British Columbia’s government celebrates South Asian contributions to B.C.’s shared history

VICTORIA – The South Asian contribution to the province’s and the
country’s shared history will be on permanent display in the B.C.
legislature after today’s announcement by Premier Christy Clark that an
historically symbolic flag would be installed inside the Parliament
Buildings.

The 1874 version of the Red Ensign flag is one of the first Canadian
flags to display the emblem of British Columbia after the province joined
Confederation in 1871.

The flag was presented to the province by Steven Purewal, founder of
Indus Media Foundation Canada, in honour of the contributions made to
British Columbia, Canada, and the British Crown by the Punjabi community.

It is dedicated to Kesur Singh, a Risaldar Major Captain in the British
Indian Army who arrived in B.C. as one of Canada’s first Sikh immigrants.
It is the version of the Canadian flag that would have flown over
government buildings when he arrived.

“With Remembrance Day two weeks away, this is a meaningful time to
commemorate our history – and better understand how we got to today,”
said Premier Clark. “The prosperous, free, and multicultural province
we’re so fortunate to call home was built through the hard work and
sacrifice of people who came from halfway around the world in search of a
better life.”

Many early South Asian Sikh pioneers were veterans of colonial Punjabi
regiments that had served the Crown since 1849, when Punjab became part
of the British Empire.

They came to Canada looking for a better life, but faced difficult
conditions. In 1914, the Komagata Maru ship carrying 376 passengers from
India was turned away from the port in Vancouver. In 2008, the B.C.
Legislature formal apologized for the incident.

During the First World War Punjabi soldiers were fighting shoulder-to-
shoulder with Canadians. They suffered enormous losses – and in death,
100 years after the war, they lie beside their Canadian brothers-in-arms
in 17 cemeteries scattered across French and Belgian Flanders.

“This centennial is an opportunity to commemorate those who lost their
lives, but also to engage today’s youth and diverse communities about the
significance of the sacrifices that were made,” said Purewal. “During
WWI, nearly 500,000 Punjabis fought in a joint cause with Canada, despite
the discriminatory conditions prevailing at the time — their service and
notion of duty was truly remarkable.”

Premier Clark and Purewal were joined by members of Surrey-based 3300
British Columbia Regiment (Bhai Kanhaiya) Royal Canadian Army Cadet
Corps, along with leaders from B.C.’s Sikh communities.

The history and contributions of the South Asian communities to B.C. are
part of the province’s new K-12 curriculum being phased in over the next
three years.

“We’re not just talking about history, we’re talking about today,” said
Premier Clark. “B.C. is a place where we recognize and embrace the
contributions of all diverse communities, including South Asians,
including First Nations, including Europeans – and celebrate the new
generation moving forward.”

Quick Facts:

* B.C. is the most ethnically diverse province in Canada and welcomes
nearly 40,000 new immigrants every year.

* Sikhs are the largest South Asian ethnic group in Canada.

* Established in 2013, the 3300 RCACC is the first cadet corps in Canada
to embrace the Sikh culture and contribution to Canada’s military history
as part of their corps identity.

* One-quarter of the people in B.C. are self-identified visible
minorities.

* Since 1990, B.C.’s Multicultural Advisory Council has promoted cross-
cultural understanding and supports the British Columbia Multicultural
Awards.

Learn More:

Indus Media Foundation Canada: http://imfc.org