Punjabis have sweet memories of Trudeau couple paying obeisance at Golden Temple

IANS Photo

Amritsar, August 3 (IANS) People in Punjab have sweet memories of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife Sophie Gregoire's maiden visit to Amritsar in November 2018 during which they offer prayers at the Golden Temple, Sikhism’s holiest shrine that gets millions of visitors annually .

Dressed in Indian clothes with their heads covered, the Trudeau couple, along with their children, bowed before the holy book of the Sikhs and tried their hand at making chappatis at the ‘langar’ as they spent over an hour at the shrine.

Responding to an announcement by the Trudeau couple over their separation,  the media advisor to former Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh, Raveen Thukral tweeted on Thursday: “And they separate…memories when Justin Trudeau & Sophie were together in Amritsar with @capt_amarinder in 2018. Lovely family, sad to see them drift apart.”

Thukral, who is currently residing in Canada and was attached with the Chief Minister during the Prime Minister’s visit, shared photos of the Trudeau family from his collection regarding their visit to Amritsar when they Captain Amarinder Singh, who had initially refused to meet the Canadian leader, claiming his cabinet members supported the formation of Khalistan.

With 800,000 Sikhs calling Canada home, the largest Sikh diaspora, the roots of the first Sikh in Canada dating back to the 1800s.

The Sikh community is very active in Canadian politics. Their influence is reflected in Trudeau’s first cabinet, which was represented by four out of 40 ministers.

Prominent Sikhs outside the government include NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and Conservative finance critic Jasraj Singh Hallan.

Sophie Gregoire  announced on Wednesday that she and the Prime Minister, who have been married 18 years, have decided to separate.

The couple, in statements posted on Instagram, said they made the decision after “many meaningful and difficult conversations”.

A statement from the Prime Minister's office said they both have signed a legal separation agreement.

“They remain a close family, and Sophie and the prime minister are focused on raising their kids in a safe, loving and collaborative environment,” the statement said.

“The family will be together on vacation, beginning next week.”

The Prime Minister’s Office requested respect for their privacy.

The couple got married in 2005 and they have three children, 15-year-old Xavier, 14-year-old Ella-Grace and nine-year-old Hadrien.

The youngest one had to skip the Golden Temple visit as he was not well.

Justin Trudeau is the second Canadian Prime Minister to announce a separation while in office.

His father, Pierre Trudeau, separated from wife Margaret while in office in 1977 and the two divorced in 1984.

A functionary of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), the mini-parliament of Sikh religious affairs that controls gurdwaras including the Golden Temple, told IANS that during the Trudeau family visit then SGPC chief Gobind Singh Longowal accompanying Shiromani Akali Dal President Sukhbir Singh Badal and Union Food Processing Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal honoured the Canadian Prime Minister with a replica of the Golden Temple, gold-plated kirpan and set of books.

He said the Trudeau family performed 'parikrama' (a walk around the marbled periphery) before entering the sun-soaked and glittering all-gold sanctum sanctorum.

The family bowed before the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh holy book that is considered as a living guru.

The Trudeaus were given “Siropa” (traditional robe of honour) by the head priest inside the shrine. They also visited the Partition Museum there.

In a return gift, Justin Trudeau, who covered the head with a “kesari” (saffron) headscarf, gave a gold-plated coin with a maple tree crafted on it to SGPC President Longowal.

The 24-karat gold-plated coin has been displayed in the Central Sikh Museum.

“We were humbled as Justin Trudeau and his family members with their heads covered first visited the ‘langar hall’ where they sat down on small stools to knead flour and rolled chapattis. They did as part of ‘seva’,” said another SGPC official, who was part of the protocol during the Prime Minister’s visit.

Justin Trudeau was wearing an off-white embroidered kurta-pyjama while Sophie donned a light turquoise kurta and white bottoms.

An overwhelmed Justin Trudeau  recorded his thoughts in the visitor’s book at the shrine by writing: “What an honour to be so well received at such a beautiful, meaningful place. We are filled with grace and humility.”

Justin Trudeau is not the first top Canadian leader to visit the shrine.

Earlier, then Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper visited the Golden Temple in November 2009.

Among the other prominent world leaders who have visited the shrine are former US President Barack Obama, former UK Prime Minister David Cameron and London Mayor Sadiq Khan.

Cameron became the first British Prime Minister to visit the Golden Temple in February 2013.

In October 1997, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip also paid a visit to the Sikh shrine

Under Sikh religious traditions, every devotee to the shrine has to keep his head covered.