British Columbia

LGBTQ group to participate in Vaisakhi parade for first time

The more than century-old Khalsa Diwan Society is welcoming Sher Vancouver into Vaisakhi celebrations for the first time.

Century-old Khalsa Diwan Society welcomes Sher Vancouver into celebrations

Sher Vancouver founder Alex Sangha, shown wearing red in the 2016 Vancouver Pride Parade, says participating in the upcoming Vaisakhi Parade is an important step for the LGBTQ community. (Sher Vancouver/Facebook )

For the first time, the South Asian LGBTQ support group Sher Vancouver will march in the Vancouver Vaisakhi parade.

Khalsa Diwan Society outreach coordinator Pall Beesla invited Sher Vancouver to participate in the April 15 parade to help create a voice for the marginalized community.

Beesla said he got a few questions about the decision from some members of the century-old Sikh organization, but he relished the opportunity to have a discussion with them about the issues.

"What better way to do it than to use a big event like Vaisakhi to create that discussion?"

Surrey's annual Vaisakhi parade and festival is one of the largest Vaisakhi celebrations outside India. Vaisakhi is the most important day in Sikh faith. (CBC)

As part of that discussion he noted that South Asians have been historically discriminated against, drawing parallels between the groups.

"It's explicitly written in our teachings that we're not to discriminate based on race, colour, creed, gender or socioeconomic status," Beesla said. "Sexual orientation is just an extension of that logic."

An important step forward

Sher founder Alex Sangha said the invitation marks an important step forward and hopes the two organizations can work together more in the future.

"We're one people, we're one planet we're one humanity and we need to take care of each other and focus on what brings us together, not what separates us," he said.

He notes that it can be hard for many South Asians to come out and many struggle with suicidal thoughts and loneliness.

"We want people to know that it doesn't matter who you love. All that matters is that you're a human being," he said.​

​With files from CBC Radio One's On the Coast