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Diversity Requires Effort





In the spring of 2014, households across Brampton (Ontario, Canada) opened their doors to find anti-immigration flyers targeting the Sikh community. It made many in my home riding feel vulnerable and unwelcome. This, of course, was their intent.

The effect of these flyers was no different than the recent anti-Islam vandalism of the Cold Lake, Kingston or Quebec City mosques; the anti-immigrant posters spotted on York University's campus or even the anti-Asian race riots in Vancouver over 100 years ago. Each instance of discrimination was rooted in mistrust, intolerance and fear.

Each instance was unacceptable then, and is unacceptable now.

Amid increasing praise of Canadian diversity on the global stage, this week's incident was a stark reminder that Canada is not without its challenges at home. Discrimination still exists and the racist posters that surfaced across the University of Alberta campus this week were a reminder of that fact. The posters featured a picture of a Sikh man and disparaging captions targeting Sikh values.

As a turban-wearing Sikh, the hatred and ignorance that motivates such material is very close to home for me and the broader Sikh community.

This week, our Prime Minister spoke at the UN and stated

"Strong, diverse, resilient countries like Canada didn't happen by accident and they won't continue without effort. Every single day, we need to choose hope over fear and diversity over division."

The vast majority of Canadians have a long-standing tradition of rising to the occasion to denounce such acts and make diversity work for all of us. But diversity requires effort. It requires all of us to consciously … through our words and actions … oppose discrimination, bigotry and racism in all its forms, whether based on a person's ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, or age. It requires us to take pride in our identities, and most importantly, it requires us to collectively #MakeitAwkward.

It doesn't make us any less Canadian to simply point out the unacceptable nature of any statement that lacks sensitivity. Rather, it is who we are as Canadians, because in my Canada no matter where you come from, what you believe in, who you love or what you look like, Canadians will always have your back.

It is no coincidence that over 22 years after Pritam Singh Jauhal, a turban-wearing Sikh soldier was denied the right to enter a Surrey legion hall on Remembrance Day, a turban-wearing Sikh is serving as the Minister of National Defense.

Getting here required effort but anything worth having always does.

I am a proud Sikh, a proud Canadian and I am most proud that I live in a country that doesn't make me chose between the two.

The author is a federal Member of Parliament in Canada, representing the riding of Brampton East, Ontario.

[Courtesy: The Huffington Post. Edited for]
September 24, 2016

Conversation about this article

1: GJ Singh (Scottsdale, Arizona, USA), September 26, 2016, 12:17 PM.

I am still at a loss and fail to understand when everyday I read in articles where the Sikhs compare themselves to the Muslims whenever discrimination occurs. I beg to differ. There is a HUGE difference. Sikhs have not gone out and terrorized and killed in the name of religion. When Muslims do that, the community should expect a backlash. Not that it is right. So to compare ourselves to their situation, Sikhs are doing a major disservice to themselves. Sikhs are getting discriminated for who they are and what they look like. That is discrimination. Period.

2: Arjan Singh (USA), September 29, 2016, 11:16 AM.

G J Singh ji, I share your frustration and utter annoyance with the fact that the Sikh community / religion is constantly compared or confused with Islam (and its followers). I could not have said it better. We have not gone out historically or currently in terrorizing / attacking in the name of religion. Instead, on the Indian sub-continent, that shameful honor goes to the Muslim and Hindu communities, both. It is our collective failure in the US and Canada that we as a community have more or less failed to educate others about our unique culture, self-less service we provide for the disenfranchised, and the strong work ethic. It is not the responsibility of the majority to understand us. The imperative is upon us to make the clear distinction between us and the Muslims (and from the Hindus in India). As I watch the news every day and hear about the random and brutal acts of horror in the US and elsewhere, it is clear that the Sikhs will face the brunt of the backlash, violence and hate crimes, even though most of the shootings are being committed by misguided and mentally disturbed men (mostly) of Christian (Wisconsin and Charleston shootings, Gas Station murder in Arizona of S. Balbir Singh Sodhi, etc.) and Muslim (Florida bar shooting, San Bernardino attack and many others) backgrounds. The Sikh men are especially vulnerable as they stand out and need to be extra careful to ensure that they do not end up becoming ‘collateral damage’. The Hindu community will not come forward to help the Sikhs in this violence related to mistaken identity and hatred. Instead in their homes they are amused and gleeful at the violence and hatred being unleashed on innocent Sikh families. The Sikh community must act decisively and non-violently to educate the national and local law enforcement about their culture and belief systems. We keep making the same mistake of acting only during the period after a hate-crime or a shooting. It has to be a consistent and dedicated effort, and the Sikh children must be involved as they will one day carry the torch forward.

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