Surrey cadet corps funded by Sikh community to raise its flag on Thursday

Harbinder Singh Sewak and Major Jim Blomme

Harbinder Singh Sewak, chair of The Friends of the Sikh Cadet Corps Society, is congratulated by commanding officer Major Jim Blomme in Surrey on March 13, 2013. Submitted photo

LARISSA CAHUTE
VANCOUVER DESI

Only two months into Surrey’s newest cadet corps, Dr. Pargat Singh Bhurji can see his 12-year-old son growing into a fine young man.

“He listens more to us than before,” said Bhurji, chair of the corps’ parent sponsoring committee.

“Two months — if he goes another six years, this guy will be so sensible, mature and respectful.”

His son is one of 60 new members of the 3300 B.C. Regiment Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps (RCACC) — the first-ever corps funded by a Sikh community group, The Friends of the Sikh Cadet Corps Society.

Their cadet program officially started in January, but the inaugural flag ceremony is Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at Surrey’s Bombay Banquet Hall on 135 Street.

But it wasn’t an easy start for the 3300 RCACC.

“(Today) is a culmination of at least two-and-half years of behind-the-scenes work,” said Harbinder Singh Sewak, chair of The Friends of the Sikh Cadet Corps Society.

Sewak met his biggest setback in October over the cadet corps’ proposed name, “Surrey Sikhs.” The Department of National Defence wouldn’t approve it because they said it was not inclusive of all youths aged 12-18 and might deter non-Sikhs from joining.

So they put the issue aside and settled on the temporary name 3300 RCACC, so the program could get rolling.

They needed to look at “the real picture for our youth,” said Bhurji.

With gang violence and recent murders in Surrey, the community needed a positive program like this, he said.

“Kids coming out of the cadet program, they are good citizens, they have value-based training,” said Bhurji. “These kids then, they can change the world around them.

“In two months I have seen kids’ self-esteem going up, their courage, their discipline has improved.”

The corps’ commanding officer, Major Jim Blomme CD, agrees.

“They’ve actually come a long way in two months,” Blomme said. “We’re slowly getting them working together as a team.”

The corps also marks a “giant leap for the Sikh community,” said Sewak.

“It’s such a historic moment that a community-based cadet corps has been formed,” he said. “We never had something community-based like this before.”

“We had a lot of temple-based or school-based activities, and I think this is important because it is part of the National Defence — and a lot of Sikhs resonate with the military tradition.”

Sewak has been fielding inquiries from people in other cities like Abbotsford, Calgary and Toronto who would like to establish similar programs.

“Everything that we are doing is creating a new blueprint,” said Sewak.

“This is a very historic moment — this will be written in golden words in Sikh and Canadian history,” added Bhurji.

As for the corps name, community groups will be meeting in the coming months to come up with ideas to submit to DND.

According to Sewak, the name will reflect the Sikh community, but will also be universal to Canada. They’re considering the names of Sikh warriors, personalities and events.

lcahute@theprovince.com
twitter.com/larissacahute

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