A Recap of WSO’s Annual June 2011 Human Rights Events

On Sunday June 12, the World Sikh Organization of Canada’s series of June human rights events  concluded with the WSO’s Surrey Inter-community dinner at the Punjab Banquet Hall.  Earlier events had taken place in Ottawa, Brampton and Edmonton. 

WSO’s Surrey inter-community dinner was co-sponsored by  the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara Surrey, Gurdwara Dashmesh Darbar Surrey, Sri Guru Singh Sabha Surrey, Gurdwara Dukh Niwaran Surrey, Khalsa Darbar Vancouver, Gurdwara Sukh Sagar New Westminster, Kalgidhar Gurdwara Abbotsford and Baba Banda Singh Bahadar Society Abbotsford.  Approximately 650 guests were in attendance.  <--break->

The night’s keynote speakers were Colin Gonsalves, senior advocate at the Supreme Court of India and Navkiran Kaur Khalra, daughter of S. Jaswant Singh Khalra who uncovered the murder and illegal cremation of thousands of Sikhs in Punjab and was himself disappeared by the Punjab Police in 1995.  Both speakers addressed ongoing human rights issues in India and the role Canadian Sikhs could play to improve the situation on the ground.  

WSO also recognized Sukh Dhaliwal for his contribution to the Canadian Sikh community, Lt. Col Harjit Singh Sajjan for serving Canada in tours of duty of Afghanistan and Bosnia and Palbinder Kaur Shergill for her dedication and ongoing contribution to human rights issues.

Prior to the Surrey Inter-community Dinner, On June 9, Mr. Gonsalves had addressed a gathering of the Canadian Bar Association in Vancouver and spoke about ongoing human rights concerns and issues in India.  Organizations such as Amnesty International and the BC Human Rights Commission were present for the address. 

Earlier Events

Ottawa:  WSO’s June inter-community dinners began on June 1stwith the 26th annual Parliamentary Dinner in Ottawa.  The dinner was attended by guests from Ottawa, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver.  Several MPs also attended the event including Jasbir Sandhu (NDP-Surrey North) and Wai Young (Cons-Vancouver South) who addressed the gathering.  Several diplomats including representatives from the UNHCR were also in attendance. 

WSO recognized Sergeant at Arms Mr. Kevin Vickers for supporting the right of Sikhs to wear the kirpan in the Canadian Parliament.   Mr. Vickers spoke very strongly in favour of embracing multiculturalism and not tolerating but accepting the wearing of the kirpan.  The speech was covered by the Globe and Mail at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/ottawa-notebook/parliament-to-accept-and-embrace-wearing-of-kirpan-sergeant-at-arms-explains/article2045522/

WSO also recognized Tim Uppal as the first turbaned Sikh MP to be appointed a Federal Cabinet Minister.  Although Minister Uppal was unable to attend the dinner, his wife Kiran Uppal accepted the recognition on his behalf. 

The night’s keynote speaker, Colin Gonsalves addressed the issue of why 1984 must still be relevant not only to  Sikhs but to India as well.  Mr. Gonsalves explained that the impunity for the perpetrators of the 1984 genocide of Sikhs led to the massacres of Muslims in Bombay in 1993 and Gujarat in 2002 as well as Christians in Orissa in 2008.  He also touched on the issue of Prof. Davinderpal Singh Bhullar and why his conviction and death sentence violated basic human rights and natural justice norms. 

Video of the event can be seen at http://worldsikh.ca/blog/wso-staff/world-sikh-organization-canada-annual...

Brampton:  On June 3rd, WSO in association with the Sikh Activist Network hosted a seminar for youth featuring Colin Gonsalves and Navkiran Kaur Khalra. 

Both speakers talked about S. Jaswant Singh Khalra’s work and where his mission stands today. 

On June 4th, WSO held its annual Brampton dinner which was attended by close to 800 people at the Chandani Banquet Hall.  Video of the event can be seen athttp://worldsikh.ca/blog/wso-staff/mr-colin-gonsalves-speaking-world-sik...

Edmonton:  On June 8, WSO held its annual Edmonton dinner at the Maharaja Banquet Hall.  After his address, attendees were given the opportunity to ask questions of Mr. Gonsalves. 

We’d like to thank everyone who played a role in making these events a success.  Most of all we are thankful to Colin Gonsalves and his family as well as to Navkiran Kaur Khalra who took time away from their busy schedules to raise awareness about these critical human rights issues. 

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