The Town of Bradford West Gwillimbury has asked residents to “Paint the town red” for Canada Day: To proudly display the red and white Canadian flag, and decorate windows and homes for the country’s birthday.
Darshan Singh Bilkhu didn’t need any extra urging.
For years, he has decorated the front garden of his corner lot on Simcoe Road with Canadian flags and signs, as a thank-you to Canada, for providing a home and an opportunity.
This year's display includes flowers, a tricycle, and Canadian flags - including a small flag banner provided by local MP Scot Davidson. It also includes a new sign, thanking first responders and local politicians for their contributions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bilkhu is involved in more than Canada Day celebrations. A resident of Bradford for the past 25 years, he petitioned Council to install a new set of stoplights at his corner, has supported the Canada Day Parade, and more recently has suggested developing the Holland Marsh Canals as a kind of Rideau Canal South that could offer winter skating to residents.
Before moving to Bradford, he and his family lived in Newmarket, where he chaired the Newmarket Terry Fox Run.
And before that, they resided in Brampton where, he says, “I was the first guy to teach the East Indian community to celebrate Canada Day!”
A community worker, Bilkhu is founder of the Guru Nanak Community Services Foundation, working toward the “well-being of all.” It is named for Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the Founder of Sikhism.
For the past 21 years, the Foundation has organized a fundraising car rally for Credit Valley Hospital in Mississauga, Peel Memorial Hospital, Etobicoke General Hospital, and William Osler Health Centre.
The organization also hosts an annual family picnic, fundraising dinners, and a well-received multi-cultural Canada Day celebration. Bilkhu is proud to wave the Canadian flag whenever he can.
“He goes overboard,” admits wife Nirmal, but she agrees with the sentiment. “We are thankful to the community, thankful for the opportunities. Our children were born here.”
Nirmal, now retired from her work as a Court Clerk at the Newmarket Courthouse, formerly sat as a member of the Refugee Board, and during non-COVID times, has been a volunteer at Southlake Hospital.
“Singh means ‘loyal’,” she explained; both she and Darshan are happy to express their patriotism, and this year, to thank front-liners for their efforts during the pandemic.
“I wish more people would do it,” she said. “The Town said, 'Paint the town red' but not many homeowners have responded, or set up Canada Day displays."
Darshan, at least, intends to continue to celebrate Canada’s birthday with flags flying. From the response he's gotten so far, he said, “My neighbours really appreciate what I do.”