It came to light in July 2007 that there had been a ban on the use of the last names Singh and Kaur preventing people with those lasts names from immigrating to Canada. A spokeperson for Canadian Citizenship and Immigration confirmed that the ban had been in place for a decade. Immediately after this news became public, the World Sikh Organization sent the following letter to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration for Canada. The policy was subsequently withdrawn.
The Honourable Diane Finley, P.C., M.P.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada
Dear Ms. Finley,
I am writing on behalf of the World Sikh Organization of Canada (WSO). The World Sikh Organization of Canada is a non-profit human rights organization promotes and protects the interests of the Sikh Diaspora, and advocates for the protection of human rights for all individuals, irrespective of race, religion, gender, ethnicity, and social and economic status. The WSO works in cooperation with Sikh societies and organizations across Canada to advocate on behalf of religious, social, and legal interests of the over 400 000 Canadian Sikhs.
It has recently come to our attention that Immigration Canada employs an unfair and discriminatory policy during the immigration and visa process to Canada from India. Unlike any other religious and ethnic group in the world, Sikhs have been forced to change their last names of Singh and Kaur in order to receive entry into Canada. The Singh and Kaur last name carries a deep significance to all initiated Sikhs and the forceful removal of that last name is deeply offensive and insulting, not just to those Sikhs in India who wish to make Canada their home, but also to the Sikhs who already call Canada their home.
The Singh and Kaur last name were created in order to abolish inequality. Canadian Sikhs are proud of the values Canada stands for internationally, including equality, freedom of religion, and protection of human dignity. It is unfortunate that the Canadian policy, forcing Sikhs to changes their given surnames, which have been in use by their families for hundreds of years, is a rejection of the very values which have attracted hundreds of thousands of Sikhs to this great country and a rejection of the values the names Singh and Kaur represent.
A pregnant woman in Calgary, Tarvinder Kaur, who is due to give birth next month has recently fallen victim to the Canadian government's policy. Her husband, presently in India, has been forced to enter into a slow, painstaking bureaucratic process to change his last name and this frustrating turn of events may prevent him from being in Canada for the birth of his child. This story is only one example of many injustices that have taken place due to the Canadian government's stubborn refusal to lift the ban on admitting Sikhs with last name of Singh and Kaur.
The World Sikh Organization hopes that quick action is taken in Ottawa in order to remedy the visa and immigration situation in India so that Sikhs applicants for immigration are treated with the same dignity and respect Canada so proudly stands for in the world.