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Canadian Govt Backs Down

by SAN GREWAL

 

July 26, 2007: One of the most common surnames in Canada, imbued with religious significance for millions of Sikhs around the world, is now, after yesterday's reversal of a ten-year policy, deemed acceptable by the Canadian government.

For the past decade, Indian immigration applicants with the surname Singh or Kaur were told by the Canadian High Commission in New Delhi that their names, too common to process quickly, would have to be changed.

Twenty-four hours after the World Sikh Organization raised the issue, Citizenship and Immigration Canada yesterday announced it was dropping the policy, calling the whole thing a misunderstanding based on a "poorly worded" letter.

It's not known how many people have been affected. Liberal MP Ruby Dhalla (Brampton-Springdale) says in the past three years she's received about five hundred complaints from constituents whose family members were told to change their names when applying to immigrate.

The New Delhi immigration office is one of the busiest in the world. Immigration Minister Diane Finley refused to comment, but according to statements from the department, the policy asking for a different name was meant to help speed up applications and prevent cases of mistaken identity due to the commonness of Singh.

It said its New Delhi visa office had reported "very few complaints" about the request and explained that most Singhs or Kaurs often have an additional family name, even if it is not often used, that can be easily added to their passport.

Most of the world's thirty million Sikhs are given the name Singh, for men, or Kaur, for women, usually as a middle name.

But for those Sikhs who choose to be baptized, or initiated into the orthodox order of the faith, their previous surname is dropped, for Singh or Kaur to symbolize unity and to remove names used to identify social standing within India's caste system.

"If you have to change your name to come here, we have to ask ourselves, `Are we really celebrating all the great things that are hallmarks of this multicultural country?'" said Dhalla, whose riding has one of the largest Indo-Canadian populations in the nation.

When asked why the immigration department's policy in New Delhi hadn't been challenged before by politicians, lawyers or the public, Dhalla said she has brought it up to immigration officials.

But she admitted the issue had never made it to the floor of the House of Commons.

"At least, not to my knowledge".

Brampton lawyer Harinder Gahir, who routinely takes on immigration cases, says he's had about one hundred clients complain.

"But the problem is they are family members already here, complaining on behalf of family members in India they are sponsoring.

"The applicants themselves don't want to complain and most comply because they don't want their chances for immigration to be jeopardized".

When asked if he believes the immigration department's claim that the policy was just a misunderstanding and that people with the surnames Singh or Kaur were actually allowed to apply, Gahir said, "They were told, unequivocally, `You can't apply with the surname Singh or Kaur'".

A follow-up story on the CBC's website includes what appears to be a letter from the High Commission in New Delhi, dated May 17 and addressed to Jaspal Singh.

It states:

"The names Kaur and Singh do not qualify for the purpose of immigration to Canada".

But the department's statement yesterday said that "Permanent resident applicants with the surnames Singh or Kaur are not required to change their names in order to apply.

"In no way did CIC intend to ask applicants to change their names. The letter that was previously used to communicate with clients was poorly worded. We are making changes to ensure there will be no misunderstandings in the future.

"CIC recognizes that previous communications with clients may not have been clear on this issue and regrets any inconvenience this may have caused".

"That's outrageous", said Sat Gosal, a lawyer at the firm RZCD in Mississauga, who has helped challenge human rights violations against Sikhs for more than two decades.

Gosal, who was aware of the policy, is glad Sikh organizations finally complained publicly.

"This goes back to my father's days in England, during the post-colonial days of the '50s and '60s, when administrative convenience was the justification for changing names that were too common or hard to pronounce". Anglicizing or at least simplifying names was once also common in Canada.

[Courtesy: The Toronto Star, with files from Richard Brennan]

 

 

CANADA BANS SIKH NAMES  -  The Original Story!  

 

EDITOR'S NOTE: This alarming story has just come to light. In view of its bizarre contents, and the obvious concern over its attack on the very basic principles of the Sikh religion, we urge our Canadian readers who share these concerns to immediately write to and call their respective Members of Parliament. We also request our readers elsewhere in the diaspora to contact the Canadian Embassies,  High Commissions and Consulates in their respective countries, and express their views ... clearly, calmly, politely and firmly. Contact info for key Canadian Officials:

Canada's Minister for Citizenship & Immigration, Diane Finley  finley.d@parl.gc.ca    The High Commission of Canada to India: Mr David Malone, High Commissioner delhi@international.gc.ca  

 

July 23, 2007:  A Calgary woman waiting for her husband to arrive in Canada is upset by a long-standing immigration policy that forces people with the surname Singh or Kaur to change their last names.

Tarvinder Kaur, who is pregnant, said her husband Jaspal Singh's application to become a permanent resident has been delayed for well over a month because of his last name.

He has no choice but to legally change his name in India so he can get to Calgary before she gives birth next month, she said.

CBC News has obtained a copy of a letter sent from the Canadian High Commission in New Delhi to Singh's family stating that "the names Kaur and Singh do not qualify for the purpose of immigration to Canada".

"Why are we needing to make a different last name?" said Kaur. "You choose what your last name is going to be and if it's always been a certain way, then why should you have to change it?"

Singh and Kaur are common names in the Sikh community. In a tradition that began more than three hundred years ago, the name Singh is given to every Sikh male and Kaur to every female Sikh.

The names are used differently by different people. Some use Singh or Kaur as middle names, while others use them as their last names.

Karen Shadd-Evelyn, a spokeswoman with Citizenship and Immigration Canada, said the policy preventing people from immigrating to Canada with those last names has been in place for the last ten years.

"I believe the thinking behind it in this case is because it is so common. [With] the sheer numbers of applicants that have those as their surnames, it's just a matter for numbers and for processing in that visa office".

Citizenship and Immigration Canada says there is no such policy against other common last names.

Kaur, who was born in Canada, says that's unacceptable.

"If it's going to be a standard policy it should be standard with all common last names. Why is it that it's only Singh or Kaur that's being attacked by this?"

[Courtesy: CBC News]

[Photos:  Top of this page  -  photo, courtesy, Shunya. Bottom of this page  -  Sikh soldiers examine a list of Singhs on the Honour Roll of a War Memorial. Second photo from bottom: A monument listing the Singhs who died with "unparalleled courage and sacrifice" at the Battle of Saragarhi, September 12,1897  -  deemed by historians as the ultimate story of human bravery in the annals of world military history. Third photo from bottom, courtesy, Malkiat Singh (Self-portrait). Home page photo: detail from photo by Anthony Begovic.]  

Conversation about this article

1: Jessi Kaur (California, U.S.A.), July 24, 2007, 10:42 AM.

This ludicrous stance is not new. Almost a decade ago, we encountered hostility from a Canadian immigration officer on this issue. My husband and I were detained for more than a half hour when we were visitng Vancouver because of our last names being "Singh" and "Kaur". Prior to that, during a visit to Toronto, an immigration person had the audacity to tell me that he did not consider my last name of "Kaur" a valid last name. "There are two million of you," he said. I smiled and said, "More power to us!" He was not humoured at all and wanted to know if I had another name! He insisted that I give him a maiden name or something other than Kaur. I told him I had no other name. He asked me what was my father's last name. I said, "Singh". He shook his head in exasperation as he stamped my passport. I did ask the officer after he had stamped my passport if he had a similar issue with Smiths, Sharmas and Patels? If looks could kill, I would have dropped dead! I have traveled extensively and have never encountered this prejudicial attitude anywhere else. It must stop.

2: Gehna Kaur Singh (Toronto, Canada), July 24, 2007, 11:06 AM.

This is undoubtedly the case of some individual's narrow thinking turned "policy." Before us is an opportunity to present a collected front to quickly, effectively and intelligently squash baseless policies and correct inaccurate media coverage. Sikhs have come a long way in this wonderful country. We owe it to the generations yet to come to wisely argue our political battles. Indeed, every battle cannot be won. We do however hold the ultimate say ... every four years.

3: Manjyot Kaur (New York City, U.S.A.), July 24, 2007, 11:18 AM.

"Alarming story" and "bizarre contents" indeed! It is literally incredible that this is happening in Canada! During my recent visits to Toronto and its environs, I have always been deeply amazed and impressed by the way "recognizable" Sikhs participate to the highest degree in all areas of public life. Witnessing my brothers and sisters in action, performing jobs like security personnel at the airport and police officers on the street is something I never see at home in NYC! Although Canada certainly cannot be considered as a monolithic whole, it has always been my impression that it is much more advanced than my own homeland when it comes to living freely, fully and visibly as a Sikh. Our splendid names of Singh and Kaur (and all the truly revolutionary concepts they represent) are among the biggest blessings Guru Gobind Singh, in his grace, has given us. I will never forget how I felt when this gift was bestowed upon me. I promise I will do everything I can to register my outrage - and make others aware - about what is happening!

4: Ravinder Singh (U.S.A.), July 24, 2007, 11:22 AM.

With all the new technology coming in, for e.g., fingerprinting and facial recognition at airports and ports of entry, they should not have any difficulties based on names. As they say, fingerprints are unique to each individual, so if you ask me, names should not be required to be changed. Instead, the authorities should rely if necessary on all the technology that is so readily available.

5: Tejwant (U.S.A.), July 24, 2007, 11:31 AM.

It is a slap on the face of the concept of "Equal Justice for all" - the core of Sikh values and, I trust, of the Government of Canada too. The latter should be reminded of their own constitution and laws.

6: Devinder Pal Singh (New Delhi, India), July 24, 2007, 11:42 AM.

One must understand that inherited names cannot be replaced. What is being achieved by asking someone to change his/her name and beat the system? Surely nothing.

7: Inni Kaur (Fairfield, U.S.A.), July 24, 2007, 11:51 AM.

An ignorant and misguided policy that has been in place for 10 years suddenly comes to light. What is the Canadian Government going to do about it? The billion dollar question: Is it going to turn its back, like it did to the passengers of the Komagata Maru? Are there two sets of policies on this issue? These are soul-searching questions for Canada's decision-makers.

8: Chintan Singh (San Jose, U.S.A.), July 24, 2007, 12:02 PM.

I have always believed that Canadian laws are more progressive that in the U.S. in protecting the rights of minorities and immigrants, and that our community is far more active and visible. Therefore, I was a bit surprised by this news and Jessi's comments. Still, I have faith in the Canadian government and the Sikh-Canadian community and am hopeful that the matter will be resolved quickly and fairly.

9: Preetjot Singh (Rochester, New York, U.S.A.), July 24, 2007, 12:23 PM.

The right to choose your name is the most personal form of freedom of speech, a fundamental right in most countries, including Canada. In the United States, this right is explicitly recognized. During the naturalization process for U.S. immigrants, an optional name change can be included as part of the citizenship process - it is a standard part of the U.S. Application for Citizenship. No feasible justification is presented for the Canadian policy - which merely makes it an undisguised form of racial prejudice.

10: Singh (USA), July 24, 2007, 12:31 PM.

Just like this website can handle multiple commentators with the name "Singh", so should the Canadian government be able to handle multiple folks with the same last name. Certainly, the government can handle duplicates - but apparently, this strategy breaks down, or is it just inconvenient? With all the modern technology that we have today, can't we just assign people a unique identifier? Instead of rudely asking them to change their change, the gov't should say, "Thanks, Savraj Singh. Your ID code is #SS16995K."

11: Govind Singh Monga (India), July 24, 2007, 12:43 PM.

Ridiculous. The Canadian Govt. should be ashamed of this act. It should be decried worldwide.

12: Harinder Kaur (Mai) (Seattle, U.S.A.), July 24, 2007, 12:50 PM.

I am a Canadian by birth and have always taken a certain smug pride in that. Now I am beginning to wonder. We have made great contributions to Canada and the Canadian way of life. We do not deserve and should not tolerate this shoddy treatment. The Canadian Government is usually reasonable when these injustices are brought to light. We need to make a big, but polite, stink about this; and not rest until we get the desired results.

13: S. P. S. B. (Toronto, Canada), July 24, 2007, 1:05 PM.

This is not new; we came across the same situation about seven years ago and were forced to add a third name to our existing names of "Singh" and "Kaur". Interestingly, the U.S. Immigration authorities do not object to these very names. The good thing is that the issue has finally been been brought into the open ... That explains why we see so many Sandhus, Gills, Chawlas, Gahirs etc. nowadays, and not Singhs and Kaurs. What a pity.

14: Amrik Singh (New Delhi, India), July 24, 2007, 1:07 PM.

Wait a second! So, if George Bush visits Canada, he'll be required to change his name because his daddy has the same name? ... my God, the same first name AND the same last name! What will we do if yet another person arrives at the border, also named ... God forbid ... "George", or "Bush", or both!

15: Manjit Singh (U.S.A.), July 24, 2007, 1:21 PM.

I believe it will backfire on Canada and whoever else adopts this policy.

16: I.J. Singh (New York, U.S.A.), July 24, 2007, 2:04 PM.

I remember not so many yars ago when, in the United States, women started the trend of retaining their maiden name. Reluctantly, society accepted their right to do do. Sometimes, when U.S. Immigration officials wondered why the last names of my mother and father were different ("Kaur" and "Singh", respectively), I was able to laugh it off by saying that this was a right that the Gurus gave us 300 years ago, while in this country women were still struggling for it. (The point was raised when I sponored my parents to come and settle here.) Clearly, this is a regressive remnant of laws that shoud have been junked long ago. And it gives us Sikhs the opportunity to be at the cutting edge of leading the charge. The Editor is right in requesting readers to write to the Canadian Consulates and Embassies, and other officials of the government. We should build a massive momentum for change and common sense here.

17: Harpreet Singh (New York City, U.S.A.), July 24, 2007, 2:19 PM.

It sure is a form of racial prejudice, and we all must stand up united to fight against it. Our names are our choice. Our right to choose our own names is a fundamental right, protected by Freedom of Speech.

18: Prabhu Singh Khalsa (Española, New Mexico, U.S.A.), July 24, 2007, 2:37 PM.

How come I always get harrassed when I enter Canada? Do all Sikhs get treated shabbily? Last time I went in, they turned on my laptop and did a search for pictures (looking at all my pictures of my niece and nephew and family and friends), they went through all my stuff and pulled out my toothbrush and wiped it with something that they later ran through a machine. They were also very rude.

19: Pritpal Singh Kochhar (New York, U.S.A.), July 24, 2007, 2:47 PM.

I believe it is an issue of freedom of speech. I do not believe any government has a right to insist that an individual change his/her name, especially if it is an accepted name in the community.

20: Jarnail Singh (Illinois, U.S.A.), July 24, 2007, 3:51 PM.

I am flabbergasted to hear that this is happening in a country like Canada where Singhs and Kaurs have contributed so much to the Canadian economy in all the arenas. Hope the Canadian government will see the good sense in removing this policy immediately.

21: Ek Ong Kaar Kaur Khalsa (Espanola, New Mexico, U.S.A.), July 24, 2007, 4:06 PM.

Prayers and support from all of us in New Mexico to the Sikhs in Canada. May you be blessed to work with the government to change this policy so that the heritage of Guru Gobind Singh continues for you and for the future generations. This issue and all of those who need to fight to change it are in our Ardaas.

22: Daljit Singh (Mississauga, Canada), July 24, 2007, 4:18 PM.

The Canadian government should change this policy as it is totally baseless. There are millions of people with the same first name, John, and hundreds of thousands with the same last name, Smith, to take but two examples. Are they required to change their names? Moreover, our names have an even deeper significance for us ... they are deeply rooted in our Faith.

23: Jagdee Singh Khalsa (Canada), July 24, 2007, 5:13 PM.

I would like to share my story. The same thing had happened with me. It was so ridiculous that I was being told by the Canadian Embassy to change my surname. I had no choice but to add "Khalsa" as my last name, and make "Singh" my middle name. But this thing has to be stopped as it is a direct attack on our identity as Sikhs.

24: Jaspreet Singh (Guanzhou, China), July 24, 2007, 7:03 PM.

This issue is very important and needs to be addressed at an international level. We are also facing hurdles vis-a-vis the turban in France. Such problems could be interconnected. Our community and its leadership need to tackle these issues headlong and without delay.

25: Justine (Hamilton, Victoria, Australia), July 24, 2007, 7:30 PM.

I am very disappointed to read of this sheer act of racism.

26: Mandhir Singh (New Jersey, United States), July 24, 2007, 7:57 PM.

The Canadian immigration department needs to define what they mean by "common". Are they willing to ban other common names - Smith, MacDougal, etc. This is totally unacceptable. Canada does not deserve my patronage, business or support.

27: Rajinder Singh (Ludhiana, India), July 24, 2007, 10:05 PM.

This is wrong. It is everyone's right to choose his own name. Nobody can tell us to change our names.

28: Kanwaldeep Singh (London,.U.K.), July 24, 2007, 10:20 PM.

Disgraceful ... Time and time again, Government officials either intentionally or ignorantly, in Europe and Americas, are blatantly tarnishing the good name of the Sikhs. They have forgotton history.

29: Harmanjot Singh Khroudh (Chandigarh, India), July 24, 2007, 11:33 PM.

I have just read this article. I think we must all take strong steps to deal with this. We have to stand united and show them what we are capable of. If this had happened with the Hindu or any other community, the Indian government would have intervened. But, because it is us, they won't. So, I just want to request everyone that we have to do something about this; no one else will do it for us.

30: Shawn Tucker (Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A.), July 24, 2007, 11:43 PM.

This is ridiculous. The reason Sikhs make an impact wherever they go is because of their strength, unity, and everlasting belief in freedom. They don't believe in castes, which is why Singh and Kaur are common for them. This government policy is dumb. I bet there are more Smiths than Singhs or Kaurs. That's why the USA is the real free land. I actually thought Canada treated all people better than the USA. My mistake.

31: Manjit Kaur (Maryland, U.S.A.), July 25, 2007, 2:58 AM.

This is racial profiling by the authorities and is absurd. The united voice of all the Sikhs from around the world should confront the policy makers and put an end to singling out this community, which has been exemplary in every aspect. Are any other communities or names being singled out in this manner?

32: Sifat (New Delhi, India), July 25, 2007, 3:16 AM.

It saddens me to know that such an "advanced" country has made such a racist attack on a community known for peace, courage and humane principles. It's time we unite to fight such challenges.

33: Jasbiante Kaur (Malaysia), July 25, 2007, 3:16 AM.

Singh and Kaur is the identity given to us by our Guru. And it is our RIGHT to retain it. It has been our right for the past 300 years, and will be now, and remain intact forever. This policy should be reconsidered and cancelled. Forcing Sikhs to change their name will not serve any real purpose, but will only invoke deep-seated distress within the community worldwide. With GurKirpa, may the panth be given the freedom to practice Sikhi wherever they go.

34: Gagandeep Singh (India), July 25, 2007, 3:17 AM.

This Canadian policy is simply ridiculous.

35: Satnam Singh (Kapurthala, India), July 25, 2007, 3:19 AM.

It is very bad on the part of the Canadian government to force anyone to change his/her name.

36: Inderjit Singh (Sweden), July 25, 2007, 3:22 AM.

This is preposterous. How can they demand a change in one's surname?

37: Amarpreet Singh (Toronto, Canada), July 25, 2007, 3:23 AM.

Its funny because my wife got away with Kaur while I could not. My son, who is born in Canada, could carry "Singh" as his last name without any probem. I am sure this is a mere fiasco and an immigration policy initiated to target vulnerable immigration applicants coming from India. I came from Dubai, which may have made a difference. Bizarre!

38: Dylan Abreu-Coburn (Cambridge, Ontario, Canada), July 25, 2007, 4:06 AM.

I just listened to the interview with columnist T. Sher Singh on CBC Radio. I wanted to commend him not only for standing up for the Sikh community, but for denouncing all forms of discrimination. I second his call for a full inquiry into this matter with the expectation that whoever implemented this so-called "policy" - and allowed it to continue - will be nothing short of removed from office. You pointed out that not one person has presented the other side of the argument. This is simply because when it comes to matters such as this, there can only be one logical (and moral) stance.

39: Gagandeep Singh (India), July 25, 2007, 4:33 AM.

It is amazing that Canada, being such an advanced country, has such cheap "rules/policies". It's a matter of shame for the Canadian government. I worry that these senseless and unjust moves end up having far-reaching reverberations. It is our right to use Singh and Kaur as our last names. Don't the Canadians have any fundamental rights? Don't they protect them? It appears that the government is run by narrow-thinking people. It's so ridiculous. There are no such issues with other names which have even wider usage.

40: S.P.S.B. (Toronto), July 25, 2007, 5:52 AM.

I hope this issue will not die after a few days of comments and concerns raised only through these columns. Why are the comments/concerns mostly from those living outside of Canada? The issue should be brought to the notice of our Canadian lawmakers ASAP. What's the point in having these politicians as Guests of Honour in our Sikh Day Parades, and supporting them in their election campaigns? We must insist that they address this issue and have the anomaly rectified forthwith. I agree with the comment hereinabove that this policy seems to be only directed against applicants from India. Is it because the authorities know they couldn't get away with this outrageous behaviour anywhere else?

41: Harry (Canada), July 25, 2007, 6:05 AM.

I don't think there's any malice behind banning these names. If the name is so common, it may in fact cause problems in processing applications. How do you distinguish between Jack Singh and Jack Singh? A lot of mistakes must have been made by them for them to implement that policy. Then again, if you think about how far information technology has come, you might say how stupid of them for not updating their system! It's understandable that our citizens are irate over this, having to give up their last names. [Editor: surely they can use the same system they seem to have to distinguish between John Smith and John Smith.]

42: I.J. Singh (New York, U.S.A.), July 25, 2007, 6:13 AM.

This clearly capricious action of the Canadian Immmmigration Service takes one back to the even more arbitrary actions of the U.S. Immigration Service years ago Many of the early immigrants to the U.S. who came from East European countries had long, complex last names that the immigration officials could not spell, so the officials arbitrarily abbreviated, changed and truncated these names to simpler English-sounding names. The poor immigrant fleeing death camps and war-torn cities, emaciated and vulnerable, had little choice but to acquiesce. Times have now changed. We no longer expect or tolerate such high-handed behavior from our governments. Community awareness, coupled with mature steps at appeal, education, protest, and steadfast patience, can and will correct the situation.

43: Karnail Singh Sarao (Hong Kong), July 25, 2007, 6:19 AM.

It is ridiculous and unbelieveable that in a country like Canada, where so many Sikhs make up the citizenry, they are still struggling for their identity. The government bureaucrats and clerks must surely know the religious and egalitarian bases for these names.

44: Harinder (Pune, India), July 25, 2007, 6:29 AM.

I read an interesting saying a few days ago, which went something like this: "The safest place for a battleship is in the country's own harbour, but that is not where it is destined to be." So, dear Khalsa ji, identify your goals and your reason for existence! And then assess why and how you are sailing in the multi- cultural waters called Canada.

45: Arvind Pal Singh (Winnipeg, Canada), July 25, 2007, 7:29 AM.

Canadian immigration policies are a glaring example of discrimination ... Remember the early 1900s and the immigration policy towards Sikhs and others Indians, Asians and minorities, calculated to prevent them from even landing in Canada! And the Komagata Maru incident ... a sad and dark chapter from Canada's past [which was then re-enacted by Brian Mulroney's government in the 1980's under almost identical legislation].

46: Gurukarm Kaur Khalsa (Franklin, MA, U.S.A.), July 25, 2007, 8:00 AM.

Unbelievable! Do they also force people with the last names Smith or Jones to "change their names because they're so common"? How can they actually put into law such an ignorant policy? What about immigrants from Korea where Kim is a very common family name? Or Chinese people with the last name Chan or Chang or Wang or Wong or dozens of other also very common family (or last) names... This definitely seems discriminatory, and very out of character for the Canadian people. But, what do I know -I'm just an ignorant American.

47: Harry Singh (U.K.), July 25, 2007, 8:13 AM.

This is ridiculous! What about all the other surnames such a Patels and Joneses and Khans ... this is a direct and blatant attack on the Sikhs, a racist attack! There are plenty of other Christian names such a Smith and McDonalds ... It's so ridiculous. No one has raised any issue over the other names which are in greater use.

48: Randip Singh (Ontario, Canada), July 25, 2007, 8:16 AM.

This policy is straight-out discrimination. I understand there may be many individuals comming into Canada with Singh & Kaur last names, but isn't that why we have numbers on all our Social Insurance cards, etc? Being born in this beautiful country, today I feel ashamed of calling myself a Canadian.

49: Neha Singh Gohil (New York, U.S.A.), July 25, 2007, 8:43 AM.

This is absolutely ludicrous. A remnant of some decades-old discriminatory policy, no doubt. Otherwise how could the Canadian government justify this ban? I don't suppose they do the same thing when it comes to the Hernandezes, Smiths or Lees of the world. Then why Sikhs? This ban is clearly about more than just freedom of expression. It forces Sikhs to disobey a central tenet of their religion. Kudos to CBC News this week for bringing this important issue to light.

50: Mandeep Kaur (Toronto, Canada), July 25, 2007, 8:51 AM.

This is absolutely unjust. Canada is supposed to be a country of freedom and justice, and yet people are banning the names of Sikhs, who are required by their faith to do so. The identity of any male/female Sikh is presented by their appearance, actions and their name as well; by forcing them to change their name, you are attacking their very identity. There are a lot of Smiths and Johns in this world but no one is told to change their name. There are many Khans and Mohammeds, no one is told to change their name. This is strictly a racist and unjust policy that cannot be tolerated by the Sikhs and should not be tolerated by anyone else.

51: Parminder Kaur (Raleigh, North Carolina, U.S.A.), July 25, 2007, 9:07 AM.

Maybe, the Canadians should check with the Indian Postal System to see how they deliver millions of pieces of mail to those with just the first and last name. This surname business was started by the British: at that time, we were being ruled by them and had no choice. As citizens of a free nation, we should not be subject to this kind of harassment. Would they want to change the name of Guru Gobind Singh in their books too? I am glad this issue has come up: it gives us an opportunity to fight this law. Chardi Kalaa!

52: Meharban Singh (U.K.), July 25, 2007, 9:23 AM.

I'm dumbfounded by this ill thought out decision. People within the Canadian government need to educate themselves and make informed rulings. I wonder what stand, if any, India is taking over this issue. It is in the best interests of Canada for the government to realize - and rectify - their error asap.

53: Harpreet Singh (Vancouver, Canada), July 25, 2007, 9:25 AM.

This is totally ridiculous. This couldn't be expected from the Canadain government. Canada is known for its multicultural society. But if one cannot keep his/her name according to his/her religion there, then it will be foolish to say that Canada is one of the best countries in the world.

54: Tejwant (U.S.A.), July 25, 2007, 9:28 AM.

Perhaps, this is one more eye-opener for us Sikhs. Our Sikh community in Canada has not been able to put across to the Canadian Govt nor to the public that Singh & Kaur signify equality and individuality with distinction between the 2 sexes, the way of thinking that the West has only been exposed to recently. All efforts have to be made to put this point across. It has to be done in such a way that this concept is etched into the psyches of all peoples who are not aware of this beautiful concept whose seedling was planted by Guru Nanak, and then Guru Gobind Singh named the fruits - Singh & Kaur.

55: Kirat Kaur (Ontario, Canada), July 25, 2007, 10:29 AM.

The government just cannot "handle" the fact that the Sikh community is growing. Right now, there is just too many of us for them to "handle" and thus they just needed some dumb reason like that to ban the last name Kaur and Singh. We all need to make sure that in all our legal documents, the name Kaur and Singh is there because the more we use them, the more entrenched they become. They see the name all the time, but not as much as they need to be seeing it. Just a message for all the so called "Sikhs" start representing your religion properly. Not by wearing such a big kara and calling yourself a proud Sikh but by actually following your religion. It gets pretty disappointing when you call yourself Guru Gobind Singh Jee's son or daughter when you cut your hair, shave, do your eyebrows, go to clubs, and the list goes on and on. We all need to join the Khalsa Panth and become stronger together as one. It's times like this where you need the whole community in a proper representing appearance. Please forgive me for offending anyone but we really need to get our act together and join Guru's Jee Khalsa Fouj! Guru Fateh Jee!

56: Pardeep Singh (Malton, Canada), July 25, 2007, 10:38 AM.

This policy is, simply stated, discriminatory and racist! As I.J. Singh had mentioned, government officials used to change peoples names (both first and/or family names), and this was true of many early Sikh-Canadian settlers as well, even when they enlisted for the Canadian Army in World War I. In fact, on some documentations and forms, the questions read as follows. 1. What is your surname? 1a. What are your Christian names? Fateh!

57: Singh (Michigan, U.S.A.), July 25, 2007, 10:44 AM.

Actually, this is also going on in the Indian embassies and consulates in the U.S. I have come across quite a few people who applied for a new Indian passport, and when they got it, their last name was left blank and first name was XYZ Singh. Looks like the Indian authorities are trying not do away with Singh/Kaur as a last name anymore. Ironic, isn't it, as this started happening since Manmohan Singh become Prime Minister of India!

58: Kulpreet Singh (Durham, U.S.A.), July 25, 2007, 10:56 AM.

It is incredible that Canada would single out one community for this issue. If same name is an issue, then what about common far-eastern names of Lee and Ng, etc, or British names such as McDonald and Smith? If having a different name from your fathers/husbands is a problem, then a similar issue also exists with the Hispanic population where family names are not derived strictly from the father. This goes to show that ignorance exists despite education, technology, etc. We need to really drop our Punjabi surnames, no matter how difficult the legal issues become. We all need to become just "Singh" and "Kaur", the way we are meant to be. If we don't do this ourselves, this same situation will continue to repeat itself. Chardi Kalaa...

59: Kamaljit Kaur (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), July 25, 2007, 10:59 AM.

Let's hope that after this issue is settled righteously, Sikhs in Canada can live up to their proclaimed principles of gender equality and campaign with equal vigour against the domestic violence, honor killings, female foeticide and female oppression within some sectors of the community that make a mockery of the principles of equality that our names assert.

60: D. Pal Singh-Kahlon (Manhattan, N.Y., U.S.A.), July 25, 2007, 11:05 AM.

I am surprised that the usually non-discriminatory Canadian policies have gotten stuck on this issue of surnames. Notwithstanding Smiths, Jones, Johnsons ... every nation has resolved this problem ... especially now, with the evolution of high-tech IDs in the Western world, which are able to recognize people by their iris-prints, e.g. The numerically largest family name in the world is "Wang" from China. No one has had issues with that in Canada or elsewhere in the West. It always gives me a sense of cultural self pride to answer my phone with "Dr Singh" ... although I am a Kahlon. This kind of Canadian administrative/beaureucratic lapse/ignorance makes people like me wonder ... if we should now do a name change from Singh-Kahlon to Singh. That way, we shall also recoup part of the cultural/religious heritage that Guru Gobind Singh bequeathed to all Sikhs. Witness, how many young Muslim females born in the West have started wearing a hijab recently. We need to be firm and committed on this issue, without being dogmatic about it ... and not let go, until it is resolved satisfactorily. Also, the Indian and Punjab governments should forcefully advance the Sikh view-point. The Canadian authoities can always seek the help of the U.K. & U.S. immigration people and learn from their innovations. Through all of this, we as a community should be CALM, yet STEADFAST ... willing to listen to the opposite side, yet not give in, in the name "assimilation".

61: Inderjit Deol (Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.), July 25, 2007, 11:19 AM.

I don't understand why the Canadian government is taking this step. What will happen if someone changes his/her last name? Canada is a multicultural society and considered one of the best countries in the world. I am totally against this policy, that people of any ethnicity should be required or encouraged to change their surnames.

62: Tejwant (U.S.A.), July 25, 2007, 11:28 AM.

Kamaljit is right. We tend to be quick with slogans, laced with Jaikaras. It is unfortunate that we consider the foam rippling on the top of the Sikhi degh as the real stuff, while ignoring the yummy daal makhni simmering underneath, to be scooped in the bowl of Miri-Piri, so that it can be savored by all Singhs & Kaurs, and beyond.

63: Kana Nishizawa (Toronto, Canada), July 25, 2007, 12:03 PM.

CANADA'S NATIONAL TELEVISION SHOW IS PLANNING ON TAKING UP THIS STORY - AND WE ARE VERY INTERESTED IN TALKING TO PEOPLE WHO'VE HAD SIMILAR EXPERIENCES AS MRS. TARVINDER KAUR AND MR. JASPAL SINGH. WE WOULD LIKE TO POSSIBLY HAVE YOU AS A GUEST FOR THE SHOW TO SHARE YOUR PERSONAL STORY. OUR STUDIO IS BASED IN TORONTO. PLEASE CONTACT editor@sikhchic.com IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN SHARING YOUR STORY. WE APPRECIATE YOUR HELP. THANK YOU!

64: Kaur (Ontario, Canada), July 25, 2007, 12:15 PM.

This is an issue that saddens me as well as makes me less pround of being Canadian. The Canadian Government can do whatever it wants, but we will not back down, I assure you.

65: Bhupinder Singh (Canada), July 25, 2007, 2:16 PM.

This is targeting one specific community. If computer search by last name is a huge issue, then it should work same with other common names of different communities too. Why not update the softwares to deal with such situations, instead of forcing people to change their names.

66: Gurmail Singh Mangat (Mackenzie, British Columbia, Canada), July 25, 2007, 2:41 PM.

Canadian Immigration's is practicing straight-out discrimination. This is absolutely ludicrous. I think our MPs/MLAs should be aware of this, and need to act on it. The Indian Prime Minister has the last name Singh, and so does the Armed Forces Chief of the country. I think the immigration authorities are out to lunch. Shame on them.

67: Sukhvinder Vinning (Vancouver, Canada), July 25, 2007, 3:56 PM.

As a Canadian, I have to admit, I was taken aback by the CBC story. Therefor, I sent the following email to the Minister for Citizenship & Immigration, asking for some answers. I hope other Canadians will take the time to write to her or call her office at (613) 996-4974. To: The Honourable Diane Finley Minister Citizenship and Immigration Dear Madam, I am writing to you today with regards to a story covered by the National on CBC last night, July 24, 2007. http://www.cbc.ca/canada/calgary/story/2007/07/23/names-immigration.html?ref=rss I have also attached a copy of the letter that CBC obtained which states that "the names Kaur and Singh do not qualify for the purpose of immigration to Canada." As a born and bred Canadian and British Columbian, I am quite concerned that individuals with surnames of Singh and Kaur have been singled out as unacceptable surnames by Immigration Canada. These individuals have been advised to change their surnames in order to immigrate to our country. Could you please explain why this policy is in place? The reasons outlined by your spokeswoman, Karen Shadd-Evelyn (quoted below from the story on CBC), do not make any kind of rational nor moral sense. "Karen Shadd-Evelyn, a spokeswoman with Citizenship and Immigration Canada, said the policy preventing people from immigrating to Canada with those last names has been in place for the last 10 years. "I believe the thinking behind it in this case is because it is so common. [With] the sheer numbers of applicants that have those as their surnames, it's just a matter for numbers and for processing in that visa office." Citizenship and Immigration Canada says there is no such policy against other common last names." Individuals are expected to change their last names, and re-invent their entire identities because of "the sheer numbers of applicants that have those as their surnames"? If this is the case, then why are there not similar policies in place for common names of other ethnic backgrounds? Such as Smith or Lee? Would the visa offices not have the same problems in order to process individuals with the surnames Smith or Lee? Why only single out Singh and Kaur? Just to give you an idea of how common these names are, I opened up the 2007/2008 Vancouver/Burnaby phone book, and took a look at the numbers of Smiths, Lees, Singhs and Kaurs in the area of Vancouver and Burnaby. Here is what I found: Smith (found on pages 369-371). There were approximately 1,086 names. Lee (found on pages 220-226). There were approximately 3,808 names. Kaur (found on page 191). There were approximately 28 names. Singh (found on pages 366-367). There were approximately 256 names. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom states: 15. (1) Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability. Could you please explain as a Canadian, bound by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, why you have a discriminating policy against Singhs and Kaurs? Sincerely, Sukhvinder Vinning

68: Surjeet Singh (Montreal, Canada), July 25, 2007, 4:03 PM.

Ridiculous. This is unacceptable. The Canadian Govt. should accept their error and withdraw this policy with immediate effect. If no action is taken by Canadian Government, this issue should be taken to the world stage.

69: Harinder Singh (San Antonio, U.S.A.), July 25, 2007, 4:08 PM.

This has grave implications on maintaining Guru-granted sovereignty which established the Sikhs as a separate nation. The basic identity was inaugurated through the surnames of Singh and Kaur; they uprooted the earlier apartheid-style superstructures and granted emancipation. This is our history, our culture, and intrinsic part of our psyche. The arguments of large samples or some adherents (albeit cultural) shunning Singh/Kaur are unfounded. The basic issue is that no earthly authority should dictate the Sikhs about its deliberate or familial usage of Singh/Kaur, forcibly or through policy. Yes, there are few who abuse the names, but that is not exclusive to the Sikhs; such rights are abused or not exercised by several people in all situations or communities. Sikhs must take these kinds of regressive measures very seriously and must respond via awareness campaigns, legal challenges and, if necessary, civil disobedience.

70: Gurinder Singh (Sacramento, California, U.S.A.), July 25, 2007, 4:41 PM.

I am from Sacramento, California and I am surprise to know that Canada is discriminating on the bases of Sikh last names. We encourage the Sikh Sangat to use "Singh" and "Kaur" as their last names, instead of others. Guru Gobind Singh gave them to us for instant recognition of being a Sikh, and to leave behind the caste and gotra system. Our community is facing these kinds of problems on a regular basis. For example, I was once refused to board a plane at Buffalo Airport because of my turban. We have to come forward to fight for our rights.

71: Harpaul Singh (Toronto), July 25, 2007, 5:09 PM.

It is ridiculous for any organisation/Govt to compel any individual to change his/her name. It needs to be condemned by all of us at all the levels, but by Canadian MPs/MPPs in particular. At the same time, I would also like to write that we too are to be blamed for using/highlighting third names (other than Singh/Kaur) as some of us feel the need to highlight a village name, or some silly trade-caste, etc. None of our Gurus or great Sikh personalities have ever used or encouraged the use of any surname. Why are we then using these surnames?

72: Pawanjit Singh (Charlotte, U.S.A.), July 25, 2007, 5:46 PM.

I was very disturbed by this article. I love the use of Singh and Kaur as last names because they make us feel equal.

73: Sanmeet Kaur (Toronto, Canada), July 25, 2007, 8:37 PM.

The Canadian government should keep in mind that a democracy is of the people, by the people and FOR the people, not just a section of the people. A democratic government should aim at improving the quality of life of its people, rather than sacrificing their basic freedoms to ensure the convenience of its officials. Maybe, we should ask Britain what she does with all her 'John Smiths'.

74: Sarvjeet (New Delhi, India), July 25, 2007, 10:14 PM.

This is an insult to all Sikh-Canadians as well as Sikhs around the world. This should be read as nothing short of an attack on Sikh religion and culture.

75: Pardeep (Malton, Ontario, Canada), July 25, 2007, 10:18 PM.

In response to the original news item, Karen Shadd-Evelyn, the Canadian government spokesperson, is quoted as follows. "Shadd-Evelyn acknowledged Wednesday that the government does ask applicants to provide a surname in addition to Singh or Kaur 'to improve client service and reduce incidents of mistaken identity'." But she added: "This was not a mandatory requirement. There is no policy or practice whereby people with these surnames are asked to change their names," she said. Why is Shadd-Evelyn and the government still skirting around the issue, and the revelations that led to the outcry. It is clear from Shadd-Evelyn's comments quoted above that clients are being asked to provide a surname other than Singh or Kaur. Why should I have to add another surname to my only surname of Singh or Kaur? "The government does ask applicants to provide a surname in addition to Singh or Kaur" implies asking people to change their surname as Singh and Kaur are not deemed proper or sufficient.

76: Manvinder Singh (Melbourne, Australia), July 25, 2007, 10:21 PM.

If the immigration department has problem in differentiating large number of people with the same last names, all they need to do is to change the manner in which people are identified in their records. Instead of using the surname as first-search criteria, they should start with something else ... date of birth, birth place, first name, etc ... one or more of these would work well! This will go a long way in making things easier. I believe flexibility is what is required.

77: Bill Phillips (Okanagan Falls, British Columbia, CanadaC), July 25, 2007, 10:39 PM.

Everyone should relax. The CBC report is incorrect. The CIC does not require anyone to change their name. What they do ask for is a unique surname in addition to "Singh" or "Kaur" which, after all, are far from unique. It is not a requirement; only a request. [Editor: Good. Then, please advise if a similar request is made to all Smiths, Browns and Lees (to name a few), particularly since their names are far more common than Singh or Kaur?]

78: Sadhna (Singapore), July 25, 2007, 11:39 PM.

I'm suprised that a country like Canada, where a substantial population of Sikhs are citizens of the country, would come up with such a dumb policy and no intelligent reason to back it up. The government should be looking within itself to come up with a system to solve their logistical issues, rather than making Sikhs change their last names ... which stand for their very identity.

79: Harry Singh (U.K.), July 26, 2007, 3:11 AM.

I just wonder how the Indian government copes with all the Sikhs living there (30 million and more!), all having the surname Singh or Kaur. Canada is a much more modernized and "advanced" nation. At the very least, they could have come up with a policy which did not require the change of names! ... This is utterly ridiculous!

80: Sukhpal (U.S.A.), July 26, 2007, 5:36 AM.

Yes, a "literate" society can also behave like an illiterate one. I am sure the Canadian Govt does not want to be labelled as having an ignorant administration. The Indian Govt., representing its Sikh citizens, needs to bring this issue onto the international forum for discussion, i.e., the UN. Hopefully, Human Rights organizations are also aware of this fiasco. The right to choose one's religion and the personal name that goes with it, is a fundamental one. The Canadian Government needs to read its own constitution.

81: Sandev Singh (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), July 26, 2007, 9:20 AM.

Just read about the Canadian Government's reversal of their policy in the face of pressure and lobbying from Sikh advocacy groups and community leaders. The government was obviously embarrassed by the worldwide media coverage. I am very proud of our community's success in this matter (even though it took so long for the issue to be raised). Another top priority for Sikhs in Canada (and around the world) has to be challenging the constant negative and racist labelling of Sikhs as "terrorists" and "militants". One obvious problem is that biased/anti-Sikh news stories from the Indian press are uncritically adopted as fact by media here. Media outlets need to be challenged aggressively and immediately when they engage in racist reporting of Sikhs (or any other minority/marginalized group).

82: Tejwant (U.S.A.), July 26, 2007, 9:54 AM.

Outrage always outlasts anger and is also more effective. Thanks, Sikhchic.com.

83: Mahanjot Singh (Toronto, Canada), July 26, 2007, 11:30 AM.

Hi, more than 16 yrs ago when I had applied for immigration to Canada, I went through similar problems owing to my last name being 'Singh'. In all honesty, at that time I kind of gave in easily to the demands from the Canadian Immigration office in New Delhi to use another last name to expedite my application since I didn't want any further delays to the process. I had thought that mine was perhaps a one off incident, little realizing that the problem was this widespread. I hate to admit that the last name that I had used for my application process to Canada has since stayed with me for 16 years now on all my ID cards and the whole nine yards! I strongly believe that the policy of last names for immigration purposes has a lot to do with laziness of the officers, besides my own laziness and lack of courage to stand up! I have now made up my mind to have my last name changed to the one given by my Guru, and will shortly start the process of doing so. As they say, something good always comes out of things.

84: I.J. singh (New York, U.S.A.), July 26, 2007, 12:14 PM.

The Canadian government's reversal is welcome indeed. It is an excellent example of citizen-power, when mobilized in a good cause, and common sense. Apparently, the international outpouring was heard. Before we sit back on our laurels to savour our triumph, perhaps the issue deserves a little more of our energies. I don't what the process might be in Canada: Does it require a directive from the parliament on procedures, or is it necessary that an unambiguous, clear directive be issued by the appropriate office to various Canadian diplomatic missions, consular offices and embassies, around the world. Or would this need some legal directive from the appropriate authority. So our work is not entirely done, but needs follow-up by some savvy minds connected to the government.

85: Sukh (Vancouver, Canada), July 26, 2007, 12:30 PM.

I just called Minister Finley's Immigration Office at (613) 954-1064 to find out where I could get a copy of the policy. And I had an interesting conversation. I was advised that this policy is either an internal Citizenship & Immigration policy, or this policy is a New Delhi Embassy policy, which Peter Mackay's Foreign Affairs Department would be responsible for. I was told that I can call 1-888-242-2100 and talk directly to an Immigration Officer or call the New Delhi Embassy at 011-91-114-178-2050. And if I couldn't get through, I was given their fax number of 011-91-114-178-2031. I am still struggling to understand why this policy is only in effect in New Delhi. Singh is a common Hindu name as well, and yet the Canadian Embassy in Fiji does not seem to have this policy. Nor do the embassies in China have similar policies when they have many citizens who have the same given name, surname and date of birth. So I am left wondering with: 1) What procedures do the Canadian missions in Fiji and China have in place that help them deal with people who have the exact same name and date of birth? 2) Could New Delhi not implement these as well? Because I am concerned that the New Delhi Embassy will say to their applicants that if you cannot give us a different surname, your application will take much longer to process. It would be interesting to find out how long it takes to process applications from people with identical names and date of births in Fiji and China.

86: Maljinder Singh (Toronto, Canada), July 26, 2007, 12:46 PM.

They have not backed down. I'm afraid the practice will still continue until they stop it from happening in New Delhi. They are saying that their letter to Jaspal Singh was poorly worded - but he was not the first and probably not the last person to get that letter. Furthermore, they continue to trivialize the issue by saying that many Sikh immigrants have an alternative family name that they can add anyway. This totally obsures the real issue because the whole point is that many Sikh immigrants do not want to use that family name and want to use "Singh" or "Kaur" and are legally allowed to do so, and have the right to do so, but are afraid of jeopardizing their application, so they just comply. This archaic, racist rule is caused simply by bureaucratic inefficiencies and inherant biases against Sikhs, and it has not stopped just because of this one Toronto Star article, or one clarification from the Immigration officer. What they really need to do is deliver clarifications and instructions to their immigration officers in New Delhi so that they do not require, or even request, people to change their name from Singh or Kaur.

87: Sukhpreet Singh (Chicago, U.S.A.), July 26, 2007, 1:00 PM.

One way to challenge the racist labelling and association of Sikhs with terrorists and militants would be to fully ostracise and marginalise all those who hold and act on those views and attitudes amongst us. They may be a minority but blaming the media only is a form of denial.

88: Sukh (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada), July 26, 2007, 2:28 PM.

I agree. We can't congratulate ourselves and say, "Job well done"; not yet. I think one of the things that needs to occur is to ask for a universal procedure to be developed that is implemented at all Canadian Embassies regarding individuals who have the exact same name and date of birth. The Sikh experience can happen to other groups in the future, if safeguards are not in place.

89: Santokh Singh Sohal (Fort Lauderdale, Floroda, U.S.A.), July 26, 2007, 3:18 PM.

This policy of the Canadian Govt. makes no sense; it is totally unacceptable, since it's a clear discrimination against the Sikhs. Sikh-Canadians are amongst the most valuable, loyal and productive citizens; this policy is an injustice to them. We, all Sikhs everywhere, should get united and fight for this cause and let our voices known through sikhchic.com.

90: Kitty Singh (Coral Springs, Florida, U.S.A.), July 26, 2007, 5:15 PM.

I'm glad the Canadian Govt. has backed down. One of the things that really unites all Sikhs is the shared common last name for the men and women, respectively.

91: G.C. Singh (U.S.A.), July 27, 2007, 6:16 AM.

I am surprised that Sikhs woke up so late while this policy, which is against the core principals of Sikhism, has been enforced for so long. As a result, hundreds of thousands of Sikhs have been forced to affix the scourge of trade-caste names to their Guru-given names of Singh and Kaur.

92: Tejwant (U.S.A.), July 27, 2007, 8:19 AM.

It may seem true that Sikhs woke up late, as mentiond by G.C. Singh, but this is not the case here. The objections were rendered to the parents, wives, husbands, siblings and sons and daughters in India who were eager to get to Canada. The objective here was to seek better lives and be with the near and dear ones, even if a sacrifice was needed to add another name because of the lack of due thought processes on the part of the Canadian Govt. It took someone from outside India to connect the dots and expose that the Canadian Govt.'s bias was immersed in ignorance and negligence in a nonchalant manner, because was no objection was publicly raised by would-be immigrants. Thanks to Talvinder Kaur - A Sikh-Canadian - that we woke up from our slumber. It needs to be emphasised that it is never too late to make an effort to mend what's been broken for some time.

93: Baldev Singh Mattu (Boca Raton, Florida, U.S.A.), July 27, 2007, 2:53 PM.

Hundreds of thousands of Sikhs (each with Singh as his last name) served in the two World Wars. They were not asked to change their names. This practice of not allowing people with Singh as a last name, to enter with intent to work, is still active in some of the Middle Eastern countries, e.g. Saudi Arabia. However, this may have nothing to do with inconvenience and more with chauvininsm. This practice has also been attempted in the past in higher education establishments. Many years ago, Coventry University (then a Polytechnic) in Coventry, England, attempted to ban the use of the last name, Singh, for new students. This scheme failed when a review of last names was undertaken, using the official local directory of Coventry. It was found that the directory contained more Smiths than Singhs. The practice of forcing people to change their names has been going on in the West for long time. I moved to England in 1964 and experienced the same on my first few days of school. I then opted to add my ancient clan name as my surname. Many other Sikh children did the same. People should not have to change their given name. According to Indian tradition, those who change their names or don't know their backgrounds, are deemed to be bastards. The Sikh names, Singh meaning lion, and Kaur meaning princess, are simple, meaningful and easy to pronounce. There is no justification to not allow their use or the Anglicization of these names.

94: Daljit Singh (Jalandhar, India), July 27, 2007, 10:35 PM.

I hope no one will henceforth change his or her name for Canadian Immigration.

95: Balvinder Singh (India), July 28, 2007, 4:03 AM.

It's totally wrong to require anyone to change his/her name for immigration!

96: Baljeet Kaur (Auckland, New Zealand), July 29, 2007, 5:17 PM.

Shame on Canada! Sikhs all over the world have for centuries used "Kaur" and "Singh" as their surnames - as required by their Guru - and will continue to do so. Sikh organisations in Canada should ensure that the right to use the name of our choice - the same right enjoyed by all - is protected. You have the backing of Sikhs from around the globe, and of all others who truly love freedom and liberty

97: Prithipal Singh (New Westminster, B.C., Canada), July 29, 2007, 7:32 PM.

1.I immigrated to Canada in 1995. I was also having the same problem of last name. I gave them the example of Giani Zail Singh who was President of India at that time. I was allowed to keep Singh as my last name 2. In the same year, I sponsored my wife and two children. They were again given the same hassle over their names. The Immigration Department became rigid and told my wife that she and the children would have to add another name. To avoid further delay, my wife and children did add another name. They had to go through a lot of legal formalities to do so. They had no choice because they were depressed over the separation of the family, and were eager to have us all get reunited. 3. In 2006, my son changed his last name back to "Singh". 4. My son got married in February 2007. His wife changed her last name to "SINGH", as per last name of her husband, for her Canadian immigration. She was given the same headache because of her last name. He protested with the Immigration Department in New Delhi but without any result. Then, last month, he left for India as he was feeling sick and depressed because of the hassles and the resulting delays. Ultimately, his wife added a name. Then she had to re-apply for a new passport. Finally, she received her visa ... last week! Now, my son and his wife will be landing in Vancouver on August 3rd, 2007. 4. At present, even the Prime Minister of India is Sardar Manmohan SINGH. Canadian Immigration should know better than behave in the manner in which they have been doing for decades!

98: Ricky Minhas (Nanaimo, B.C., Canada), July 29, 2007, 11:52 PM.

It's just the dumbest thing. Why should they have to change a last name because of immigration?

99: Balvindar Harbhajan Singh (Kuwait), July 30, 2007, 5:30 AM.

I totally disagree with the Canadian Government and its Immigration Department regarding their name-change policy vis-a-vis Sikhs. It is like we are being asked to change our religion.

100: Raminder Kaur (New Delhi, India), July 30, 2007, 9:47 AM.

I have read this article and it's heart breaking. Our names are not just names ... they are a gift given to each child at birth. These people should respect the religion of others. These surnames represent equality, freedom and unity.

101: Sukh (Vancouver, B.C., Canada), July 30, 2007, 11:19 AM.

The Canadian Govt has not backed down. They have merely side-stepped the issue. Take a look at the Citizenship and Immigration Website. http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/department/media/speeches/2007/2007-07-26.asp The minister says they will continue to ask for an additional surname, but it will no longer be mandatory to provide one. So the issue remains: why are Singhs and Kaurs being singled out? Nobody else is being asked to voluntarily provide an additional surname.

102: Hardeep Singh (Bangkok, Thailand), September 23, 2007, 6:27 AM.

Sikhs are a minority worldwide, we are a majority only in Punjab, India. Which is just a tiny state in India. Now I know why Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale wanted Khalistan. It appears now that the only way we Sikhs could have all our rights protected is by having our own nation!

103: Harpreet Makkar (England ), November 07, 2013, 3:51 PM.

I think the Canadian government should have dropped this policy long ago. It is clearly a racist act towards Sikhs. Sikhs have religious surnames, and it's one's own choice to adopt surnames. The government should not deny immigration on surname basis. It's ridiculous, especially when Sikhs contribute so much to Canada.

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