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Community comes together to celebrate Sikh culture in Vernon

The lunchtime event saw over 50 attendees learn more about Sikhism at the local Gurdwara

Over 50 residents came out to the Gurdwara Vernon Sikh Temple during lunchtime on April 12 for a celebration of Sikh culture.

April is Sikh Heritage Month, an opportunity to celebrate the significant contributions Sikhs have made in B.C.

Canadian Sikhs are one of Canada’s largest non-Christian religious groups and the largest South Asian ethnic group. Today, almost half of Canada’s Sikh population reside in B.C. Next to India, Canada is the country with the most Sikhs in the world, representing 2.12 per cent of the population.

Sikhism is one of the most recently founded major organizational faiths, and stands as the fifth-largest religion worldwide.

Sikh Heritage Month has added importance this year in the Okanagan, after 21-year-old Sikh international student Gagandeep Singh was viciously beaten at a bus station in Kelowna in March.

Vernon’s event, attended by dignitaries MP Mel Arnold and MLA Harwinder Sandhu, began with a traditional kirtan (a practice of call to prayer). Traditional hymns were performed, along with a serving of Kada Prasad (made of flour, ghee, sugar and water).

Sandhu spoke next, commenting how humbling it is to be the first Sikh woman MLA in the community.

“Sikhism teaches us that we are all one, no one is bad or good, we are all equal,” said Sandhu. “I do not take for granted the position I am in. We are a small percentage of people (in Canada), but we are mighty. I wouldn’t be here if all of you didn’t believe, regardless of how I look.”

Naaz Kaur Grewal, the local immigration partnership council coordinator with the Social Planning Council for the North Okanagan, and one of the organizers of the event, then talked about Sikhs living in Canada today, and the challenges they face.

“Despite the hate, Sikhs continue to contribute to Canada and its betterment for the entire society, as Seva is the most important virtue in Sikhism,” said Grewal.

Seva, also known as service, comes from three main pillars of which Sikhs strive to accomplish every day: Tan (physical service), Man (mental service, like dedicating your heart for service of others) and Dhan (material service, like financial support).

Attendees were then brought downstairs and invited to share their experiences with others and were served in the langar (community kitchen), delicious pakora and chai.

Mary-Ellen, a Vernon resident, heard about the event on a Facebook page.

“I was interested, and really wanted to learn more about other cultures,” she said. “It was great to see things up close, and to understand some of the struggles that Sikh people face in the world today.”

Ramandeep Kaur, Vernon and District Immigrant and Community Services Society settlement worker and event organizer, was excited to see so many people come out.

“We met our target. First, we decided only 30 people, then we extended it to 40,” Kaur explained. “Then, we bumped it up to 50 or more, just so we can get as many people as possible the chance to learn and be a part of the celebration.”

Kaur added that the event was extra important because of the recent attack on Singh in Kelowna.

“We just really wanted to create an awareness that there are things that are still happening. We are a part of the same community, no matter if we are from a different religion and different country.”

The Gurdwara Vernon Sikh Temple is open 6 am- 7 p.m. every day and welcomes all races, ethnicity’s and religions.

For more information, visit

READ MORE: Vernon celebrates Sikh history

READ MORE: ‘Hate crime committed by cowards’: Okanagan MP outraged over attack on international student


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Bowen Assman

About the Author: Bowen Assman

I joined The Morning Star team in January 2023 as a reporter. Before that, I spent 10 months covering sports in Kelowna.
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