WSO in 2011: A Year in Review

The World Sikh Organization of Canada (WSO) completed its 27th year of service in 2011 and once again this year we’ve been able to accomplish so much with your support. 

Below is a brief overview of WSO’s activities in 2011 in our three main areas of operation:  media, legal and advocacy & education:

Media

Over the course of 2011, WSO continued to closely monitor news stories affecting the Sikh story and presented the Canadian Sikh point of view in an effective and articulate manner.

In January 2011, WSO’s legal team was denied entry to the Quebec National Assembly after being invited to make submissions on Bill 94.  In the following days, WSO was featured in newspapers across the country as well as television, including CTV, CBC, OMNI and others.  WSO’s legal counsel, Balpreet Singh also appeared on CBC’s “Power & Politics” with Evan Solomon.  What was most heartening about the coverage of the kirpan issue was the overwhelming support that was offered by editorials in the Globe & MailOttawa Citizen and others.   WSO continues to work on the issue of the accommodation of the kirpan at the Quebec National Assembly. 

In addition to the weekly “Ask the Religious Experts” column in the Ottawa Citizen about the Sikh perspective on various religious and social issues, this year WSO also published editorials in The Mark and the Georgia Straight.   

Legal

In addition to answering regular inquiries from members of the community, WSO continues to be involved in several cases involving the right of Sikhs to freely wear their articles of faith across Canada.  Some of our successes this year were:

  • Worked with the BC Sherriff Services in developing a policy to ensure that Sikhs who are taken into custody are allowed to wear their dastaars.  Prior to this policy, Sikhs were photographed without their dastaar and then taken to court with the option of wearing a ‘rumaal’.  With WSO’s intervention, the dastaar and individual was wearing will now be returned after being searched. 
  • WSO secured the right of Ammerdeep Singh to wear the dastaar of his choice while driving a cab.  Singh’s ID had been frozen by his company because it was alleged his dastaar was not in accordance with the company’s dress code.
  • Seneca College student Jaspreet Singh was stopped by campus security and told he should either remove or conceal his kirpan.  With WSO help, Jaspreet Singh is now able to freely wear the kirpan, and Seneca College agreed to prepare a policy document and training material for staff. 
  • Some of the issues WSO continues to handle include the wearing of kirpans in courtrooms and gas masks and helmet requirements for Sikhs working in industrial areas.

Canadian Sikhs have a right to fearlessly practice their faith and wear their articles of faith.  If you or someone you know is facing discrimination of any kind, please contact WSO legal counsel Balpreet Singh atbalpreetsingh@worldsikh.org or by phone

Advocacy & Education

WSO continues to be involved in ongoing education and advocacy projects both within the Sikh community and in the mainstream.  Some of our projects in 2011 included:

  • In November, WSO in partnership with the Human Rights Law Network launched the Khalra Centre for Human Rights Defenders in New Delhi.  The Centre will provide assistance to human rights defenders and also focus on human rights issues in Punjab.
  • Advocacy in Ottawa:  WSO is regularly in Ottawa, engaging with our elected officials on issues of concern to the Sikh community.  In June, WSO hosted its annual Parliamentary Dinner where we honoured Sgt. At Arms Kevin Vickers for his role in protecting the right of Sikhs to wear the kirpan.  Our special guest this year was Colin Gonsalves from the Human Rights Law Network.
  • WSO is working with the Canadian Race Relations Foundation and other faith communities on the Interfaith and Belonging Project, which aims to educate Canadians on interfaith issues.
  • WSO held its biennial convention in Kelowna BC, where discussions took place on important issues affecting the Sikh community.  WSO’s new executive was chosen of which half the directors are young Sikh Canadians.  The film “A Little  Revolution” was also screened. 
  • WSO in partnership with the Sikh Activist Network launched the Butterfly Effect Project which travelled to various universities in BC and Ontario to educate students on the effects of human rights violations in Punjab and what role Canadian Sikhs can play to make a difference.

WSO continues to provide education and training seminars on the Sikh faith and human rights issues to employers and government on a free of cost basis.  WSO was consulted by several governmental bodies, correctional institutes and employers on accommodation issues and to assist in the preparation of educational material. 

WSO and YOU

While WSO has been actively serving the Sikh community for the past 27 years, this seva isn’t possible without your support.  WSO is up to the challenge of fearlessly protecting Sikh interests but we need your help.

Every year WSO spends tens of thousands of dollars on advocating for and defending Sikh rights.  WSO receives no government assistance or grants.  Although we are proud of our accomplishments in 2012, there is a lot more that needs to be done.  In order to meet our goals for 2012 and to serve the community in an even more comprehensive manner, we need the community’s support. 

You can contribute to WSO by volunteering your services or by offering financial support through your donations.  You can donate online by clicking HERE.