POLITICS

Sikh Heritage Month In Canada: John A. Macdonald, Harjit Sajjan Poster Illustrates 150 Years Of Change

04/05/2017 05:36 EDT | Updated 04/06/2017 10:05 EDT

April is Sikh Heritage Month in Canada, and the country is also marking its 150th birthday.

Those events have come together in this striking poster:

sikh canada poster

The image shows the country's first prime minister, John A. Macdonald, eye to eye with Canada's first defence minister of Sikh heritage, Harjit Sajjan.

Macdonald's featured quote, "Send me an army of Sikhs," is excerpted from a letter he wrote to Queen Victoria:

"War will come someday between England and the United States and India can do us yeoman's service by sending an army of Sikhs … across the Pacific to San Francisco and holding that beautiful and immortal city with the surrounding California — as security for Montreal and Canada."

While his suggestion is somewhat cheeky, Macdonald's words reveal a lot about how Sikhs were viewed in 1867, and for years after that.

That contrasts greatly with the caption above Sajjan's photo: "An army led by a Sikh."

And that's exactly the difference 150 years makes.

The poster was created by the Sikh Heritage Museum of Canada as a "conversation piece" to "stir emotion and create dialogue."

Story continues after slideshow:

Notable Canadians With Sikh Heritage

While many interpret the poster to highlight the triumph of Sajjan to such an influential position or to shine a light on the history of Sikhs as soldiers, others called out the colonialist attitude of Macdonald in viewing them as military pawns.

The museum received a range of reactions to the poster on its Facebook page — and used the opportunity to invite the public to visit its exhibits in Mississauga, Ont. to learn more about the Canadian Sikh experience.

"This narrative is multilayered and we have been peeling back each layer in our exhibits. We look forward to seeing you."