SATURDAY (March 7) was a great day for farm workers when a candlelight vigil and the foundation laying ceremony of the monument “Golden Tree” in memory of three women farmworkers – Amarjit Bal, Sukhwinder Punia and Sarabjit Sidhu – was held. These women were killed in an accident on March 7, 2007, while on their way to their place of work in a farm van.
A large number of people from different communities participated in the ceremony. Kicking off the event, Jim Sinclair, former president of the BC Federation of Labour, gave a brief history of the incident and stressed the need for more measures for safety and protection of farm workers. The deputy mayor of Abbotsford Patricia Ross assured the gathering that the city would continue their efforts till the completion of this monument.
Irene Lanzinger, President of the BC Federation of Labour, said that this accident was preventable as there was gross violation of traffic laws while carrying these workers to the farms. The van carrying these workers had worn-out tires and the accident was the result of the burst of a front tire. There were more passengers than seats, which had no seatbelts. The driver did not have a valid driving license to drive this van. She stressed the need to frame a comprehensive policy for the safety of farm workers and to implement all the proposals of the panel formed after this accident. She also demanded that the government frame a law to punish the farm owners who commit an act of criminal negligence resulting in injury or death of farm workers.
MLA Raj Chouhan, Councillor Moe Gill, Avtar Gill, President of Tarksheel Cultural Society of Canada, Charan Gill, Kuldip Sekhon and Sukhjit Gill also addressed the gathering. MLA Harry Bains and former MP Gurmant Grewal were also present.
In the end, Sarabjit Sidhu’s daughter, Avneet, and husband, Jagjit Sidhu, thanked all the donors and Abbotsford City Council for making this the first and only monument in the memory of farm workers in B.C. and Canada a reality. They also conveyed their gratitude to all the participants for amiing this ceremony a grand success.
– BY GURMAIL GILL, Secretary, Tarksheel Cultural Society of Canada