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Thousands enjoy 45th annual Vaisakhi parade in Vancouver

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Thousands gathered in South Vancouver Saturday to take part in the city's 45th annual Vaisakhi parade and festival.

The day began with prayer and offerings at the Khalsa Diwan Society temple, followed by the Nagar Kirtan, a procession that wound its way down Marine Drive to Main Street, up to 49th Avenue and back to the temple, passing through the city's historic Punjabi Market neighbourhood.

Along the route, volunteers set up stalls offering free vegetarian food to parade participants and onlookers.

Among the crowd were elected officials from across the political spectrum, including Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim, Premier David Eby, provincial Opposition leader Kevin Falcon, federal Emergency Preparedness Minister and Vancouver South MP Harjit Sajjan and federal Opposition leader Pierre Poilievre.

"It's an occasion for those of us who aren't Sikh to reflect on the remarkable contributions of the Sikh community in our province," Eby said.

"The discrimination they've overcome to be able to be reflected in the highest levels of government, industry, business, it's an amazing success story."

Vaisakhi marks the anniversary of the establishment of the Khalsa in 1699, as well as the start of the Punjabi harvest year.

"Khalsa means pure," explained Malkiat Singh Dami, past president of the Khalsa Diwan Society.

"It's so exciting. It meant bringing everybody together. They eliminated the caste, creed and other religion stuff. They said, 'Bring everybody together.' That's why the middle name Singh (is) for everybody, so everybody is the same … All over the world, wherever the Sikhs are, they celebrate this, and they celebrate very nicely and enthusiastically."

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