IWA President Harold Pritchett and Organizer Darshan Singh Sangha were part of the Khalsa Diwan Society delegation to the BC Cabinet in 1943 which demanded enfranchisement for South Asians. They, along with CCF Leader Harold Winch, made a clear declaration of the mutual respect and support between labour, the CCF and the South Asian community. Courtesy David Yorke.

“[This] delegation was organized by the Sikh Temple Society, also called Khalsa Diwan Society and the IWA. And it was led by Naginder Singh Gill, Harold Pritchett and myself and a whole number of people from East Indian community were there. One, Robert Holland, who had earlier served in India, a classical colonial sahib! . He was also along with us. So you see, this pressure for equal rights for East Indians, for right to vote, it was there all along. Ultimately it was in 1947 that the right to vote was extended to East Indians.” – Darshan Singh Sangha



The Province, January 12 1943, 5.

On January 17, 1943 at Vancouver’s Orpheum Theatre, a meeting , organized and financed by the Khalsa Diwan Society, attracted a “cosmopolitan” audience of 1,200. Harold Pritchett, President of the District Council of the International Woodworkers of America chaired the meeting. Speakers included Harold Winch, CCF MLA, son of Ernest Winch, and leader of the opposition in the BC legislature.

“When history is written, this will be known as the age of hypocrisy. It will be written that while we boasted of civilization, we practiced barbarism. While we talked of the brotherhood of man we practiced racial prejudice. We are hypocrites if we say that the people of India cannot have the freedom for which we are fighting ourselves.”[3]

The IWA was one of many unions that supported demands for the franchise, and followed through by educating their members on political issues of importance to South Asians.

“Naginder Gill took the right to vote to Ottawa…How many unions supported that? You can see that: Seventy-twoseventy-two unions and MLAs supported the right to vote. On April 2, 1947 after 40 years we got the right to vote…there’s a big long history…we worked hard…we fought for freedom from the British.”[4]

A partial list of 72 unions and MLAs who supported the franchise for South Asian Canadians in 1947. Khalsa Diwan Society of Vancouver, Supporters of East Indian Franchise, Centennial Day Souvenir, 2006, 58-60.

“On behalf of the East Indian people of Canada, I greet your Seventh Annual Convention. The East Indian millworkers, with your help, have considerably improved their wages and working conditions in many mills. I and my people will be deeply grateful for your resolution on the famine. We want to win our democratic right to vote and our only friend, and the friend of all minorities, is the labor movement. I say that all workers should continue to support each other in our struggle for freedom and victory.” [5]


  1. Perry and Pritchett (1979), in Daudharia, H. 57.
  2. Harinder Mahil. Recording of reading Darshan Singh Sangha quotes. MP3 file, created 6 Dec. 2021, Union Zindabad! Project. BC Labour Heritage Centre.
  3. "Immediate Freedom for India Urged at Big Theatre Rally", The Province, January 18, 1943, 5.
  4. Joginder Sunner, interview May 14, 2021. Union Zindabad! Interview Collection. BC Labour Heritage Centre.
  5. Naginder Singh Gill, Secretary of the Khalsa Diwan Society introduced at 7th Annual Convention, IWA District Council No. 1, January 2-3, 1944, New Westminster. IWA Archives, File 130.06.


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