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Thousands descend downtown Toronto for Khalsa Day celebrations

Thousands of people descended downtown Toronto Sunday for one of the city’s largest annual events.

Vaisakhi, also known as Khalsa Day, marks the Sikh New Year and the establishment of the Sikh community in 1699, according to the Ontario Sikhs and Gurdwaras Council (OSGC).

For years, the organization has been putting together an annual parade along Lake Shore Boulevard, which according to the council, is the third-largest in the country and is known to attract thousands of participants each year. 

The day kicked off at 9 a.m. at the CNE Better Living Centre, with the parade starting at 1 p.m. and traveling east to Nathan Phillip Square by 3:30 p.m. The event lasted until 6 p.m. 

Attendees ate free food, listened to Sikh prayers played on traditional instruments and saw festival goers donned in saffron-coloured clothing.

Toronto police have either fully or partially closed a number of streets for the event, including Bay Street from Hagerman Street to Queen Street W., University Avenue from Dundas Street W. to Queen Street W. and Albert Street at Bay Street. A full breakdown of the parade route can be found on the Toronto police website

Politicians in all levels of government appeared, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, leader of the Conservative Party of Canada Pierre Poilievre and leader of the federal NDP Jagmeet Singh. Mayor Olivia Chow also attended.

“I’ve long admired the Khalsa tradition. It’s based on the principles of freedom, equality, justice and generosity, and the spirit of sharing,” said Chow.

“Congratulations on a wonderful Khalsa Day parade, and happy Vaisakhi.”

A man in a parade spins a chakkar, with other people looking nearby.
People celebrate Vaisakhi, also known as Khalsa Day, during a parade in downtown Toronto on April 30, 2023. (Heather Waldron/CBC )

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