Fraser Health Authority Apology to Sikh Community Not Enough

Ottawa – March 25, 2010: The World Sikh Organization of Canada (WSO) is disturbed to learn that for the second time in the last two years, reports have emerged of a Sikh patient’s beard having been cut at a Fraser Health Authority (FHA) facility. Adherents of the Sikh faith maintain uncut hair as a symbol of the faith, signifying acceptance of God’s will. According to reports, an elderly Sikh patient’s beard was cut by a FHA nurse shortly before his death. Although FHA has apologized for the incident, hollow apologies without corrective measures to ensure such incidents are not repeated, are not enough to satisfy the Sikh community.

FHA services an area with the highest concentrations of Sikhs in Canada. The Sikh community has also generously supported FHA with successful fundraising campaigns and a $5million pledge of support. After a 2008 incident of a Sikh patient’s beard having been cut, FHA made a commitment to educate its staff on religious and cultural sensitivity and specifically about the requirements of the Sikh faith. WSO had offered to provide free training to aid in the process, but the offer was not accepted.

Speaking about the incident, WSO’s senior policy advisor Gian Singh Sandhu said, “Our deepest sympathies are with the affected family. It is unacceptable that an incident like this can still take place at Fraser Health. In 2008 the Sikh community was assured the problem would be solved but it is clear that some staff are still completely ignorant about Sikh religious practices.”

WSO President, Prem Singh Vinning said, “The Sikh community has always stepped up to the plate to help Fraser Health. In order to retain the community’s support and confidence, Fraser Health needs to make sure that an incident like this is never repeated.”

WSO calls upon FHA to implement a formal education program for all staff in dealing with the needs of the Sikh community. The Sikh community must be reassured that steps are being taken to ensure that incidents like this are never repeated. Once again, WSO offers its assistance without charge in facilitating that process.

The World Sikh Organization (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.

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