Members of Vancouver’s Indo-Canadian community spent the night sleeping outdoors at the Vancouver Art Gallery Friday night in support of Indian farmers now in the fourth month of a dispute with their government.
Demonstrators set up tents on top of pallets, spaced out to abide by COVID-19 guidelines.
“If our parents hadn’t immigrated here or our grandparents hadn’t immigrated here, less than 20 years ago, we would be there,” Kisaan Sleep-Out organizer Navjot Mannan told Global News.
“We would be fighting for our livelihood if we were there, so we just feel like we owe it to our roots and our ancestors and our relatives and our friends and family that are still in India to speak up for them, because they don’t have a voice in their government right now.”
The sleep-out was meant to cast light on the plight of farmers, thousands of whom have been sleeping on the streets of Delhi and surrounding highways to oppose a trio of new farming laws they say will destroy their livelihood and give power to corporations.
The laws eliminate a minimum price for agricultural products, and India’s former chief economic adviser has said the changes could crush smaller farmers by privatizing the sector.
The protests have also seen clashes between police and peaceful protesters, including at least one death.
“It affects me, my family, and it’s … a humanitarian issue,” Maan Sidhu said, adding he felt a personal connection through his Indian roots.
“My family, my grandparents, have all immigrated from India, what I have today, the reason I’m in Canada is all because of them, so if I have an issue back home I’m going to come out and protest.
Sidhu added that while the protests may seem a world away from most British Columbians, they’re more connected to the issue than they may think.
“We all eat food, right? Because without farmers there is no food, we should be coming out and protesting for them,” he said. “Regardless of your colour, your race, you don’t feel connected — if you ate today you should be thanking a farmer.”
–With files from Rumina Daya