The Vancouver Khalsa Diwan Society was founded in 1906 to support the expansion of Sikh religious establishments. From the beginning, both the organization and its members had strong ties to the lumber industry, progressive organizations and the labour movement.

Sikh settlers often went to the Gurdwara upon arrival to seek support and help in finding employment. Financial and spiritual help extended by the Khalsa Diwan Society was deeply linked to the Punjabi Sikhs cultural traditions. Sewa and Langar, concepts of taking care of people, providing food, and other supports were important to establishing new lives for South Asian Canadians.

“Wherever there are five or more Sikh’s there will be a Sikh Temple, even just a spare room in someone’s house. Therefore it was only natural that once the mill and bunkhouses were erected the next building should be a Temple.” [1]

Vancouver’s first Gurdwara on 2nd Avenue, which opened in 1908, was in close proximity to the lumber mills that lined False Creek. © BC Labour Heritage Centre, 2021.

Similarly, the Ross Street Gurdwara (established 1970) on Marine Drive in South Vancouver was close to mills along the Fraser River.

Some Gurdwaras were built on the sawmill property with company-donated lumber or in unused buildings. Hillcrest, Paldi, Fraser Mills and Golden Gurdwaras were all located on sawmill property. Hillcrest Temple, 1935. Kaatza Station Museum & Archives, N00350, IWA Local 1-80, Wilmer Gold Photo Collection, ©United Steelworkers Local 1-1937.

“…the reason why the temple was located at Hillcrest in particular was it was located right next to the sawmill. And thinking about it later on, as I got older, it was apparent that in order to attract workers to the area to retain them, the Stone family, which owned the mill, felt that they should build a Gurdwara there. And and so it was a general way to keep workers there… Back then, there wasn’t a lot of family reunification going on. And so a lot of the men would live in the bunkhouses that surrounded the Gurdwara. And I still remember that if you like to think of it as a centre, there were spokes, wooden sidewalks that would take you to the bunkhouses…” [2]


In Ocean Falls, the Gurdwara was located inside the Sikh millworkers’ bunkhouse. “Sikh Temple, Ocean Falls B.C. Sunday July 6, 1918”, Box2_119B_0001, postcard, Kohaly Collection, Simon Fraser University Library. https://digital.lib.sfu.ca/km-1504/sikh-temple-ocean-falls-bc-sunday-6th-july-photo-postcard


The Gurdwara at Fraser Mills (incorrectly identified as “Hindu Temple”) was, for many years, the only place in the Lower Mainland where traditional cremations could take place. Mewa Singh’s funeral procession in 1915 took his body from New Westminster to Fraser Mills. © BC Labour Heritage Centre, 2021. Edited from Canadian Western Lumber Co. Ltd. and Fraser Mills Sash, Door and Shingle Co. Ltd., 1 November 1922. © Opta Information Intelligence Inc. (Photo inset, top right – Mewa Singh funeral procession 1915. Photograph, Kohaly Collection, Simon Fraser University Library. https://digital.lib.sfu.ca/km-10543/mewa-singh-funeral-procession-1915).

  1. Joan Mayo in "Paldi: Town Soaked in Sikh History". (2018). Desi Today Magazine. (E-magazine). https://www.desitoday.ca/paldi-town-soaked-in-sikh-history/
  2. Moe Sihota, interview by Anushay Malik, May 14, 2021. Union Zindabad! Interview Collection, BC Labour Heritage Centre,


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