Mother of Sher Vancouver founder to march in Surrey Vaisakhi parade for LGBT acceptance

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      When Jaspal Kaur Sangha heard Vancouverite Aaron Webster was killed in Stanley Park in a homophobic attack in 2001, she felt deeply hurt.

      Even though she had no relationship to Webster, her son, Alex, is openly gay.

      "Who gives the right to somebody to kill?" she asked rhetorically, on the line with the Georgia Straight.

      Alex founded the South Asian LGBT group Sher Vancouver in 2008, and made history when they marched in Vancouver's Vaisakhi parade for the first time on April 15.

      Although Jaspal previously marched every year in the Surrey Vaisakhi parade with her own mother (who was also supportive of Alex but who passed away last year), this year will be the first time Jaspal will march in the parade on Saturday (April 22) with Alex to help represent Sher Vancouver.

      By phone, Alex explained that because it was a last-minute decision to enter the parade, a formal contingent was not arranged but his mother will be the official representative for the group. (Jaspal also marched in the Vancouver Vaisakhi parade with Sher Vancouver.)

      "It's 2017—people must understand the meaning of equality, humanity, love, and peace," she said, explaining the reason why she felt it was important for her to march in the parade with Sher Vancouver.

      Alex Sangha (middle) marched with Sher Vancouver in Vancouver's Vaisakhi parade on April 15.

      Jaspal, who is originally from Shankar, Jalandhar, in Punjab, India, but has lived in B.C. for 43 years, is a Sikh who reads the Sikh scripture Guru Granth Sahib every year. She said Sikhism teaches its followers that all people are equal and to treat everyone the same.

      While she follows the teachings of Sikhism founder Guru Nanak, she has long wrestled with the idea that many people do not understand that the human race is one and treat others unequally.

      As a pacifist and a single mother of 38 years, she said she feels it is important to show equality not just through words but with behaviour.

      "If it happened to be [that] Alex is [a] little different than the others, that does not mean that I, as a mother, do not love him as equally as the other kids, and I expect it of people to respect my child exactly the same way the way they respect other kids."

      As she said she often speaks with parents who are struggling to accept their LGBT children and that she knows how some LGBT people have been disowned by their families, she said she has one request to the community.

      "Please love your kids. Accept them as it is. They are God's gift to you. Some people are unable to bear a child, people die without kids, and we are blessed we have kids. So just accept them as it is. They did not choose that lifestyle. They are suffering enough as it is why they came to Earth like that. If you can't really make their life easier, please don't make it difficult."

      Surrey's annual Vaisakhi Day Parade will be held tomorrow (April 22), starting at 9 a.m. at Gurdwara Sahib Dasmesh Darbar (12885 85th Avenue, Surrey). For more information, visit the parade website.