Amritsar: Kathleen Wynne, the premier of Canada’s Ontario province known for her support for gay rights, on Sunday offered prayers at the holiest of Sikh shrines Harmandar Sahib and was honoured by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee.
Dressed in a firozi blue (turquoise) suit with her head covered with a dupatta (Punjabi-style stole), the premier was accompanied by SGPC officials as she entered the Golden Temple to offer prayers.
Kathleen’s visit was preceded by a controversy over the SGPC taking a stand not to honour her with a ‘siropa’ (robe of honour) due to her views on same sex marriages, support for gay rights and being a lesbian herself.
SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar earlier said that the Canadian leader was welcome to offer prayers at the shrine but the SGPC would not honour her with a siropa due to her views on same sex marriages.
The SGPC maintained that the Sikh religion did not legitimise same sex marriages.
However, a major controversy was avoided as she was welcomed by SGPC officials, escorted to the SGPC information office, and presented with a gold-plated photo of the holy shrine.
SGPC officials and volunteers surrounded the Ontario premier from the moment she reached outside the shrine and escorted her till the sanctum sanctorum. She was shown all the important areas of the shrine.
Kathleen, in her note in the visitors’ book, said she was humbled to visit the “beautiful sacred place”.
She visited the ‘Langar Hall’ (community kitchen, the largest facility of its kind in the world), and briefly helped in cooking food.
A visibly happy Kathleen bowed down — on her knees and head touching the ground — after she walked down the entrance steps of the shrine onto the ‘parkarma’ (marbled walking path around the holy shrine pool).
The Ontario premier arrived here on Saturday evening amid tight security arrangements. She is on a 10-day business trip to India. She met leading businessmen and industrialists here on Saturday evening and Sunday.
Canada and its Ontario province have a strong Punjabi connection, with a number of parliamentarians in Canada and lawmakers in provinces there having strong Punjab links.
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Canada’s new defence minister Harjit Sajjan was born in Punjab’s Hoshiarpur district.
With the presence of a strong Punjabi origin population, Canadian leaders have been coming to Punjab and offering prayers at Sikh shrines.
Then Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper visited the Golden Temple complex in November 2009 and Takht Keshgarh Sahib, birthplace of the ‘Khalsa Panth’ and the second most important Sikh shrine after the Golden Temple.