The Sikh Community in Calgary
Sikhism is a religion founded by Guru Nanak, who was born in 1469. Sikhs believe in one God, and that different faiths are a reflection of the belief in the same God. They live by three major principles: Nam Japna (keeping God in mind at all times), Kirt Karna (earning an honest living), and Vand Chhakna (sharing one’s earnings with others).
From Mr. Buckham Singh, the first Sikh to enlist in the Canadian Army to Canada’s first Defense Minister of Sikh heritage Honourable Harjit S. Sajjan, the Sikh community has a rich history of participation and contribution in Canada.
Sikhs have been making Alberta their home since the early 1900’s. The first Albertan Sikh arrived in the beginning of the twentieth century. Harnam Singh Hari was the first Sikh to move to Calgary. He started working in a cement plant then expanded his work in Calgary as a farmer, eventually establishing his own successful farm. In 1950, he was one of the richest people in Calgary. His former farmland was named Singh Hari Park by the City of Calgary, in commemoration of his contribution to the city. Similarly, the Sohan Singh Bhullar family was the first Sikh family settled in Edmonton, having first arrived in BC then Lethbridge. Sohan Singh Bhullar helped many new immigrants and students from India to integrate into society. In recognition of the family, the city of Edmonton also named a park after the Bhullar family.
The Sikh community is now well established, with an estimated 55,000+ Calgarians of the Sikh faith. The Sikh community has built three Sikh Temples or “Gurdwara” in various areas of Calgary. They Gurdwaras serve vegetarian food seven days a week to everyone regardless colour, religion or race.
In true form to their charitable spirit, the Sikh community has been a major philanthropist in Alberta. Shortly after the fires in Fort McMurray, the Calgary
Sikh community transported 1.5 trailers of supplies and donated over $30,000 to Fort McMurray residents. They have donated $1,000,000 to the Children’s Hospital building Guru Nanak Eye Clinic and also donated $300,000 the Peter Lougheed Hospital in 2015.
The community regularly cooks and donate foods to homeless shelters such as the Drop-In Centre in Calgary. Youth of Sikh faith organize and participate in the annual “Walking Away Hunger” campaign during the months of April and May, collecting an estimated $400,000 worth of food donation for the Calgary Food Bank. The community is also currently financially supporting a non-Sikh lady from England who has no health coverage in Calgary and requires $14,000 in cancer treatments.
The Sikh community is well established, having built their own bank, the Khalsa Credit Union, as well their own schools, the Guru Nanak Punjabi School and the Khalsa School. The Khalsa School was established in 2007 and is staffed by mostly non-Sikh faith teachers who follow the Alberta Education curriculum. Sikh business people also established the third largest taxi cab company in Calgary.
Every year, the Sikh community organizes the Nagar Keertan, the second largest parade in Calgary after the Stampede parade. The Nagar Keertan parade celebrates the birth of Khalsa, a saint soldier created by God to protect people. In May 2017, over 60,000 people from Calgary, Edmonton, BC, Saskatoon and the US took part in the parade.
Today, Alberta has the third largest Sikh population in Canada. Sikh Heritage Month was proclaimed in April 2017 by both the City of Calgary and the Government of Alberta. April is an opportunity to celebrate the Sikh culture and the contributions of the Sikh community to Alberta’s cultural diversity.
The Sikh community has made significant marks in strengthening the social fabric of our city, and enriching the lives of those people and communities it regularly touches.