Eight years after three farmworkers died in a horrific highway crash in Abbotsford, a 22-foot-tall monument memorializing those women was unveiled Saturday.
The Golden Tree stands as a legacy to Amarjit Kaur Bal, 52, Sukhvinder Kaur Punia, 41, and Sarbjit Kaur Sidhu, 31.
They were among 14 workers who were in a poorly maintained and unsafe work van when the driver lost control and crashed on March 7, 2007, on Highway 1.
The Golden Tree project has been in the works for seven years, with a committee led by the victims’ families in co-ordination with Abbotsford Community Services, Progressive Intercultural Community Services and the BC Federation of Labour.
The monument is now in place in Abbotsford’s International Friendship Garden on the north side of Clearbrook Library (32320 George Ferguson Way).
The Golden Tree, which was designed and built by artists Dean and Christina Lauze of Mission, embodies the images of three women in three stages of life – maiden, mother and matriarch.
The monument is composed of a 22-foot-tall twisting apple tree that merges into three subtle female forms.
Anchored by strong, thick roots, the tree rises and spreads gleaming gold limbs into a canopy of iridescent green leaves and golden apples.
The Lauzes said it was a “great honour and privilege” to be commissioned to created the monument.
“We have tried to convey a deep sense of hope and respect into every element … We hope that this artwork will serve as a symbol of their (the three women’s) strength, love and determination, as well as a lasting reminder of the need for meaningful change.”
The Bal, Punia and Sidhu families said they were “overwhelmed with joy and gratitude” for the project honouring their loves ones.
“We are proud to dedicate this monument to all farmworkers in B.C., to honour the work they do and to encourage us all to keep working towards healthier and safer working conditions in agriculture,” they said.
The Golden Tree was funded through $280,000 in contributions, including $80,000 from the provincial government, $40,000 from the United Food and Commercial Workers, $30,000 from WorkSafeBC and $20,000 from Vancity.
The full list of donations can be viewed online at goldentree.ca.