The Toronto Dominion Bank kicked off this year’s Vaisakhi celebration in Surrey with its annual luncheon, which drew 260 attendees to Newton’s Bombay Banquet Hall on Wednesday.
This year’s parade is Saturday, April 21 and will run from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. in West Newton, starting at the Gurdwara Sahib Dasmesh Darbar temple at 12885 85th Ave.
Surrey’s 20th annual Vaisakhi parade marks the Sikh new year and is one of the largest such celebrations in the world outside India.
The Surrey RCMP was prepared for a crowd of half a million last year, an incredible number considering the 2016 census put Surrey’s population at 517,887. All told, more than 400,000 people attended the 19th Annual Vaisakhi Parade in 2017, shattering 2016’s record of 350,000 attendees.
Canada’s Minister of Defence Harjit Singh Sajjan was expected to be the keynote speaker at the luncheon but couldn’t make it and so addressed the crowd by video. “We celebrate the accomplishment of our Indo-Canadian community,” he said. “We celebrate the successes of each and every one that achieved so much because of the cooperation that ties us together as Canadians. Most importantly, we celebrate our diversity. Our prime minister says our strength comes from our diversity.”
“We must build bridges, not barriers,” he said.
A panel then discussed Vaisakhi, feeding the homeless, and Punjabi Hockey Night in Canada.
“Vaisakhi, to me, is the rejuvenation of life,” said Inderjit Singh, of Guru Nanak’s Free Kitchen. “It is a deep-rooted spiritual awakening.”
He is involved with Guru Nanak’s Free Kitchen, a “faith-based” organization which for the past 15 years has fed homeless people in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, at Hastings and Main. Approximately 50,000 meals are prepared each year, Singh said. “This has been happening for 15 years, come rain or shine or snow,” he said.
“It is sponsored by families who feel the need to come forward.”
Harp Pandher and Bhupinder Hundal, of Punjabi Hockey Night in Canada, gave an imaginary play-by-play in Punjabi, to the diners’ delight.
“As much as there has been challenges along the road because we have this distinct identity, the identity itself has given us so much,” Hundal said. “We have this platform and this opportunity. We do have this opportunity to call hockey games and have a lot of fun doing it, but at the same time we need to understand that we have a powerful platform.
“We have a responsibility to ensure that we are creating a better society, that we are creating more of an understanding between the Punjabi community, the Sikh community and other communities that may not have an understanding of who we are and what we represent, to break down some of those barriers, to create new opportunities for up-and-coming youth in our community who may have thought at one point in time that being a sports broadcaster, for example, wouldn’t be a reality but now it’s become a reality.”
Before lunch, the Indian Standard Time group, from the Naad Foundation, performed some classical North Indian music to rousing applause.