Sikh Nation honoured at B.C. legislature for saving 160,000 lives

The Sikh Nation Blood Drive – a community-based campaign started more than 20 years ago to honour lives lost to violence – is being honoured by the province.

Jastej Kaur says she was just a young girl when her dad took her along, knocking door-to-door to get people to donate blood. At an event at the B.C. legislature, she said she remembered her cold hands in her dad's, but not the details of what he was saying to those he spoke to.

Her dad and other volunteers started the campaign after thousands of innocent people were killed in India's anti-Sikh riots in November 1984.

"Being a part of Sikh Nation means you believe all humans are equal,” she said. “Blood has the same belief.”

The campaign is now the largest contributor of its kind to Canadian Blood Services. The first clinic was held in Surrey. Now they take place all over the world.

Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon honoured the group of volunteers by proclaiming November Sikh Nation Blood Donation Month.

"How does the community respond to something so negative? Well, they responded by saving lives by creating the largest donation in Canada," Kahlon said.

Kahlon, who has donated via the campaign in the past, noted it's been credited with saving roughly 160,000 lives in Canada.

Volunteer Bunvir Kaur also went to her first drive with her dad, who started the campaign in Kelowna in 2004.

"My dad had to go through a blood transfusion a few years ago, and that day I was sitting there, I was like, ‘I'm grateful for such a campaign that was able to help my dad through that time,’" she told CTV News.

Her dad died this year. She says she'll continue to honour his legacy – and the organization she says operates like a family, even if they don't have the same blood.