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Canada Group Seeks To Restore Respect To Canadian Sikhs


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
A group of Canadian Sikhs is seeking to win respect for the community.The group says it is tired of being covert - and overt - snide attacks on the community, particularly in the media, while noting these have escalated over the last six months.

Worse, words such as terrorist, extremism and militancy are increasingly being associated with the word 'Sikh' they add.

"We need to address these issues and give our perspective on it," said Manohar Singh Bal, spokesperson for the newly formed Toronto-based Working Group in Pursuit of Justice, at a news conference.

Towards this end, the group plans to initiate a comprehensive coast-to-coast study to elicit the representative opinions of the community at large.

Specifically, the group will consult with individuals and organizations representing Canadian Sikhs - their concerns, their understanding of national and international issues, and its impact on them.

It will also consult with various religious and cultural communities of the Indian Subcontinent; all political parties on the federal and provincial levels; as well as intellectuals, academics and other experts.

The report, which will also highlight the community's contributions to Canada, will be released in November 2013.

Bal noted that internationally, Sikhs have been victimized since the Indian army attack on the Golden Temple in 1984, with their rights having been abused and violated.

Canadian Sikhs' struggle against discrimination dates back a quarter century to the Air India bombing that killed all 329 people aboard Air India Flight 182, he said.

"John Major's final report on the Air India tragedy did not address the impact of the tragedy on Canadian Sikhs, or the Canadian Sikh perspective of the disaster," Bal added.

"Sikhs are called militants and anti-India... simply because they have their own independent thinking and views," Bal said.

Thus, he contended, a peaceful and democratic movement to seek justice has been defined as "mischievous, divisive and radical."

Criminal defence lawyer Jagmeet Singh Dhaliwal said such discrimination had even resulted in such slanderous remarks as "Look at his beard, he's a terrorist," being made to his face while attending university.

"When politicians make such remarks about Sikhs on international television, it affects us, it affects our kids," added community activist Darshan Singh Ghankas.

In reply to a reporter's question harkening back to Khalistan, the group explained this was a separate issue and not directly related to what they were discussing.

They also felt recent incidents - where community members at gurdwaras were involved in unseemly disputes that even led to a kirpan being flashed - were in no way to blame for its reputation today. "It happens in every community," said Ghankas.

But he agreed the community feels India continues to reach out a long arm even today that impacts Canadian Sikhs.




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