The B.C. legislature’s hall of honour was draped with glittering multi-coloured fabrics and flower garlands Wednesday as Premier John Horgan and members of Victoria’s South Asian community lit a diya in celebration of Diwali, the Hindu festival of light.
Indian dancers kicked off the noon-hour event, the first time Diwali was celebrated in the legislature.
Wednesday also marked Bandi Chhor Divas, the day of liberation, a Sikh holiday that coincides with Diwali.
“Diwali is a time to turn inward, and light the lamps of knowledge and truth in our hearts and minds so that we can dispel the forces of darkness and ignorance,” said Hardeep Grewal, president of the India Canada Cultural Association of Victoria. Grewal said although he was born in India, he chose to live in Canada.
“Today, standing at this podium taking part in this celebration, I feel so fortunate I’ve made that decision,” he said.
Horgan called B.C.’s South Asian community “pioneers,” who have demonstrated that the province’s economic vitality is enhanced by diversity. B.C. has the second largest population of South Asians in Canada, second only to Ontario, according to Statistics Canada.
Horgan noted that in the last election, seven South Asian MLAs were elected, the largest number ever. “Which I think is a symbol of how diverse our community is and how diverse our legislature has become,” he said.
Ravi Kahlon, B.C.’s parliamentary secretary for sport and multiculturalism, said the act of celebrating different cultures and traditions “helps us build trust between and across communities.”
Kahlon, Horgan, Grewal and four other members of the South Asian community lit seven candles atop a 200-year-old gold diya, also known as the Diwali lamp, an act that symbolizes the triumph of good over evil, light over darkness.
Victoria Police Chief Del Manak, who is Indo-Canadian, said celebrating cultural traditions in mainstream society builds tolerance and acceptance.
“Coming from an immigrant family and being a visible minority and being born and raised in Victoria, I am tremendously proud of my community, my culture, my background,” Manak said, adding that Canada has not seen the same racial tensions and racial profiling as in parts of the United States. “It just shows the mosaic of what makes up the fabric of Canada.”