In tragedy’s aftermath, Indo-Canadians discover a new community

Mandeep Khangura with his wife Veerpal Kaur and newborn daughter, Jasmine.

Mandeep Khangura with his wife Veerpal Kaur and newborn daughter Jasmine Khangura

By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: Jan 30, 2018

“Accept all humans as your equals, and let them be your only sect” (manas kee jaat sab ek pehchan bo)

Squamish local Jasbir Singh says he’s reminded of these lines from the Sikh scriptures often these days as he thinks of the incredible compassion Squamish has shown to the victims of the January 2nd accident on the Highway 99 that claimed the lives of two and injured six members of the local Indo-Canadian community. 

“It’s the community of Squamish that has lived up to the high ideals of humanity the Sikh gurus wanted us to live by. It’s the ideal of humanity overriding any other consideration of race, religion, or colour,” he says.

“Of course, I know my own community to be close knit, but frankly I had no idea that the entire community of Squamish would react with so much love and compassion” 

His sentiment is shared by Mandeep Singh Khangura, one of the survivors of the accident. With loving support from his wife and his parents, he is recovering from wounds both physical and psychological as he tries to come to terms with a tragedy that claimed the lives of his close friends.

But he has also discovered a new source of healing: Squamish.

“Of course, I know my own community to be close knit, but frankly I had no idea that the entire community of Squamish would react with so much love and compassion. I have no words to describe how grateful I am to the community for sending their messages for our speedy recovery and donating so generously,” he said. 

Gurpreet Singh with his grandmother, Manjeet Kaur

Gurpreet Singh with his grandmother, Manjeet Kaur

Language and cultural barriers can sometimes isolate immigrants from the wider community as they lean on family and friends from their own community to find their bearings in a new country.

Like Mandeep, Gurpreet Singh too has been in Canada only for a few years and only counts Indo-Canadians among his close friends in Squamish. The accident, however, has given him new perspective on how he interprets community.

Recently he browsed through the list of people who had donated to the Go Fund page and read their messages. He says he was overwhelmed with the kindness shown by Squamishers as they stood together to support him and other victims of this horrific tragedy.  

“It was really a lesson in the meaning of community for me. I had always thought of myself as being part of the Indo-Canadian community but now I know there is a much wider community and this is a community that cares and I’m proud to be part of that community,” he said.

Jasbir Singh Thind, a common friend of both these victims, said the generous support of the entire community has deeply touched Indo-Canadians, especially those who may not interact with the wider community because of language and cultural barriers.

“A lot of people have told me how emotional they have felt in knowing that the entire community cares for them and will support them whatever your colour or race may be.”

“A lot of people have told me how emotional they felt in knowing that the entire community cares and will support you whatever your colour or race may be. I see this as a victory of humanity over superficial differences of colour or religion or ethnicity. We are extremely grateful to the entire community,” he said.

His words were echoed by Ranjit Kaur Malhi, who runs a Kaur group in the Sikh temple and has been helping the victims and their families with emotional, social, and financial support. “This gives us strength as a community that we are together as one community and our differences only superficial,” she said.

Local transit driver Paramjit Sidhu said there were many riders who asked him about the victims and their condition. “It was nearly every day and I really felt this is a very caring community.

People from Squamish and beyond contributed over $58,000 for the victims. The money will soon be transferred to a trust fund and distributed by Squamish lawyer Douglas Chiasson, who waived off his fees for the service, said Amandeep Mann, who created the Go FUND page.

“The community went far and beyond in giving generously to help the community members. We know these donations will help victims and their families as they navigate a difficult time ahead,” she said.

Squamish Sikh Society president Makhan Sanghera, Avtar Gidda and others also thanked those who rallied behind the victims. 

Two people passed away in the accident, while the rest suffered injuries from which they are slowly recovering. One of the victims, however, is still in hospital and will need long term care

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