Sikhs in Canada

  • There are approximately 500,000 Sikhs in Canada
  • In 1867, Canada’s first Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald wrote: “War will come someday between England and the United States and India can do us a yeoman’s service by sending an army of Sikhs …”
  • The first Sikhs arrived 1897 as part of the army regiments traveling through Canada in celebration of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee
  • By 1907 there were close to 5000 Sikhs in Canada and the first Sikh gurdwara was established in Vancouver in 1908
  • The Abbotsford gurdwara established in 1911 is a Canadian National Historic Site and marked its centenary in 2011
  • Nine Canadian Sikhs are known to have fought for the Canadian Forces in WW1
  • Discriminatory immigration policies resulted in an exodus of Sikhs from Canada from 1908 onwards. The attitude of intolerance was embodied by the tragic Komagata Maru incident in which a ship of 376 mostly Sikh passengers was turned back from the Vancouver port after not being allowed to dock and being denied food and supplies for two months
  • With liberalized immigration policy in the 1960s and 70s, Sikh immigration grew dramatically and spread across Canada
  • There are Sikh communities in every Province in Canada
  • Canada’s 2011 Census showed Punjabi to be the most spoken immigrant language in the country
  • Several Canadian Sikhs have served as federal Members of Parliament and Cabinet Ministers and also as representatives and ministers in several Provincial Legislatures
  • Baltej Singh Dhillon was the first Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer to be allowed to wear a turban
  • Lt. Col. Harjit Singh Sajjan became the first Sikh to command a Canadian army regiment in 2011.

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