Honour and Izzat – Punjab’s brothers-in-arms in Flanders, to commemorate the brave valour of Sikh and Punjabi Soldiers during WWI. It is being released on the 100th anniversary of the Treaty of Versailles, the official end of the Great War.

Past to Future


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