Becoming Canadian: Pioneer Sikhs In Their Own Words


Section 7

" I am so glad to find that the Khalsa Diwan Society is the centre of your own life in British Columbia. That is quite right and proper and good. For without that binding link you are bound to fall to pieces. But if you keep this binding force of your own pure religious faith intact, then you will preserve your character also and your family life will be good and pure. You must cling together and help one another. Do not let any member of your community come to grief and ruin through your neglect. "

" Secondly, you must remember that you are guests in a new country and you have to observe the first law of hospitality, which is to accommodate yourselves as far as possible and pay every consideration to the manners and customs of this new country where your children are being born and where you yourselves have elected to live. This is a necessity in every country where people emigrate if good will and friendly feeling are to be observed. This does not mean that you are to alter all your own good customs and manners of living, but rather that you are to seek at every point to find a common meeting place where your own life and the Canadian life coincide. To put what I wish to say in two words, you should do your best to prove yourselves ' Good Canadians ' . "

" If you do this and become proud of the ideals for which Canada stands you may be certain that in no distant period you will gain your citizenship. Therefore, as one who has a deep affection for you, I urge you to follow your Gurus who lived a pure life according to the spirit. Guru Namak sought to identify himself with everything that was good in Islam. He tried to unite the ideals of the two religions. So it is necessary for you to learn to unite the two ideals of Canada and India, and I am sure you will do it. "

It is time we heard the voices of the pioneers and filled in some of the gaps in the Sikhs ' social history. Through their spoken
Four Sikh pioneers: (l to r:
Natha Singh Mattu, Dalip Singh Uppal, Harnam Singh Dalawala, and
Saran Singh Meham)
Four Sikh pioneers: (l to r: Natha Singh Mattu,
Dalip Singh Uppal, Harnam Singh Dalawala, and
Saran Singh Meham)
words, the people who lived history can be returned to a central place in that history. The central place is their rightful one, since it is their experience that helped shape Canadian history, and that now provides the rest of us with a more balanced and realistic historical record. Today, all of the more than 200,000 Sikhs living in Canada can trace their roots to the courageous pioneers who first came to British Columbia at the beginning of this century. These pioneers weathered the storm and remained loyal to their adopted country, because they had chosen Canada to be their home. Yet we cannot assume that the injustices of the past are gone, or that they will never recur. As Canadians, we need to ask ourselves whether attitudes toward Sikhs and other Asians have changed substantially since they first came to Canada in significant numbers. Are our immigration policies fair? What do we assume about Canadians of non-European descent when we see them at work or on the street or moving into our neighborhoods? Is our education system teaching us respect for cultural differences? What is the role of the media in presenting fair reports? Is multiculturalism working?

Most important, do we value our elders, their experience and wisdom? Do we give them the respect and attention they deserve? Do we accept their advice and guidance? Are their stories worth listening to, and do we believe they have value in our own lives? How can we show our appreciation for what the elders have done for us? How can they make a contribution to their community?

By recording our elder ' s words we can begin to answer all of these complex questions. I believe each one of us should be gathering our elders ' memories before they are lost forever, and collecting their letters, documents and photographs as well. Tapes and personal papers can be stored in safe, accessible archives and made available to the public. There is no substitute for the living history that only our elders can offer us. Their stories are vital to our existence as human beings, and they help form and strengthen our Canadian identity.



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