New campaign tells the stories of Sikh Canadians

Who: The Sikh Heritage Museum of Canada, with Barrett and Welsh.

What: “Sikh Canadians. A Canadian past, a Canadian presence,” a new campaign designed to raise awareness of the museum and the history of Sikh Canadians.

When & Where: The English and Punjabi campaign includes print, digital, online video and social media.

Why: The goal is to increase interest in Sikh Canadian history, awareness of the museum and visits to and the museum itself, which is not widely known outside of the Sikh community. The museum’s stated goal is to preserve and honour Sikh Canadian history and the “richness and complexity” of Sikh Canadian identity.

Who is the target: The primary audience is non-Sikh, first-generation South Asian immigrants living in the GTA.

They are the direct beneficiaries of the activism of Sikh Canadians, but are largely unaware of the past struggles and contributions. “The museum exists to fill this knowledge gap and to create a shared sense of cultural pride among all South Asian Canadians,” says Barrett and Welsh’s founding partner and chief creative officer, Gavin Barrett.

Screen Shot 2020-06-05 at 1.26.50 PMHow: The creative approach is to deliver Canadian history through a Sikh lens to engage South Asian Canadians. The key idea, says Barrett, is to bring the museum to people with a campaign that looks like advertising, but behaves like an exhibit.

The creative is anchored by two long-copy newspaper ads (a relative rarity these days) that detail stories of Sikh Canadians. The first tells the story of the Komagata Maru, a ship containing 337 Sikh immigrants that was turned away from Vancouver in 1914 and sent back to India, where 19 of the people on board were killed and 202 were imprisoned by British authorities.

The second ad tells the more recent story of RCMP Officer Baltej Singh Dhillon, who successfully fought for the right to serve as a Mountie in his turban and beard.

Both ads remind readers why it is important to remember these stories: “We must remember our past, so our presence endures. In doing so, we enrich Canada’s future.” A pair of online videos use historical photos to tell the two stories.

And we quote: “The Sikh Heritage Museum of Canada preserves and honours Sikh Canadian history and the richness and complexity of Sikh Canadian identity. But while most Sikhs are aware of the history, struggles and contributions of the community in Canada, most non-Sikhs are not. The Museum itself is not widely known outside the Sikh community.” — Gavin Barrett,

Chris Powell