Thousands of Abbotsford Sikhs were joined by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Premier Christy Clark, Mayor George Peary and many other high profile guests in the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Gur Sikh Temple on Sunday morning.
Abbotsford MP Ed Fast called the temple “a great story of two cultures coming together,” those being the pioneer Trethewey family, who donated lumber for the temple from their Mill Lake sawmill, and the Sikh pioneers who hauled the lumber on their backs from the mill to the temple site at South Fraser Way and Fairlane Street.
Fast introduced “a musician and hockey history buff” – Harper.
“100 years – isn’t this a fantastic milestone,” said Harper to the crowd, adding that the national historic site “speaks volumes about Canada’s role in the world as a sanctuary.”
He acknowledged the Sikh pioneers suffered the “cruel sting of discrimination,” but added that Canadians are characterized by their ability to leave old arguments behind.
“We celebrate what has ultimately brought us together as Canadians,” said Harper.
He called the temple a shrine to Sikhism in Canada, and a place where Sikhs can visit to learn about the courage of their early pioneers.
Premier Clark spoke about how Sikhs appreciate the importance of strong families, and opportunities offered by a strong economy.
Harper and Clark unveiled a new stone monument that was erected to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the temple.
Temple president Kabal Hundal called the building a national symbol, and ” a testament to the pride, vision and courage of Sikh pioneers.”
Thousands of people in colourful traditional clothing spilled out onto South Fraser Way for a parade, with traditional music, drumming, and a festive atmosphere, en route to Rotary Stadium for more festivities.