To celebrate Sikh Canadians’ long history of service to Canada, The Sikh Heritage Museum of Canada recently commissioned a poster from Brampton designer Rahul Boghal. His poster of stoic Sir John A. McDonald — Canada’s first Prime Minister — face to face with current Minister of Defence, Harjit Sajjan, has reached hundreds of thousands across social media since it was posted just a few days ago.
A letter penned by Macdonald to an English theorist living in India at the time outlines the reputation that preceded Sikhs even then.
“War will come someday between England and the United States and India can do us yeoman’s service by sending an army of Sikhs,” said Macdonald in the letter.
The letter was penned in 1867 shortly after Queen Victoria signed the BNA Act and war seemed imminent for Canada at the time.
Boghal dreamed up the concept at his studio inside LAB B, Brampton’s creative incubation space for entrepreneurs located in downtown Brampton.
Canada in its infancy was unknowingly already laying the groundwork to become one of the world’s most tolerant nations; however, at the time racism and discrimination were commonplace. Indeed, Sajjan’s role as Minister of Defence is a show of how truly far Canada has come.
Any person of any colour, race, religion, and gender can proudly hold a position of prominence and leadership in Canada. Canada can have leaders of different faiths and culture who are proud Canadians and serve the country to the best of their abilities.
Bhogal’s poster sparked important discussions around how far Canada has come. While the poster highlights Sajjan’s success and puts a spotlight on the history of Sikhs as willing defenders, some point out Macdonald’s apparent dislike for newcomers to Canada.
Still, both interpretations add to the poignancy of the piece.
To learn more about the piece and Sikh heritage in Canada, those interested are invited to visit the Sikh Heritage Museum in Mississauga.