Sikh group braces for racist backlash in the wake of Canadian MP’s claims

Ottawa: The World Sikh Organization of Canada is concerned that a new film highlighting a B.C. MP’s claims that Canada harbours a Sikh extremist movement will prompt another round of racist attacks on Canada’s more than 400,000 Sikhs.

Travelling Light: A Journey with Ujjal Dosanjh was shot over the last four years by Meera Dewan, who has done more than 30 documentaries for the Indian government. The film premiered in New Delhi Sept. 9 at a screening that included senior Indian government officials and is expected to air in Canada on Omni Television.

Ms. Dewan told the Globe and Mail that the film was inspired by Mr. Dosanjh “…speaking up against the Sikh violence still brewing” in Canada.

WSO President Prem Singh Vinning says there is no evidence of a Sikh extremist movement in Canada, but the Liberal politician’s persistent rhetoric is causing a backlash for Canadian Sikhs.

“We see an upsurge in hateful comments about Sikhs every time Mr. Dosanjh claims there is extremism here,” Mr. Vinning says.

Mr. Vinning added that Mr. Dosanjh has made it so acceptable to attack Sikhs that even the MP’s own Facebook fan page hosts some ugly comments.

“You guys needs to stop threatening this guy, all of you pakis are going to get arrested, stop with the bomb threats, they will find your turban filled with C4!” wrote Blinky OhNine, a Terrace resident, in April.

“They rape there kids and beat there wifes and pay for hookers and scam each other and others! The young men wanna be blk and females are just dirty sl*** untill there fathers comes and beats them and remind them who get the p**** first. I lived in surrey long enough to see how they are…THEY ARE F***** USELESS PEOPLE. HE IS A EAST INDIAN GORDON CAMBLE, [sic]” wrote Germaine David, also in April.

Gian Singh Sandhu, a senior policy advisor with the WSO, says the human rights group decided to speak out because of the increasingly violent tone in the anti-Sikh remarks.

In August, the WSO also requested Craigslist-Vancouver remove the growing number offensive threads. And they contacted Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff and asked him to look into Mr. Dosanjh’s inflammatory remarks.

Mr. Sandhu says their organization has been patient with Mr. Dosanjh’s comments for the last four years, partly out of recognition of the MP’s own traumatic personal history.

“We understand the impact that the horrific beating must have had on him. However, this does not excuse the making of irresponsible comments against a highly-visible minority. We are concerned that a member of parliament is making remarks that appear to be encouraging the kind of prejudice that has implications for the safety of Canadian Sikhs,” Mr. Sandhu says.

He adds that today Canadian Sikhs are even more integrated into mainstream society than they were when the Air India bombing took place in 1985. They have overwhelmingly rejected any form of violence and, as the Major Commission Report noted, Sikhs at that time reported rumours of the bombing to the RCMP, who ignored them. “Meanwhile, the unfair comments Mr. Dosanjh persists in making about Canadian Sikhs are causing a lot of concern.”

The World Sikh Organization of Canada (WSO) is a non-profit 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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