In 2019 the Canadian Parliament passed the Sikh Heritage Month Act, designating the month of April as Sikh Heritage Month across Canada for centuries to come. Canada was the first nation to recognize Sikh Heritage Month as law.
By designating April as Sikh Heritage Month, Parliament chose to not only highlight but celebrate significant contributions Sikh communities have made and continue to make to Canada’s social, economic, political and cultural heritage.
April is an important month for Sikh Communities across Canada. In April, Sikh Canadians celebrate Vaisakhi, which serves as a reminder to the Sikh community of the creation of the Khalsa order and, more so precisely, the Panji Piare, which translates to “the beloved five.”
During the first-ever Vaisakhi in 1699, the 10th Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh Ji, tested his followers’ courage. In front of crowds of people with a sword in hand, he asked if any volunteers would sacrifice their lives for their religion. One by one, five men came forward and joined the Guru inside of his tent. Soon after, the five men emerged—alive and wearing turbans. The five men who emerged are known as the Panji Piare and were declared the first members of the Khalsa order by the 10th Guru of the Sikhs after being baptized.
The Khalsa order promotes justice and equality for the creation of a more equal and just society, commits to wearing the five articles of faith, and practices daily meditation. Sikh Heritage Month enables Sikh communities to enhance Sikh awareness and organize Vaisakhi celebrations more so extravagantly.
Vaisakhi is usually celebrated on April 13 and begins with a visit to the gurdwara, Sikh’s place of worship. After religious services wrap up, a day of celebration takes place. Sikh individuals usually wear colourful clothing or traditional garb and take part in parades, singing and dancing. On Vaisakhi, Sikh communities also offer community members free food per a tradition called langar, where all community members, no matter how wealthy or poor, come together to share a meal.
Canada is home to over 500,000 Sikh-Canadians and therefore represents one of the most prominent Sikh diasporas in the world. Within a statement made by the Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth, Minister Bardish Chagger stated, “since the arrival of the first Sikh immigrants in the late 19th century, members of this community have contributed to Canada through their achievements in all areas of society and have helped shape the diversity found within it.”
She went on to add, “Sikhism’s core principles include equality, generosity, openness, and compassion. Sikh Heritage Month is an opportunity to reflect on the pivotal role that Sikh communities have played, and continue to play, in building a stronger and consciously more inclusive Canada.”
“As Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth, and on behalf of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Government of Canada, I invite Canadians of all backgrounds to learn more about the unique history and culture of Sikh communities in Canada. I wish everyone a very happy Sikh Heritage Month! Keep well and safe.”