Many like to joke that mini-Punjabs exist in some Canadian cities. It’s understandable when you review the stats: of the roughly 64,000 South Asians in Brampton, Ontario, 34,000 speak Punjabi. According to census data, 135,000 Sikhs reside in Vancouver alone. Sikhism also constitutes the largest religion in Surrey, Vancouver, making up 16.3 percent of the population. Numbers alone, however, aren’t enough to attract influence. The growing Canadian Sikh community garners significant political support because it is able to organize effectively, raise substantial funds, and contribute to its local and national economy.
In 2005, it was announced that a new hospital, the William Osler Health Center, would be built for the Brampton community. Under the public private partnership (P3) funding formula used to build the new hospital, Bramptonites were required to raise 30% of the building’s total cost of $536 million. Canadian Sikhs, along with local Hindu and Muslim communities, eagerly came together to show their commitment to the future of local health care. Canadian Sikhs generously pledged $10 million for the hospital. A “Better Health Radiothon” broadcast on Punjabi radio stations raised more than $3 million (nearly $1 million in the first 90 minutes!). The Sikh community in particular was recognized when officials announced the name of the Emergency Department as Guru Nanak Emergency Services Department. The Guru Nanak Emergency Services Department greeted its first patient in July 2007.
It appears that Guru Nanak Dev Ji is causing a stir not only in Brampton but in hospitals across the land of the maple leaf. The Guru Nanak Healing Garden, at the University of Alberta Hospital in Edmonton, occupies the fourth floor of the Alberta Heart Center.* Two weeks ago, Surrey Memorial Hospital in Vancouver, British Columbia announced that Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s name “will adorn the main entrance of the new emergency centre in recognition of the importance of Surrey’s South Asian community and its support of hospital fundraising efforts.” “By naming the entrance of this Surrey Memorial Hospital centre after Guru Nanak Dev Ji, we are saying this is a place for everyone,” said Premier Gordon Campbell after making the announcement.
Which hospital in the United States will be the first to jump onto the movement? A better question may be which proactive American Sikh community can foster enough support on the outside and camaraderie from within to move forward with such a proposal.
*Note comments below.