Ottawa – (May 13, 2010): Canadian Sikhs are wondering, why the double standard? While violence and looting in Montreal last night after the victory of the Montreal Canadiens over the Pittsburgh Penguins has been attributed to a “small” group of 500 individuals, the entire Canadian Sikh community has been smeared by certain politicians and media as violent and prone to extremism due to the irresponsible comments and actions of a few.
After the Canadiens’ playoff victory, 50,000 fans poured on to Montreal streets and a mob of approximately 500 started throwing bottles at police and smashed the windows of three downtown stores. Effigies of Penguins’ star Sydney Crosby were also burnt. Despite the violence and looting, Montreal police assistant director Sylvain Brouillette congratulated the fans who came out to celebrate the Canadiens’ victory and said “It was only about 500 out of 50,000 who took part in criminal acts.”
Quebec Premier Jean Charest stated, “This isn’t about hockey. Let’s be clear, these people are not interested in the Montreal Canadiens. Unfortunately they are only interested in trashing things. It’s too bad because it casts a shadow a bit over events.”
This measured and moderate response in response to the violence in Montreal that led to at least 41 arrests, is in stark contrast to the reaction to recent events in the Sikh community in which a lone irresponsible radio statement and a few offensive comments posted online resulted in a firestorm of hysteria amongst some politicians and media, smearing the entire community as being prone to violence and extremism.
In contrast to the events in Montreal, every year tens of thousands of Sikhs gather for Vaisakhi parades across Canada. Crowds top 100,000 in Surrey and Mississauga. These are fun-filled, well organized and peaceful events in which not even one incident of violence has been ever reported. Vaisakhi parades are funded entirely by the Sikh community without any government assistance. Thousands of people are generously fed for free over an event that lasts several hours. And when the event is over, the city streets are left cleaner than when the event started.
WSO Canada President Prem Singh Vinning said, “Any violence is absolutely unacceptable. But unlike the response to the situation in Montreal where the media and politicians have recognized that Canadiens fans as a whole are not to be blamed for the looting and vandalism, it’s disappointing that the same reasonable approach wasn’t applied to recent events in the Sikh community. Some opportunistic individuals have vilified the entire community based on the actions of a few and all Canadian Sikh are paying the price.”
The irresponsible smear campaign against the Sikh community has resulted in a marked rise in anti-Sikh sentiment. Bigoted and discriminatory comments against the Sikh community, some going so far as to call for violence against Sikhs, are now widespread on the internet on various mainstream media and social networking sites. However those who were quick to create an uproar over the alleged rise in “extremism” in the Sikh community seem unconcerned by the recent backlash and rise in intolerance towards Canadian Sikhs. Why the double standard?
The World Sikh Organization of Canada (WSO) is a non-profit organization with a mandate to promote and protect the interests of the Sikh Diaspora, as well as to promote and advocate for the protection of human rights for all individuals, irrespective of race, religion, gender, ethnicity, and social and economic status.