The Canadian Sikh Heritage Trail provides a small glimpse into the large and long history of Sikhs with and in Canada. Wherever you are in this great land of Canada, we are sure you will not be too far away from some great Canadian Sikh history.
The history of Sikhs with and in Canada is one that spans over two hundred years. It takes place on Turtle Island, the Traditional Territories, and Lands of the Indigenous and First Nation Peoples. Canada’s constitutional and legal order recognizes the reality that Indigenous peoples’ ancestors owned and governed the lands which now constitute Canada prior to the Crown’s assertion of sovereignty.
We as Canadians enhance our knowledge and understanding of us and our Country when we have a more inclusive and accurate representation of our history.
As our Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau stated when he had the opportunity to visit the Sikh Heritage Museum of Canada,” the story of the Sikh community in Canada is, in fact, just the story of Canada.”
The Sikh community of Canada is a proud community that understands and acknowledges its’ history with and in Canada is one that is a journey on Indigenous territories and lands. Our goal is to share and celebrate Canadian history through a Sikh lens.
It is a story that reminds us of the street right in front of this the House of Commons, Metcalfe St, named after the Governor-General of the Province of Canada, who during his early political career in 1808, was selected by Lord Minto for the responsible post of envoy to the court of Ranjit Singh and the Sikh Kingdom at Lahore where on 25 April 1809, he concluded the important treaty securing the independence of the Sikh states between the Sutlej and the Jumna. He even ended up marrying a Sikh lady from the Lahore court.
It is a story that reminds us of Herbert Read and William Hall, the first black recipient of the Victoria cross in Canada, who won their honours in 1857 fighting alongside Sikhs in the battles of Delhi and Lucknow in British India, resulting in towns in Ontario being named after those two battles.
It is a story of Sir John a Macdonald in 1867 just after signing the BNA Act penning a letter to a friend and colleague and in his musings of a possible war between England and the United States, asking for an Army of Sikhs. 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 surrounding California — as security for Montreal and Canada."
It is a story as the Vancouver Daily Province headlined on the front page in 1902 of "Turbaned Men Excite Interest".
It is a story of early settlers and pioneers who toiled the fields, lumber mills, cement quarries, and railroads of Canada.
It is a story of families being refused to join their husband or father in Canada. Of a head tax 800% more than fellow migrants from Europe.
It is a story of disenfranchisement in 1907.
It is a story of the first Sikh Gurdwara in 1908, a centre for faith, community and advocacy.
It is a story of the racist Continuous Journey Legislation in 1908 and the mischievous plan to relocate all Sikhs out of Canada to the then closest British Territory - British Honduras.
It is the story of Sundar Singh and his speech at both the Canadian Club and Empire Club in the winter of 1911/1912 which is regarded as one of the great Canadian speeches.
It is the story of members of the Presbyterian Church in Toronto who heard Sundar Singh speak and then advocated Prime Minister Borden to allow wives and children to come to Canada to join their husbands.
It is the story of turning away fellow British subjects in 1914 on the Komagata Maru.
It is a story of Goojer Singh signing his Attestation papers in Quebec in 1915 to join fellow Canadians in the Great War.
It is a story of Sikh lumber mill owners and families promoting civic pride in Canada.
It is a story of becoming Canadians in 1947.
It is a story of athletes, professionals, Junos, provincial and national orders.
It is a story of redefining Canada for the better with a Turbaned mountie.
It is a story of a Premier.
It is a story of service, civics, nation-building, and a Senator.
It is a story of a world-renowned female YouTuber.
It is a story in the world of entertainment wrestling.
It is a story of Canada's bestselling author.
It is a story that has attracted Hollywood.
It is a story of an apology.
It is a story of Ministers, Leader of a Party, and Leader of The House Of Commons.
It is a story of struggles and perseverance, it is a story from Pioneers to Pariahs to Parliament, it is a Canadian story, it is a story that must be shared and told.