CALGARY: The vision of the late Canadian MLA, Manmeet Singh Bhullar became a reality on March 12, 2019 following the arrival of the first Afghan Sikh and Hindu refugee families in Canada.
Manmeet Singh Bhullar was a member of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta who was known for his compassion and support for his community. Unfortunately, he tragically lost his life while helping a stranded motorist.
The arrivals follow years of tireless work and campaigning by Manmeet Singh Bhullar to raise the the plight of Sikhs and Hindus persecuted in Afghanistan on an international level.
The new arrivals have been sponsored through private applications that were spearheaded by the Manmeet Singh Bhullar Foundation with support from the World Sikh Organization of Canada, community groups and individuals carrying on the tireless work of Manmeet Singh Bhullar.
By utilising the private sponsorship stream, individuals have donated the costs of refugee sponsorship, maintaining legal responsibility to ensure settlement supports are provided to refugees.
Defence Minister Harjit Singh Sajjan greeted the first families upon their arrival in Calgary. He noted that Canada is a global leader in resettling the world’s most vulnerable, which is why the federal government has worked very closely with the Manmeet Singh Bhullar Foundation and other partners to ensure safe resettlement opportunities in Canada.
Minister Sajjan stated:
“Our government has taken action to ensure the safety of survivors of persecution and violence in Afghanistan. Families from among the Afghan Sikh and Hindu minority population have faced extreme risk based on their ethnicity and religious beliefs. We are proud to honour the legacy of my good friend Manmeet Singh Bhullar by welcoming members of this vulnerable population to Canada to offer them a new life and home, while ensuring they have the support they need to thrive.”
The Manmeet Singh Bhullar Foundation said:
“Today marks an important step in fulfilling Manmeet’s vision for this project. We hope to continue welcoming other families as they complete the private sponsorship journey. Minister Sajjan’s stalwart leadership, assistance from the Government of Canada, bi-partisan support, and the sheer will of community members throughout Canada to share in this work; brings us to this point. These families can now move from not only surviving, but thriving while living the Canadian dream.”
In a press release, the World Sikh Organization of Canada said it was delighted to welcome the arrival of the first Sikh and Hindu refugee families from Afghanistan to Canada. It said Tuesday’s arrivals were the result of the tireless work of Manmeet Singh Bhullar who championed this cause prior to his tragic passing in November 2015.
Sikhs and Hindus have endured increasing religious persecution and today face a difficult, if not unlivable situation in many parts of Afghanistan. The Sikh and Hindu communities that have lived in Afghanistan for hundreds of years, now number less than 1,000 individuals. Prior to 1992, their population numbered over 200,000, however due to persecution and discrimination, most have been forced to flee to other countries. The Afghan Sikh and Hindus remaining in Afghanistan are the most vulnerable who do not have the resources or ability to relocate.
In December 2014, Sikh and Hindu families from Afghanistan’s Helmand region reached out to the World Sikh Organization for help. In turn the World Sikh Organization asked Manmeet Singh Bhullar for his assistance. Manmeet Singh began what seemed like the impossible task of helping these families on the other side of the world, in what was and continues to be an extremely dangerous region. He single-handedly oversaw the safe exit of each Sikh and Hindu family from Helmand to India and helped find local organisations to assist with their basic needs. As refugees in India have no legal status, receive no government assistance and often live in poverty, Manmeet Singh Bhullar strongly advocated for steps to help bring these families to Canada.
After his tragic passing in November 2015, the Manmeet Singh Bhullar Foundation carried forward his work and with the assistance of Gurdwaras, elected officials, the Sikh community and the World Sikh Organization, the first families have finally arrived in Canada.
World Sikh Organization President Mukhbir Singh (pictured above) said:
“The arrival of the first Afghan Sikh and Hindu families to Canada is a proud moment for our community and a tribute to the vision and efforts of Manmeet Singh Bhullar. Manmeet saw a community in desperate need and despite the odds, found a way to help them. The WSO is proud to have been a part of the team that has been working on this project with Manmeet and his family since 2015. We thank the Government of Canada for their assistance in this process and look forward to the expeditious processing of the Afghan Sikh and Hindu refugee applications still in queue. While the arrival of these first families is an important milestone that we are celebrating, we also know that there are approximately 1,000 Sikhs and Hindus in Afghanistan today in very desperate straits and who are facing severe religious persecution and continue to plead for assistance. We must ensure that urgent steps are taken to help them as well.”