Toronto Sikhs enjoy peaceful Khalsa parade
'This is a celebration, which is above everything'
After weeks of news about violent clashes at their places of worship, Sikhs in Greater Toronto enjoyed a peaceful day of celebration on Sunday.
Despite intermittent drizzle throughout the day, an estimated 80,000 people took part in the Khalsa Day parade. The annual event celebrates the founding of the Khalsa order of Sikhism.
After morning hymns and prayers at Exhibition Place the parade, complete with colourful floats and music, reached Queen's Park at about 3 p.m.
On the lawn of the legislature, parade-goers enjoyed free food while politicians, including Premier Dalton McGuinty, federal Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff and Mississauga-Brampton South MP Navdeep Singh Bains, gave speeches.
The event followed two weeks of bad news for Sikhs. On April 18, an armed brawl broke out at the Sri Guru Nanak Sikh Centre in Brampton, northwest of Toronto. Combatants wielded hammers, knives and small axes in the brawl, which ended in assault charges.
On April 2, well-known Sikh lawyer Manjit Mangat was stabbed with a kirpan at the Sikh Lehar Centre in Brampton. Mangat survived the attack.
And on Friday, a Facebook page titled "Ujjal Dosanjh is a Sikh Traitor" prompted RCMP to investigate threats against the British Columbia MP, who is an outspoken critic of Sikh separatist extremism.
Toronto police were on hand for Sunday's parade, but the festivities remained peaceful.
Organizers hope Sunday's parade will help portray their faith in a positive light.
"There is no conflict today — everyone is together," Gorbinder Singh Randhawa told CBC News. "Everyone is in a good mood. This is a celebration, which is above everything."
With files from CBC's Pryia Sankaran