Punjabi culture deserves a Heritage Month in Canada, says Surrey MP

Jasbir Sandhu, Surrey North MP, has tabled a private members’ bill to declare April Punjabi Heritage Month. PNG file photos.

LARISSA CAHUTE
VANCOUVER DESI

After 125 years in Canada, it’s about time the Punjabi culture is officially recognized, says a local Member of Parliament.

“They’ve made a significant contribution to Canada, so we solicited how can we highlight that,” said Surrey North MP Jasbir Sandhu, who tabled a private members’ bill to designate April as Punjabi Heritage Month. “We wanted to look at ways how you can recognize the art and culture.”

It was after consultations with communities across Canada – from Vancouver, Surrey, to Calgary, Edmonton and Toronto – that Sandhu came up with the heritage month.

“Suggestions came back from people that we needed a higher level — a federal level,” he said. “They needed a stage where they can showcase some of their arts, culture and heritage.”

And while declaring April as Punjabi Heritage Month comes at little cost, it allows the community to pull from existing funding to put on culturally relevant events.

“A lot of these guys they’re having difficulties just to rent a room to hold a meeting, or rent a room to do a little poetry gig with all the poets, or whether it’s bhangra or other forms of culture,” said Sandhu.

And it will provide a chance to highlight some of the young up-and-coming talent from the South Asian community — many who are from Canada.

“We have some of the best Punjabi writers in Canada … living in the Vancouver area,” said Sandhu. “Three or four top singers in Punjab are from the Lower Mainland, so there’s quite a bit of history that needs to be highlighted.”

“And these young artists and stuff they don’t get recognized anywhere, so this is another way of recognizing them at a federal level.”

And why did he choose the month of April?

“(It’s) the month when the South Asians got the right to vote, it’s Vaisakhi, it’s the beginning of summer, “ said Sandhu.

While he tabled the bill about two weeks ago, the decision may take up to a year to pass through the House.

Community members can support the initiative by visiting www.PunjabiHeritageMonth.ca and signing the online petition.

lcahute@theprovince.com
twitter.com/larissacahute

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