Thousands pack Surrey streets for Vaisakhi celebrations 


One of the largest Vaisakhi celebrations in the world is underway in Surrey.

Hundreds of thousands of people have packed the streets for the popular annual event.

Organizers believe there will be more than 700,000 people at the event, a record number for the celebration.

Vaisakhi dates back to 1699 and celebrates the revelation of the Khalsa, which refers to the community that considers Sikhism its faith.

It has become a holy day to mark the birth of the Khalsa fraternity.

“The community is feeling a mixture of joy and celebratory feelings,” Moninder Singh said, an organizer. “The community is here not only for the celebration, which celebrates sovereignty and human rights for all but also to reflect on a leader we lost and the principles around human rights that he was standing for.”

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Singh is referring to the killing of B.C. Sikh activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar.

Nijjar was gunned down in his truck outside the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara on the evening of June 18, 2023.

The killing has become a major diplomatic flashpoint after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told Parliament there were “credible allegations” of a “potential link” between “agents of the government of India” and the killing.

Nijjar ran a plumbing business in Surrey and rose to become a prominent advocate for the creation of Khalistan — a separate Sikh nation.

He travelled around the world and called for a referendum on Khalistan and called for anti-Sikh violence in India to be recognized as “genocide.”

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“It has been a long year for the community with the assassination of Hardeep Singh Nijjar,” Singh said.

Singh said the event welcomes people of all cultures and communities to come together in the communal gathering of “understanding, sharing, and goodwill.”

“People can expect a full day of getting to know one another,” he said. “That is one of the biggest things the event is for is to draw communities together. The free food is to bring everyone together. We have First Nations, members of various communities, races and religions. People can expect a fun day for kids and learning.”

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The parade started at 9 a.m. at Gurdwara Sahib Dasmesh Darbar on 85 Avenue and will end at the gurdwara at 4 p.m.

A number of roads have been closed due to the parade.

On Saturday, full closures will be in effect from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. on:

  • 128 Street, from 72 to 88 avenues
  • 75 and 76 avenues, from 124 to 128 streets
  • 124 Street, from 75 to 82 avenues
  • 82 Avenue, from 124 Street to 128 Street

Volunteer vendors are offering free food, music and festivities along the parade route, and due to heavy foot traffic, organizers have encouraged all attendees to walk to the festival area.

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“Be patient with each other and take your time. The event is a long day,” Singh said. “I would suggest people to take transit in.”

There is no parking in the area of the event.

Surrey RCMP is encouraging attendees to consider walking, cycling or using transit to get to the celebration.

“It is our honour to be part of Vaisakhi Parade (Nagar Kirtan) as we work with our partners in the community to keep this event safe for everyone and be part of the parade,” Surrey RCMP Cpl. Sarbjit Sangha said. “Having a plan in place with your family and friends prior to the event can be very helpful to ensure everyone stays safe throughout the celebration. With the large crowds, it can be easy for people to become separated from their group.”

During past Vaisakhi parades, Surrey RCMP officers have had to deal with dozens of incidents of missing children and seniors. The department is offering some advice to minimize any further incidents.

A safety plan should include the following:

  • Take a family photo before you leave the house, this will help in locating them if needed;
  • Familiarize your family members with their surroundings and have a pre-planned meeting place;
  • Equip your family members with some form of identification and your contact information;
  • Keep a current photo of your child on you in case you need to describe them to police;
  • Keep your children within eyesight at all times;
  • If a family member goes missing, notify the nearest police officer;
  • If you live in the area that has been closed to traffic, please have your driver’s license with current address to provide to police at check points in order to get to your residence.

— With files from Uday Rana

&copy 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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