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Local society kicks off 7th annual Sikh Heritage Month in Surrey

Sikh Heritage BC is hosting over 20 events in April around the Lower Mainland

Surrey City Hall was buzzing with excitement Saturday (April. 6) afternoon as Sikh Heritage BC kicked off the start of the 7th annual Sikh Heritage Month.

This is a time to celebrate the Sikh community, said Jasleen Kaur Sidhu, education director for Sikh Heritage Society BC.

We are celebrating Chardi Kala this year, which “roughly translates to staying in uplifted spirits, kind of touching upon the resilience of the community celebrating our wins,” Sidhu said.

This year is especially important, Sidhu said. “It is the 40th anniversary of the 1984 Sikh genocide, and so we want to recognize the way that the community has gone through all of these challenges and has come up in Chardi Kala.”

Sidhu said the event was also an opportunity to recognize its Changemaker award recipients.

“Every year, we recognize three individuals from the community who have been doing a lot of great work,” Sidhu said. “They’re either trailblazers in their professions, or they have done a lot of community service.

Sikh Heritage BC media coordinator Mohnaam Kaur Shergil said each of the Changemakers “has played a significant role in highlighting Sikh voices and perspectives over the last year.”

Rumneek Johal, Jaspreet Singh Malik and Sharanjit Kaur Sandhra, PhD are the winners of the 2024 Changemaker Awards.

Rumneek Johal speaking at Sikh Heritage BC’s gala launching Sikh Heritage Month at Surrey city hall on March 30, 2024. Johal was a recipient of the Change Maker Award. (Photo: Anna Burns)

Johal is a journalist and an associate editor at Press Progress. ”She focuses on systemic inequality workers and issues faced by immigrant and diasporic communities,” Shergil said. Johal is from Surrey and a proud Sikh Punjabi woman, Shergil added.

Johal said she is grateful for the part she gets to play in telling Sikh stories. “The fact that I can use my platform in service of our community has been a role and honour I take very seriously,” Johal said in her acceptance speech.

“I felt a personal duty to our Sikh Punjabi community who has consistently been spoken about and rarely given the opportunity to speak for ourselves. The goal has always been to uplift other voices and tell our stories,” Johal added.

Jaspreet Singh Malik speaking at Sikh Heritage BC’s gala launching Sikh Heritage Month at Surrey city hall on March 30, 2024. Malik was a recipient of the Change Maker Award. (Photo: Anna Burns)

Malik is a lawyer who was born and raised in Vancouver and runs the South Fraser Law Group in Surrey.

“In 1994, Jaspreet helped co-found the West Coast Sikh Youth Alliance, which started with the idea of Sikh youth teaching Sikh youth,” Shergil said. The alliance continues to run camps and is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.

“There are two thoughts I want to share with you about staying in Chardi Kala,” Malik said in his acceptance speech.

“The first is to have a growth mindset. You can achieve anything if you are willing to grow, if you are willing to not accept that your knowledge, your skills are fixed.”

“The second piece about Chardi Kala is Chardi Kala is not just about being positive or optimistic,” Malik said. “It’s the ability to maintain that spirit in the face of adversity.”

Sharanjit Kaur Sandhra, PhD, speaking at Sikh Heritage BC’s gala launching Sikh Heritage Month at Surrey city hall on March 30, 2024. Sandra was a recipient of the Change Maker Award. (Photo: Anna Burns)

Sandhra is a historian and faculty n the Department of History at the University of the Fraser Valley. She is also the founder of Belonging Matters Consulting.

“She’s a passionate activist building bridges between community and academia through museum work,” Shergil said. “Her PhD looks at the affective experiences of museum visitors through a critical race theory lens.”

Sandhra and the Poetic Justice Foundation recently launched the Overcaste exhibit. The exhibit ran from March 18th - 28th and then from May 6th - September 2nd, 2024, at the Burnaby Village Museum (6501 Deer Lake Ave.)

“The exhibit theme is confront, disrupt, evolve. We are inherently a radically anti caste faith, we are inherently a radically feminist faith. We are inherently a faith that supports those who are oppressed.”

“It is who we are at the heart of our very beginning, and I would hope that as we go forward, celebrating ourselves, celebrating our successes, celebrating the amazing people, celebrating the amazing people who formed the Sikh Sangat, we remind ourselves of what those beginnings are.”

In addition to the Changemakers, Sikh Heritage BC gave out scholarships to five grade 12 students in BC.

The recipients are Brandon Bal, Harnoor K Dhaliwal, Arvin Kalsi-Diocee, Aman Bohdan Singh Charchan and Ishleen Kaur Sidhu. Each winner received a $1,500 scholarship to go towards funding their post-secondary education.

Various politicians attended the event, including Harjit Sajjan, the federal minister responsible for the Pacific Economic Development Agency of Canada, BC United Opposition Leader Kevin Falcon, and several local MLAs and MPs.

“This event is another reason why it was important to share these (Sikh) stories,” Sajjan said. “To ensure that Sikh stories are recognized as Canadian stories and Sikh contributions are seen as Canadian contributions.”

Throughout the month of April Sikh Heritage BC is hosting 20 events in and around Surrey. All the events are open to the public.

The next event, “Sikhs Speak Embracing Chardi Kala” is at SFU Surrey (13450 102 Avenue) on April 6 from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. “This event will feature speakers who embody this spirit and will inspire you to embrace Chardi Kala in your own life,” reads the event description online. Tickets can be purchased online.

For more information and a list of events visit

Anna Burns

About the Author: Anna Burns

I started with Black Press Media in the fall of 2022 as a multimedia journalist after finishing my practicum at the Surrey Now-Leader.
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