Celebrating Canada Day the Turban Way, 2012

Then we found the tent where they were putting turbans on anyone who wanted one to promote cultural awareness....

Canada Day (French: Fête du Canada) is the national day of Canada, a federal statutory holiday celebrating the anniversary of the July 1, 1867, enactment of the British North America Act, 1867 (today called the Constitution Act, 1867, in Canada), which united three colonies into a single country called Canada within the British Empire. Originally called Dominion Day (French: Le Jour de la Confédération), the name was changed in 1982, the year the Canada Act was passed. Canada Day observances take place throughout Canada as well as by Canadians internationally. (Wikipedia)

 Celebrating Canada Day the Turban Way, 2012

After the success of the Sikh Students' Association's "Turban Day" event at the University of Waterloo, Ontario, the lead organizer, Anterjot Singh, decided to seize the opportunity and take this event to the next level. With Canada Day celebrations just around the corner, he contacted the lead city organizer in Calgary, Alberta and suggested that the Sikh community set up a stall where visitors could have a red and white turbans tied by a volunteer. She was very enthusiastic, mentioning this is the type of activity she is looking for, and accommodated all our requests.

With all the negative media surrounding the turban and the misconceptions that are associated with the Sikh faith, we wanted to make a positive impact in our city, build a lasting relationship of understanding and acceptance within the community at large, and celebrate our diversity as Canadians.

From this point on it was full steam ahead with our planning, estimating that even if 1% of the park visitors participate in our event, we will still have 1000 people come our way! And so began our quest to find yards upon yards of red and white turban material, asking shop owners for discounted prices and the local Sikh community for donations; countless trips to stores to buy mirrors and other materials; and of course many meetings among organizers to discuss the best strategies to make this event a success. When all was said and done, we had purchased 2000 meters of turban material, 600 dollars worth of printed posters and pictures, 115 t-shirts for volunteers, etc., coming to a grand total of 5400 dollars spent. All of this was covered in only 3 days after donations were collected from the Dashmesh Culture Centre community. With God's grace, everything was falling into place.

Saturday evening, the night before the event, we did an ardas (prayer) and asked that all the honest work from the organizers and volunteers be put towards a righteous cause and that we help spread awareness about the Sikh culture and identity throughout the city of Calgary.

After all the hard work and late nights, I couldn't help but wonder, "How successful will this be?", "Will people actually want to have a turban tied?", "Will they be welcoming to our idea, or will they dismiss it, thinking it's much too foreign? " In any case we carried on with spirits high and attitudes optimistic.

Sunday, July 1st, we began our set up at 7:30 in the morning, planning to begin the turban tying by the schedule time of 11 o'clock. However, before we could put on the final touches, our first visitors, a father and his son, arrived at 10 o'clock. This duo was followed by a steady stream of faces, glowing with excitement, to have their own turbans tied for the very first time. We were beyond ecstatic to see such a forthcoming attitude from the crowd. The type of reception we experienced that day was something beyond our wildest dreams! We could have never imagined the enthusiasm that engulfed the never-ending line of participants who came our way.

Our 30x30 foot tent set up in the park was surrounded by volunteers, participants, and curious onlookers for 10 hours straight. With a minimum of 50 volunteers at a time, we were still swamped, and each turban tying volunteer was taking person after person with mere minutes break for lunch and dinner. Between all the volunteers 10 turbans were tied every 3 minutes, translating into 200 turbans tied an hour, and 2069 turbans tied throughout the entire day!

TurbanDay_9306 (74K) TurbanDay_9320 (102K)
TurbanDay_9425 (99K) TurbanDay_9480 (67K)
TurbanDay_9490 (59K) TurbanDay_9528 (69K)
TurbanDay_9647 (102K) TurbanDay_9655 (60K)
TurbanDay_9692 (105K) TurbanDay_9790 (94K)
TurbanDay_9451 (133K) TurbanDay_9821 (89K)

More photos available at picasa https://picasaweb.google.com/109414004789267755740/TanveerSCamera?authuser=0&authkey=Gv1sRgCI7a6K757o6R6AE&feat=directlink
"Photographs are a copyright of Neet Photography, Gursevak.com and Sikh Youth Calgary."

As these numbers were beyond our initial estimates, we were running out of material to tie the turbans, and had to send volunteers on an emergency turban run to buy more material. At this point we had completely run out of our red material and started to tie all the different shades we could get our hands on.

What an amazing sight it was to take a walk around the park. I could not take a couple steps without seeing entire families adorned with turbans, young teenagers, old grandmothers and the tiniest of babies. After the event, one blogger wrote: "…walking through prince's island during Canada day we started seeing people of all shapes, sizes and colours sporting turbans. Every other person had one. I mean they were literally everywhere. Babies had them, kids had them, seniors had them. Then we found the tent where they were putting turbans on anyone who wanted one to promote cultural awareness… the men who wrapped were artists with the cloth… it was easily the best part of Canada day for me and proof that things change, if only slowly."

CanadaDayWanderings (260K)
Source: July 3rd, 2012,

It was truly a blessing to experience this day, as it changed my perception entirely. I believe things are changing for the better and that the negatives no longer outweigh the positive. We are not discussing 'tolerance' of each other and our uniqueness, but the wholehearted welcoming of our diversity as a human race. Another comment on a participant's flickr account reads, "Celebrating some hard won identity there. I know the Canadian Sikh population was proud, but I have never seen anything equal to that! Do you think in 1983 Mr Trudeau could have foreseen all that has come of the Charter?"

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July 3rd, 2012: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jm_schrei/7482934888/)

Although the forecast for the day predicted thundershowers, the weather remained absolutely gorgeous. Due to the number of people wanting turbans tied, we extended our set up outside the tent for most of the day. However, as our cloth supply became short, we began to taper off the set up and brought the tables inside. I believe it was no coincidence that as soon as we made this decision, the rain came pouring down as we moved under the cover of our tent. As the day came to an end (as well as our turban material!) we began to pack up, despite the number of people who still gathered around for a chance to have a turban wrapped on them. Unfortunately, we had to turn people away, because all that was left were the turbans on our own heads! Although that didn't deter one man from asking that I remove my own and tie it on him!

We are so thankful for being blessed with this opportunity and to be allowed to do this seva (service) for the Calgary community. I cannot imagine what a difference this has made in the minds of the people who came to us having no idea what a turban is, who ties it, and what significance it hold in the life of a Sikh. These people are walking away with a greater understanding of the fabric that ties us together as a neighbourhood, community, city and country. One participant, after wearing the turban around the park and surrounding area, came back to us and shared his experience. He explained that as he walked away from our tent, he experienced firsthand what it feels like to have another judge you for what you look like, and to receive that awful stare from across the street. He took the time to return and share this with the volunteer who tied his turban, expressing that he now has a new found respect for the Sikhs that choose to walk with their Guru's crown upon their heads.

This is our experience. An experience in which we intended one thing, but were returned with results ten-fold of what we expected. I believe that there are amazing implications to this event and what could follow. We are excited to hear your ideas of how you can take this idea and apply it in your area.

Tanveer Kaur
Kindergarten Teacher at Khalsa School Calgary
Calgary, Alberta, July 1st, 2012

Anterjot Singh

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