Toronto: Gurbax Singh Malhi, the first turban-wearing Sikh elected to the House of Commons in Canada, was awarded the Key to the City of Brampton for his outstanding achievements as a trailblazer for the Sikh and South Asian community.
The Key to the City is a symbolic honour that the City of Brampton bestows upon a highly valued member of the community, or a celebrated or dignified guest of the City who has made an impact on the lives of people.
The honour for Malhi coincides with the Sikh Heritage Month, and it was presented to him by Mayor Patrick Brown at a ceremony in The Rose Brampton, Ontario.
“We are grateful for the outstanding contributions of Gurbax Singh Malhi, and his unwavering commitment to inclusive policy making and community building. We are so very lucky to have this advocate in our city and we must celebrate those, like Malhi, who go above and beyond to create supportive, vibrant communities where all can be their best,” Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown said in a statement.
Born in a small village in Punjab in 1949, Malhi paved the way for the representation of turban-wearing individuals and minorities in Parliament and was a fierce advocate for diversity and inclusion.
Serving for 18 consecutive years as the Member of Parliament for Bramalea-Gore-Malton, Malhi helped open the doors for minorities, bringing a positive awareness to minorities of all ethnic backgrounds during a time when there was a lack of representation at the national level.
“I am deeply honoured to accept the key to the city, where I have lived and served for over 30 years. Service and the betterment of our community have been the cornerstone of everything that I do, it has been a privilege to give back – to a city, a province and a country that have given me and my family so much opportunity to reach heights that I never imagined possible,” Malhi said upon receiving the honour.
During the 1960s, while still in India, Malhi started actively participating in politics. In 1975, he and his family arrived in Canada where he quickly gained a reputation as someone who would offer a helping hand, a media release by City of Brampton stated.
Malhi’s objective as a politician was to fight for inclusion of all people that call Canada home, and to be reflective of the diverse ethnic backgrounds that co-exist in Canada, the release stated.
Recalling one of the many stories of racism and hardship in Canada as he canvassed his first election campaign in 1993, he said: “They would call me ‘Paki’. I was verbally abused and stigmatised as a lesser class of immigrant peoples. My goal was to eliminate this bias and politics was the means to achieve that.”
During his time in Parliament, Malhi held several notable positions, including minister of national revenue, minister of human resources and skills development, minister of industry, and minister of labour.
In 2021, Brampton’s Rhapsody Park in Burlwood Road was named after Malhi.