Some building upgrade work at the Gurdwara Akaljot Sahib in Whitehorse wrapped up just in time for this year's Diwali celebrations.
Sikh community leaders secured the location of the North's first-ever permanent gurdwara, or temple, back in 2020. It's just off the Alaska Highway near the Hillcrest neighbourhood.
But just months after it opened, work to add another lane to the Alaska Highway cut off water access to the building.
Inderjit Singh is vice-president of the Guru Nunak Sikh organization of Yukon. He says the water issues have caused significant disruptions at the temple over the past few years.
Diwali celebrants gather around a fire outside the temple in Whitehorse. (Caitrin Pilkington/CBC)
"It was a major cost issue because we had to get tanks refilled two or three or even four times a week," said Singh, who spoke to CBC News during Diwali celebrations.
"And at events like this, for example, when there's a lot of people coming in using the washrooms and there's a lot of cooking and dishwashing and stuff like that, we just used to run out of water in the middle of the event sometimes."
Not only did water delivery present additional costs, but it also wasn't available over the weekends if water ran out during a service.
Nevertheless, the gurdwara has become a vital community hub for Whitehorse Sikhs. Guru Nunak Sikh offers Sunday services, free meals, and even housing for members in need.
The Whitehorse Sikh and Hindu communities, amongst others, gathered at Diwali celebrations on Nov. 12. (Caitrin Pilkington/CBC)
In order to fix the water issues at the building, the organization applied for grants through the federal and Yukon government. It also received support through the Sangat Network.
Yukon MP Brendan Hanley and Yukon Government Minister Nils Clarke were at the Whitehorse Diwali celebrations, to help mark the first year with a fully-functional temple.
Speaking to the crowd gathered at the temple, Clarke recognized the efforts of organizers to bring the water project to fruition.
"It certainly takes a push," Clarke said.
Yukon MP Brendan Hanley waits to receive a traditional head covering before entering the temple. Yukon government Minister Nils Clarke is already wearing one. (Caitrin Pilkington/CBC)
Both Hanley and Clarke thanked the organization for their hospitality.
"I always appreciate time spent with folks at our local gurdwara, but Diwali feels extra special," said Hanley.
Lovejot Kaur acts as an accountant for Guru Nunak Sikh. She said even just a few years ago, she used to get excited seeing another Sikh person on the streets of Whitehorse or in a store.
A Diwali celebrant in Whitehorse receives a traditional sweet after prayer. (Caitrin Pilkington/CBC)
"Nowadays, you can see there are people from the community everywhere, working in all kinds of fields," she said, smiling. "I just found out that we have people from our community working in almost every government department."
Organizers shared that over 1,000 people were expected to attend 2023 Diwali events in Whitehorse, up from about 600 in 2022.
Kaur says the next challenge will be expanding the temple to accommodate the territory's growing Sikh community for Diwali celebrations to come.