Harpeet Singh Gill, a volunteer at the Sikh Society Temple, examines graffitti on the ouside of the building located on 81 St SW on Friday December 23, 2016 in Calgary, Alta. The spray paint was discovered a day or so ago and is similar to both a swastika and a Hindu symbol. Jim Wells//Postmedia.
Members of Calgary’s Sikh community are speaking out after a Sikh temple was spray-painted with hateful graffiti.
Early Thursday morning, the World Sikh Organization of Canada said swastikas and profanity were painted on the property of the Sikh Society of Calgary on 81st Street S.W.
On Friday, graffiti was visible around six locations in and around the building. Police confirmed a graffiti co-ordinator and a hate crime co-ordinator have been called in to investigate the vandalism.
The WSO said the group have seen an increase in “racist, Islamophobic and anti-Semitic vandalism across Canada,” and the WSO responds to acts of vandalism through education and community outreach programs.
“These deplorable acts are motivated by ignorance and all Canadians must stand in solidarity to ensure that racist and discriminatory rhetoric is loudly rejected,” said Calgary-based Tejinder Singh Sidhu, WSO vice-president for Alberta, in a statement.
In a statement from the Sikh Press Association, Calgary resident Harman Singh with the charity Basics of Sikhi said Sikh gurdwaras are open to people of all faiths and the Sikh community encourages Calgarians to visit temples to learn more about the Sikh faith.
“It seems that a small but prominent minority of Canadians fail to recognize the Sikh contribution to this country,” Singh said. “And as such we have become the target of bigots looking to divide communities.”
Jasakaran Singh Malhi with the Sikh Press Association said incidents of racist vandalism at Sikh temples happen across Canada, isolating members of the Sikh community and making them question their safety. But through community engagements like the World Sikh Organization’s Turban Up event, the Sikh community are doing what they can to “dispel ignorance.”
“As the (non-Sikh) community starts to understand who we are . . . they can feel that we are Canadians as well and start to share the love during the entire year,” Malhi said.
In January, the WSO said a gurdwara in Edmonton was spray-painted with racist graffiti. In September, hate inciting posters were put up across the University of Alberta campus in Edmonton. Following the incident, the Sikh Students Association and the World Sikh Organization held an event to raise awareness and understanding of the Sikh faith.
The WSO encourages Calgarians to report any suspicious activity around gurdwaras to the Calgary Police Service.