OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(November 25th, 2007) - The World Sikh Organization of Canada (WSO) expresses its concern and disappointment over Canadian immigration’s new discriminatory approach towards visiting Sikh preachers.
There being no seminary in Canada, all Sikh Gurdwaras have to rely on groups of hymn singers and preachers referred to as Ragi Jathas, visiting from India on short visits.
This long established practice is now being subjected to offensive and unacceptable new questioning and arbitrary delays and denials by Canadian Immigration personnel.
Groups that have visited Canada, the United States and other western countries on several occasions in the past are now being grilled with an extensive new questionnaire that includes highly offensive issues like asking them if they are members of Al-Qaida.
WSO Canada President Gurpreet Singh Bal asked, “Since when have Sikhs been associated with Al-Qaida? Immigration Department has all the information pertaining to groups that have visited Canada before. Needless interrogation of such groups and arbitrary denial of visas is a totally avoidable disruption that hinders Gurdwaras’ ability to provide spiritual and religious services to Canadian Sikh community.”
The Sikh community of Canada is very concerned about Immigration officials asking the applicant groups if they have preached in the district of Amritsar, where the Sikhs highest seat is situated. That is in no way relevant to the groups’ ability to provide necessary professional and spiritual services to our congregations here, and it amounts to discriminatory and dilatory treatment of professional preachers needed for essential religious and community services.
WSO calls upon the government of Canada to issue appropriate directives to immigration officials in New Delhi, and Chandigarh to stop unnecessary harassment of religious preachers and Ragi Jathas.
For more information, please contact Maj(retd.) Jasbeer Singh, Media Relations, Tel. 780-457-3333, Cell. 780-235-6000, email: [email protected]
Amanpreet Singh Bal, Tel. 905-567-1795, Cel. 647-224-0000, email: [email protected]