Surrey (June 23, 2013): The World Sikh Organization of Canada concluded its annual series of national human rights events with its annual inter-community dinner in Surrey last Sunday night. Several hundred guests were in attendance including several MLAs and representatives from Simon Fraser University, Fraser Health Authority, RCMP amongst others.
The keynote address for the evening was delivered by Rajvinder Singh Bains, advocate at the Punjab & Haryana High Court. Mr. Bains is a prominent human rights activist and served as lawyer for the family of Jaswant Singh Khalra. Mr. Khalra was disappeared by the Punjab Police after returning from Canada where he had revealed evidence of the disappearances of thousands of young men in Punjab. Mr. Bains talked about the historical roots of conflict in Punjab and how even the legitimate and democratic demands of the people of Punjab were dismissed as communal, resulting in widespread disillusionment. Mr. Bains also spoke of the way forward for Punjab in dealing with its past and how the legal system could be utilized to yield productive results.
Other speakers at the Surrey dinner were Jim Scott, President of the Equitas Society and Chief Robert Joseph of Reconciliation Canada.
Mr. Scott spoke about the struggles faced by disabled Canadian veterans and the importance of providing them with the necessary support they deserve. The Equitas Society is currently engaged in a legal challenge against the New Veterans Charter which significantly reduces veteran benefits. WSO President, Prem Singh Vinning also serves on the Advisory Council of the Equitas Society.
Chief Joseph spoke about the experience of the aboriginal peoples of Canada and how reconciliation is an important part of the way forward for communities who have gone through trauma. WSO is working with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Reconciliation Canada and the Indian Residential School Survivor's Society to create a series of videos addressing why the legacy of residential schools matters.
During the Surrey dinner, WSO recognized Grade 12 student Sargun Singh Bajaj who is one of only six students in the world to achieve a perfect score on this year’s College Board Advanced Placement calculus exam. His calculus teacher Suminder Singh was also recognized.
The WSO also held intercommunity dinners in Brampton, Calgary and Edmonton along with WSO’s annual Parliamentary Dinner in Ottawa prior to the Surrey event.
During the Ottawa Parliamentary Dinner held on June 3rd, WSO honoured filmmaker David R. Gray for his work in uncovering the history of early Sikh pioneers in Canada with films such as Lumber Lions (2012), Canadian Soldier Sikhs (2011), and Searching for the Sikhs of Tod Inlet (2009).
The Seva Food Bank was recognized during the Toronto dinner on June 8th for its exemplary work in serving those in need in Mississauga. The Seva Food Bank was established by Sikhs Serving Canada in 2010 and serves approximately 600 client families every month.
The World Sikh Organization of Canada (WSO) is a non-profit international 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.