British Columbia

After 100 years, Vaisakhi returns to Victoria

April 29 will see Victoria B.C.'s first Vaisakhi parade and celebration in over 100 years.

'This is the capital city and it will be nice to do one here,' says organizer

Vaisakhi parades — like the one shown here in Vancouver on April 16, 2016 — typically attract thousands of revellers. Event organizers are anticipating a large crowd for the Victoria parade, which will be the city's first in over 100 years. (Darryl Dyck/CP)

On the heels of one of the world's largest Vaisakhi parades earlier this month in Surrey B.C., Victoria is set to have its own Vaisakhi celebration for the first time in over 100 years.

Victoria's celebration will be held in the Burnside Gorge neighbourhood April 29, with festivities expected to last all day. The parade itself will begin and end at 470 Cecelia Road, and takes place between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. PT.

"I think it will become Surrey 2.0," said event organizer Jatinder Singh. "This is the capital city and it will be nice to do one here."

Singh has been volunteering his time along with a legion of Canadian Sikhs ahead of the parade, which is being put on by the Gurdwara Singh Sabha of Victoria.

Sikhs celebrate Vaisakhi, which typically falls mid-April, to commemorate the creation of the Khalsa — the collective body of observant Sikhs — in 1699 by Guru Gobind Singh.

The parade, which includes hymn singing, martial-arts displays and the distribution of free food, is open to all members of the public.

One of the main floats, which will roll through Victoria, B.C. during the Vaisakhi parade. (Jean Paetkau/CBC)

Jatinder Singh said the Gurdwara is aware of one previous Victoria Vaisakhi celebration in 1912. That parade took place at a time when Sikhs faced widespread discrimination in Canada.

"At the time, the Canadian government wanted Sikhs to move to, I think it was British Honduras at the time," said Singh. "It was a different time.

"One hundred years later, we're living in a much more open and loving Canada, I think."

Until the 1940s and 1950s, Singh said Canadian Sikh communities were quite small. Now, there are many more Sikhs in Victoria, and lobbying efforts by the younger generation led to the weekend celebration, he said.

"Thankfully, a lot of the younger Sikhs have stepped forward to volunteer for the parade," said Singh.

Singh said he anticipates quite a large crowd. He said local business and the City of Victoria have been gracious and accommodating throughout the planning process.

The focus of the parade this year will be the Sikh holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib, considered the final, sovereign, and eternal living guru of Sikhism.

With files from On the Island