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 Amarjit Samra, president of the Surrey Delta Scott Road Punjabi Bazaar Association, says the annual Vaisakhi parade brings substantial business to local merchants.

Amarjit Samra, president of the Surrey Delta Scott Road Punjabi Bazaar Association, says the annual Vaisakhi parade brings substantial business to local merchants.

One hundred years later, the community of Abbotsford is proud to dedicate 2011 as the Centenary Year of the National Historic Site Gur Sikh Temple, says Mayor George Peary.

"Indo-Canadian homes are here but their hearts are still in India," he says.

The mayor led a trade mission from Abbotsford to India last year to establish a sister city relationship there.

"We travelled to Delhi and Chandigarh, and everywhere we went I met people from Abbotsford," says Mayor Peary.

One particular moment during his visit struck him as being symbolic of how close Indo-Canadian ties really are.

"I remember visiting one village in Punjab, and I was speaking at an event when out of nowhere, this woman came toward me and called my name out loud. I recognized her almost immediately as one of my former students from my days as a teacher. She had graduated ten years back, and to have a former student come to see and greet me with her family in that village is a moment I'll cherish forever."

The Sikh tradition of giving back to the community has also reached remarkable heights in Surrey, where the Indo-Canadian community has donated over $2.2 million to the Surrey Memorial Hospital Foundation over the past three years.

With the large donation, the community was given the opportunity to name the new emergency entrance.

"They said we feel a great sense of belonging at Surrey Memorial Hospital, so why don't we name it [the new emergency centre entrance] for the man who founded our religion?" says hospital foundation president Jane Adams.

With the addition of the new emergency centre and the tower that will anchor it, to be completed in 2014, the hospital will grow to 630-bed capacity, from 499 today, she explains.

"As Surrey's population explodes past half-a-million, the charitable giving from the South Asian community is key to the benefit of all who will be treated at the hospital," says Ms. Adams.

The ever-increasing popularity of Sikh values and culture has also led the Vasaikhi celebration to expand into B.C.'s interior. The Sikh community in Kelowna held their first Vaisakhi parade on April 9, 2011. Organizers say the Sikh population in the city has grown to nearly 5,000 Sikh families who now call the valley region home.

"The parade drew nearly 7,000 people which was way more than we were expecting," says Sukhdev Goraya, treasurer for the Okanagan Sikh Temple and Cultural Society. "We budgeted $10,000 and it was worth it. We all want to do it again next year."

The first temple in Kelowna opened in 1982, when there less than 50 Sikh families in the area, he says. In the mid-ninety's the Sikh population had grown substantially and a new facility was required.

The construction of a new temple was completed in 2008, largely by volunteers.

"The Sikh community has come a long way and are proud to be a part of this great city," says Mr. Goraya. "And since we built the new temple, there's been a demand -people were asking if we are going to have a Vaisakhi parade. So, we decided we'd do this."

So will there be any surprises this Vaisakhi in the Lower Mainland?

Electioneering will be in full-swing says the organizer of the Vancouver Vaisakhi parade.

"As this is an election year we can expect to see lots of politicians on the parade route and visiting the temple," says Kashmir Dhaliwal, President of the Khalsa Diwan Society. "But that shouldn't matter, because we should congratulate everyone around the world on this special day."

Agreed, Harinder Singh Toor, the general secretary of the Punjabi Market Association on Main Street, where his members were busy preparing for the annual parade this weekend.

"We must do good in our every day life so that we strengthen our own spirituality. As a Sikh, I belief in doing good with no distinction of colour, creed or religion," said Toor.

This Khalsa Day, that is what Sikhs in B.C., across Canada and around the world will be celebrating -a harvest of goodness.
 



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