On 19 April 2014, the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada coordinated the 39 Canadian Brigade Group’s support for the Sikh Vaisakhi parade in Surrey, British Columbia. This celebration marking the birth of the Sikh religion is a significant yearly community event and typically draws up to 200,000 spectators. The Seaforths, along with other Brigade units, provided a marching contingent led by the Pipes and Drums as well as displays to be viewed by the community at large. The Sikh community in Surrey were, as always, incredibly welcoming and embraced the Canadian Army presence with great enthusiasm. One of the soldiers who participated in this event, Private Mujcin, who is an elementary school teacher in Surrey when not in uniform, wrote a article (attached below) describing his experience in the parade which well reflects the ongoing bond between Sikh community and 39 Canadian Brigade Group.
Last week I had the privilege of experiencing the Vaisakhi celebration as a civilian at my school. I teach Grade 4 at an elementary school in Surrey, where a number of students come from the Sikh religion and Vaisakhi is an important event for them. This weekend, on April 19th, 2014, I had the opportunity to participate in the Surrey Vaisakhi Parade as a member of the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada and found that my civilian experience was just the tip of the ice berg.
I was amazed at how open and receptive the participants of the parade were to the Canadian Army. Many of the people who approached us had some connection to the military, if not here in Canada, then back in India. The comments from the people ranged from “Thank-you for protecting us” to “I hope my son joins the Army”. I had never participated in this event before and found that it was a great learning experience, where we could all connect with the Sikh community and learn more about their culture.
The friendliness of the massive crowd was evident right from the start of the event and continued throughout the parade route, as there were many people approaching and offering us food and drink from a seemingly endless supply. One could not possibly leave this celebration hungry as the amount and the variety of food that was offered to everyone was overwhelming. There were countless times where my colleagues and I were asked to pose with the public for photographs, either with children, parents, or grandparents. Many times we were approached as we were trying to catch up to our section of the parade, only to be asked for another photo, which were obliged on all accounts. Many seemed to enjoy the chance to have their picture taken with a member of the military, regardless of who it was.
After the parade, I felt like I had learned a great deal. I thoroughly enjoyed the day of feasting, meeting new people and experiencing the Vaisakhi celebration as the community did a great job of hosting us. It was a pleasure being invited to this event and having other military members there to share the experience as it unfolded.
The next school day former and current students asked me many questions about my experience. I was in the great position to have had the chance to see the Vaisakhi celebration from both civilian and military sides and can say that it was a truly wonderful experience that I look forward to participating in again.
Seaforth Highlanders of Canada