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Hate & Discrimination Are Not Acceptable In A Civilized Society

RAJVINDER ’RAJ’ SINGH GREWAL, Member of Parliament, Canada




Last week, I was honoured to rise in Canada's House of Commons to speak on the issue of systemic racism and religious discrimination. This conversation is long overdue and vital to ensuring that we continue to build a nation that chooses diversity over division.

Sikhs are often confused for Muslims and are too in fact the victims of Islamophobia. Our communities share a common experience, one that I have known personally since a young age. Having grown up as a turban-wearing Sikh whose father also wears a turban, whose friends wear turbans, I recognize that members of the Sikh community have always stood out because of our identity. It would be easy for Sikh-Canadians to say "Don't attack us, we're not Muslims," but that is not the attitude that builds the greatest nation in the world.

Just like my Jewish friends who wear the kipa or my Muslim friends who wear the hijab, we are all proud of our identities, but we also recognize that our identities and articles of faith make us easy targets. Personally, I can recount being teased by my classmates because of my turban, being bullied on the playground for being different, as well as being the subject of racist taunts as a young soccer player, and I still vividly remember my dad being verbally abused shortly after 9/11. Each instance of discrimination was rooted in mistrust, intolerance and fear.

Regardless of our backgrounds or beliefs, we are all Canadians.

The number one priority of a government is to ensure that its citizens of all different backgrounds feel safe, welcome and at home here in Canada.

We routinely hear about the rise of anti-Semitic rhetoric on our university campuses -- including hate notes posted outside Jewish homes this past weekend. There are also many instances like the anti-Sikh flyers that were distributed last year at the University of Alberta. And while hate crimes overall are on the decline in Canada, they have more than doubled against Muslim communities from 2012 to 2015 and continue to rise at an alarming rate.

In the face of these statistics, we cannot pretend discrimination is not a legitimate concern.

Canada's greatest strength is its diversity. All of these instances are unacceptable.

Last week, my constituency office received over 14,000 emails in a coordinated campaign against Motion 103.

M-103 is asking the government to condemn all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination, including but not limited to Islamophobia. ‎Additionally, it requests the further study of the issue and improved data collection. I want to make it clear that M-103 is a motion and not a bill. This distinction is an important one because a motion is not legally binding.

If some of our fellow Canadian brothers and sisters are living in fear of being attacked, verbally or physically, because of their identity, we need to do better as a nation, and M-103 is a step in the right direction.

Doing better means that all of us have to have the difficult conversations at our dinner tables about treating all people with respect and compassion, regardless of their faith, race or culture. It requires us to ask questions if we do not understand, and answer responsibly when asked difficult questions. It requires us to make it known that it is not acceptable to act in a discriminatory or hateful manner towards anyone.

I ran in 2015 to be the MP for Brampton East, Ontario, because I wanted to ensure future generations had the same opportunity that I did. All Canadians should have the opportunity to pursue postsecondary education, to strive to be entrepreneurs, and to pursue any career of their choosing.

What I don't want for our future generations is to grow up in an atmosphere of hate which breeds fear in our fellow Canadians; I want all Canadians to be proud of their identities and contribute to our nation.

I want all of us to be able to say: I am a proud Sikh, Muslim, Hindu, Jew, Christian, believer or non-believer. At the same time, I am equally a proud Canadian. Most importantly, I am proud that I live in a nation that doesn't make me chose between my faith and my devotion to my country. This is the Canada I know and this is the Canada I love.

[Courtesy: The Huffington Post. Edited for]
February 23, 2017

Conversation about this article

1: Sangat Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), February 24, 2017, 9:58 AM.

Every Sikh, but especially one easily identified by a turban, is a visible ambassador. Unfortunately there are a lot of semi-literate Islam-phobiacs who are are not easy to educate. My voluntary work place, the Satellite Ground Station, is situated near the hub of tourist attractions, including a renowned bird sanctuary. Sometimes I see old people struggling to walk. I usually stop my car and offer them a lift. Generally the tourists are wary to accept any unsolicited lifts lest they are robbed. Since I don’t seem fierce enough, they ask if I am running a private taxi. “Yes, but I don’t charge anything”. In one instance I met an elderly family of Canadians who I dropped at the nearby Bird Park. I told them that when they got home, don’t forget to say Hi to your turbaned Sikh Defence Minister and say you met his brother in Malaysia. Years ago, in the mid 70’s, I was in Moscow’s Red Square when I saw a Russian Moslem running up to me with a loud, “Asalam Wwalekum”. Since we didn’t share any other common language, I replied: “Walaykum Salam” and he embraced me. When I approached the long line to see embalmed Lenin and Stalin, I was escorted to the front of the line by the security chap declaring me a ‘Diplomath’. That was how I got to meet Lenin and Stalin whom I had never met before. More glorious stories of the Guru blessed turban at another time.

2: Ravinder Singh (Brampton, Ontario, Canada), February 24, 2017, 1:38 PM.

And I can vouch for the accuracy of dear Sangat Mama ji's comments, having personally witnessed the Ground station and the blend of science, spirituality and Mother Nature along with free food and a place to rest and learn at one's own pace the intricacies of life and how to be an ideal human being despite being the ferocious caretakers of a beautiful and wonderful philosophy armed with knowledge, skills and abilities to spread love and peace. "gursikhaan ki har dhoor dey ham paapi bhi gatt pavein ..."

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