Province announces $1-million grant for Sikh temple during Vaisakhi celebrations

B.C. Premier John Horgan announced a $1-million grant for upgrades at the Sikh temple in Victoria during Vaisakhi religious celebrations on Sunday.

The provincial grant for 2018-19, from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, will support accessibility and safety upgrades to Sikh Khalsa Diwan Society temple’s kitchen, common areas, main entrances and outdoor decks.

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The gurdwara (Sikh temple) and its community kitchen at 1210 Topaz Ave. are an important part of the Greater Victoria community for all faiths, said Horgan.

“It’s not just the Sikh community that accesses the kitchen here,” said Horgan. “It’s part of feeding hundreds and hundreds of people every month and it’s a great opportunity for us to inject some dollars into the gurdwara for all the work they’ve done for over 100 years now here in the community.”

The Khalsa Diwan Society gurdwara opened in 1912 in Victoria and is one of the two oldest operating gurdwaras in North America. It serves more than 600 free meals to people in need in downtown Victoria each weekend, according to the province.

The society also serves meals once a month at Our Place Society, which provides transitional housing, shelter and food to those living in poverty.

The province distributed grants for infrastructure projects in four B.C. communities.

The one-time grant funding was awarded after organizations submitted proposals detailing the scope, budget and needs of their proposed project.

Sunday marked the beginning of Vaisakhi celebrations in Victoria.

B.C. is home to one of the largest Sikh populations outside India.

The Sikh faith is based on generosity, said Horgan, adding it’s about respect for others, all things and all people. “The Sikh community here in Victoria has been, in my opinion, a shining example of service to community regardless of faith.”

“It’s not about religion; it’s about giving back to community,” said Horgan. “The gurdwara here has been feeding people here throughout Victoria for a long, long time. Anyone can come here any day of the week and get a meal without any questions asked and it’s that openness and that service ... there’s so much to celebrate here.”

Delta North NDP MLA Ravi Kahlon, who was raised in Victoria and attended the temple, said the kitchen upgrades and having the premier visit during Vaishakhi is important. “To know this money is going to be available for them to redo their kitchen and make it accessible for seniors is phenomenal,” said Kahlon. “It’s really big news for the community.”

“To have your premier show up here on an important day, it really fills the community with lots of pride and gives them a little more umph in their step to know they have their government’s backing,” said Kahlon. “It will be very huge for the community because it’s very much a community kitchen.”

Several local NDP politicians lined up to speak in the temple before the premier’s announcement to the congregation.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

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