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$3-million India Gate to be built in Punjabi Market

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    VANCOUVER - Premier Gordon Campbell is poised to announce the construction of a special India Gate in Vancouver's Punjabi Market to be completed before the 2010 Olympics, The Vancouver Sun has learned.

    Campbell will make it official at Saturday's Vaisakhi parade in south Vancouver, near the spot where the gate will go at 50th Avenue and Main Street.

    The $3-million gate is designed to be a tribute to the pioneers of the Indo-Canadian community who first settled in Vancouver more than a century ago.

    An artist's rendering of the proposed India Gate.

    Construction is expected to begin soon so the gate can be completed before the Olympics in February 2010.

    So far, both the city and the province have committed funding to the project, but efforts are still being made to get a federal contribution.

    Punjabi Market Association president Daljit Singh Sidhu has spent a decade lobbying for the gate, which he said would enhance tourism in the city and give historic recognition to the South Asian community.

    "It is very good if the announcement comes on Saturday. We are hoping for the big day," Sidhu said Thursday. "This will be very unique for tourism."

    Longtime area businessman Kewal Pabla, who owns the Himalaya restaurant near the planned site, said everyone is excited about the gate finally being built.

    "It is very happy news. This is good for all of British Columbia, even Canada, and not only for my community. This is a heritage gate for every community. It is a good symbol," said Pabla, who has also been a key cog in the campaign. "Everybody is talking about it."

    Sidhu said it is important that the gate "reflects every corner of India."

    "It could be a little bit education to have the history of South Asians, how they came, how they settled and how they contributed to the economic, cultural and political stripes of this beautiful country in Canada," Sidhu said.

    "It is not just a structure of steel and cement. It should reflect something. It should have a soul and mind in there."

    Vancouver's Chinatown already has its historic Millennium gate marking its place in the city. The India Gate will be similar, they said.

    "As Canadians we should all be proud of what the South Asians have achieved and contributed to this country. It is part and parcel of this great country. We have to keep this great country going in the right direction with prosperity, peace, harmony and cultural diversity and learn from each other," Sidhu said.

    At least two dozen politicians from all three levels of government are expected at the Vancouver Vaisakhi parade to mark the holiest day on the Sikh calendar, as well as the harvest.

    A stage will be set up for speeches, right at the spot where the gate will be constructed.

    The parade is expected to leave the Ross Street temple at 10:30 a.m. with the Vancouver Police Band leading it, Sarwan Singh Randhawa, of the organizing committee, said Thursday.

    It will be followed by five men, called the panj piaras, who walk in front of the float carrying the Sikh holy book - the Guru Granth Sahib.

    Randhawa said tens of thousands of spectators and participants are expected for the parade, which runs west along Marine Drive to Main Street, up Main to 49th, east on 49th to Fraser, south on Fraser to 57th, then down to Ross Street and back to the temple.

    There are 20 floats as well as two TransLink buses donated to carry seniors and disabled people who can't walk the parade route.

    Randhawa said there will not be any controversial imagery or Sikh separatist slogans in the parade.

    "It will be a colourful, very peaceful event and everyone is welcome to attend," he said.
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