Toronto Star Anti-Sikh posters show up on University of Alberta campus

Edmonton university condemns racist posters placed at a dozen sites, as campus organizers plan a pro-diversity event in response.


A screenshot of a racist Sikh poster on the University of Alberta campus posted by Laura Porter to the Overheard at the University of Alberta group. 
screenshot of a racist Sikh poster on the University of Alberta campus posted by Laura Porter to the Overheard at the University of Alberta group.  (FACEBOOK - LAURA PORTER)  

The University of Alberta moved quickly this week to remove racist posters that showed up on campus featuring the image of a Sikh man in a marigold-yellow turban and the words: “If you’re so obsessed with your third-world culture, go the f--- back to where you came from!” 

Twelve identical posters were found on the campus Monday, including one at the university’s main library.

The University of Alberta’s Protective Services are investigating the incident, said Alison Turner, manager, strategic communications.

 “We do not know who put the posters up on the University of Alberta campus,” she said. “Next steps will depend on the outcome of the investigation.”

 “We’re obviously all very disappointed by the xenophobic posters,” Fahim Rahman, president of the students’ union, wrote in a statement condemning their placement.

“The University of Alberta is an incredibly diverse campus, with students and faculty from all over the world who follow a variety of faiths. Personally, I’ve always felt that the U of A is a welcoming and accepting campus, and I’m very troubled that someone — whether they’re a student or someone from the surrounding community — feels otherwise.”

Rahman said he felt “encouraged by the positive, constructive way many students have responded to these posters, organizing events and having conversations about acceptance and diversity on campus.”

The poster shows the words “F--- YOUR TURBAN across the man’s headgear, includes the hashtags #Non-integrative #Invasion” and links to an anti-immigration website,

A message posted on stated that the organization condemned the poster, and permission was not sought from Immigration Watch Canada to circulate such a poster.

“We strongly believe in dissecting the immigration issue with constructive arguments, supported by irrefutable facts,” says the statement. “We do not support flyers taking on a strictly vulgar and emotionally-charged narrative!! Using our URL and/or trademark without proper approval will not be tolerated, and violators will be pursued.”

Arundeep Singh Sandhu, a former U of A student, along with the University of Alberta Students’ Union and the Sikh Students’ Association, plan to organize an event next Tuesday on campus in response to these posters.

At the event, students of other faiths, cultures and backgrounds can have turbans tied, and can pick up books about Sikhism. Education is one of the ways to fight such incidents, he said.

“It is a chance to connect one-on-one … ask questions that you didn’t feel comfortable asking,” he said.

Such incidents have happened before, Sandhu said. But the openness, acceptance and diversity of Canadians has always countered them, he added.

University president David Turpin said the university is open to all people and takes pride in the strength of its diverse community.

The World Sikh Organization of Canada stated in a response on its website that Sikhs are an integral part of the Canadian fabric. “Many turbaned Sikhs serve Canada in the federal cabinet, armed forces and many other capacities,” it said.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, in a message posted on social media, said he is proud to be Canadian, proud of his service to Canada, and proud of his turban.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also posted a response, using the trending anti-racism hashtag #MakeItAwkward : “… and we’re proud of the enormous contributions Sikhs make to this country every day.”

U of A doesn’t have any information about religious and ethnic composition on campus, said Alix Kemp, external communications and media advisor for the U of A’s students’ union.

According to the 2011 census, there are some 455,000 Sikhs in Canada. The first came to Canada more than a century ago.

In May, Trudeau issued a formal apology on behalf of the Government of Canada for its role in the Komagata Maru incident, in which a ship carrying 376 Indian passengers was turned away from Vancouver in 1914 and, after two months in limbo, returned to India where at least 19 people were killed by British soldiers and others imprisoned. 

Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.