Toronto Star: Brampton Sikh elementary school vandalized by racist graffiti

Graffiti attacks against Sikhs are not uncommon, said Balpreet Singh, acting executive director of the World Sikh Organization of Canada.

Laura Kane 
Staff Reporter

Ripsodhak Grewal doesn’t know why teenage vandals would scrawl swastikas and the letters “KKK” onto the walls of a Sikh elementary school.

He does know something must change in Brampton, which has seen two high-profile racist incidents in recent months.

“It’s hard to imagine this happening in the 21st century,” he said. “I’m beginning to wonder what we are missing when we are educating these young children.”

Grewal is principal of Khalsa Community School, the province’s largest private Sikh elementary. He first saw the graffiti Tuesday morning, after neighbours reported it to police.

Security video from Monday night shows three young people — their faces too blurry to be identified — spray-painting the back gymnasium wall.

Brampton is home to the largest concentration of South Asians in Canada, at 31.7 per cent of the population. The graffiti incident comes just months after a racist YouTube video in which a 16-year-old Brampton girl equated “turbans” with “terrorists” and complained her entire school was “brown.”

Khalsa moved last June from a majority Sikh community in Malton to a more mixed neighbourhood in Brampton, after purchasing a former Catholic school building.

This is apparently the first racially motivated attack against the school. When it first moved into the neighborhood, vandals smashed the school bus windows, prompting Grewal to install security cameras.

Peel Regional Police spokesman Peter Brandwood said police do not have any suspects, but will increase their presence in the area.

“Hate-based crimes in our region always remain a priority,” he said.

The region saw 76 hate crimes in 2010, down from a high of 95 in 2009. The majority of those crimes were vandalism.

Graffiti attacks against Sikhs are not uncommon, said Balpreet Singh, acting executive director of the World Sikh Organization of Canada.

“We’ve been quite concerned about incidents across the country,” he said.

A Montreal temple in December was spray-painted with the words “F--- Indians,” while in April vandals scrawled “terrorist” over Vaisakhi Parade posters in Surrey, B.C.

Perminder Sekhon, a realtor whose two children attend Khalsa school, said he has occasionally heard racist comments from teenagers. Still, he insists the neighbourhood is safe and welcoming.

“It’s just troubled young people,” he said. “Even if I got the chance to meet them, I’ll not say they must be punished. They need counseling, that’s it.”

The vandals face potential charges of mischief, but courts can take into account hate-based motivations as aggravating factors.

A man who spray-painted swastikas and racist epithets onto an interracial couple’s home in Newmarket was found guilty of mischief and criminal harassment in June.


With files from Star news services

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