‘Blood has no race’: Calgary’s Sikh community holds annual blood drive

Members of Calgary’s Sikh community gathered on Saturday for their annual blood drive, which they’ve been organizing for more than 20 years to help save lives and remember a past tragedy. 

Manjit Singh, one of the organizers of the blood drive and a member of Calgary’s Sikh community, has been volunteering his time for this cause for the last 23 years. 

“We know the value of the blood, we are trying to save the lives because lives are precious,” said Singh. 

Dozens of people filed in and out of a hotel in the northeast of the city on Saturday to donate blood. But this local blood drive is part of a larger campaign called Blood Donation by Sikh Nation that takes place every November in partnership with Canadian Blood Services.

The annual campaign started in 1999, 15 years after anti-Sikh riots took thousands of lives in India. The campaign started in British Columbia, but according to Singh, it has now extended to cities in the United States, England, New Zealand and other countries.

“We’re remembering those innocent brothers and sisters who were killed back in 1984 and all over India just because of their identity,” Singh said. 

According to its website, the Blood Donation by Sikh Nation campaign has saved almost 160,000 lives since its inception. 

An anti-hate message

Balwynder Kahlon, another local organizer of the blood drive, has been involved with the campaign since day one. And he says blood is something we all have in common. 

This year’s blood drive was held on Nov. 6, and another event will take place in the city on Nov. 20. (Andrew Brown/CBC)

“Doesn’t matter who we are. Because your blood is a message, it can be used for anyone. Blood has no race,” he said. 

Kahlon said part of the message of the campaign is that “there should be no hate.” Rather than act with revenge in response to the 1984 attacks in India, he said the Sikh community in Canada responded with this blood drive campaign to save lives.

“We should respect each other. We should love each other,” Kahlon said. 

“We should help instead of creating this hatred kind of environment.”

Another blood drive organized by the Sikh community will be held on Nov. 20 at the Genesis Centre in Calgary from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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