Face-To-Face, ANDREE LAU
150 Years Of Change:
Canada’s First Prime Minister Meets The Country’s Current Defence Minister
April is Sikh Heritage Month in Canada, and this year the country is also marking its 150th birthday.
Those events have come together in a striking poster.
The image shows the country's first Prime Minister, John A. Macdonald, eye to eye with Canada's first Sikh-Canadian Defence Minister, Harjit Singh 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 continue to be to date.
That contrasts greatly with the caption above Harjit Singh’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."
The museum has 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, Ontario to learn more about the Sikh-Canadian experience.
While many interpret the poster to highlight the triumph of Harjit Singh 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.
"This narrative is multilayered and we have been peeling back each layer in our exhibits. We look forward to seeing you."
[Courtesy: The Huffington Post. Edited for sikhchic.com]
April 6, 2017
Conversation about this article
1: Sarvjit Singh (Millis, Massachussets, USA), April 06, 2017, 6:23 AM.
I appreciate Canada and its population for how well Sikhs and other minorities are treated over there (despite some problems that still need to be addressed).
2: Sangat Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), April 06, 2017, 3:51 PM.
In the mid 1960’s we had the honour to host Dr. Ganda Singh for a week during his first visit to Malaysia when The Sikh Naujawan Sabha was formed. He would regale us with wonderful stories; one remains true to this day. It was: “After the death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh and his legendary generals like Hari Singh Nalwa, many European commanders deserted the Khalsa Army and their command structure suffered a debilitating blow. Hence, the British commander Lord Wellesley commented that the Maratha infantry and artillery were a match for the Europeans but were poorly led and Sir Jadunath Sircar described the Sikh army during the Anglo-Sikh wars as "an army of lions led by asses".