Hundreds of people came out in Surrey to give blood on Sunday in what’s become an almost two decades-long tradition for the Sikh Nation.
“It was originally started as a movement against the 1984 Sikh genocide that occurred in India,” said Jastej Kaur, a Blood Donation by Sikh Nation volunteer, in between signing dozens of people up to give blood at Newton’s Ecole Gabrielle-Roy.”
“The Indian government massacred tens of thousands of Sikh people.”
Instead of resorting to violence, the Sikh community wanted to do something positive for their own community to push back against the hatred displayed against them.
“We are not here to hate. We are angry, we are sad but we’ve put all those emotions into such a powerful message,” said Kaur.
“We’re here to save lives in our community.”
The annual blood drive kicked off in 1999 and for almost 20 years, each November sees thousands of Sikhs come out to give blood, volunteer or just support the initiative.
“The response for us has been overwhelming. We’ve had droves of people come out and donate,” said Kaur. “We’ve saved over 120,000 lives in Canada alone.”
The organization chose blood donation both because it fit into the tenets of their faith and because Canadian Blood Services, who they partner with for the blood drive, is always short on blood.
“If you look around, someone will have needed blood at some point in their life,” said Kaur. “Each donation saves three lives.”
Matching blood types and antibodies can be difficult and often times people are more likely to find a perfect match from a donor from their own ancestral community.
According to Canadian Blood Services, although half of Canadians are eligible to donate blood, only one in 60 do so.
Sunday marked the second and final day of the organization’s annual Sikh blood drive in Surrey and Kaur said that hundreds of people had already donated by noon.
“Sikhs always come out because it’s such an emotional event for our people. We want to make sure that people don’t forget that this happened to us,” she said.
“Blood was taken from us and now we’re giving back that blood in a positive way.”
For more information on how to give blood, visit Canadian Blood Services.