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Watts Looks To Next Year's Parade

source: http://www.theprovince.com/news/Watts+looks+next+year+parade/2937526/story.html

Watts looks to next year's parade

Mayor values celebration but wants it to be 'inclusive, welcoming to everyone'

By Ian Austin, The Province - April 22, 2010


Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts has met with organizers of the Vaisakhi parade 'to determine how to best move forward' after one float this year allegedly depicted Sikh terrorists.

Photograph by: Les Bazso, PNG, file, The Province

Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts moved Wednesday to calm the growing controversy over last Saturday's Vaisakhi parade.

Watts -- who abruptly left the celebration when told that a controversial float featuring images of terrorists that some Sikhs view as martyrs was in the parade -- met with Sikh representatives to see what the next move will be on holding the event next year.

Saturday's parade stirred up old divisions between Sikh moderates and extremists.

"We met with the organizing committee in order to determine how to best move forward," said Watts, who has threatened to take over the event and is being attacked by some Sikh groups.

"Vaisakhi is a very important community event and our goal is to ensure the Vaisakhi celebrations in Surrey are inclusive and welcoming to everyone."

Watts made peace with representatives of the Sikh temple at the centre of the controversy, the Gurdwara Sahib Dasmesh Darbar.

"On behalf of the temple executive, we appreciate and thank the mayor and city employees for the opportunity to discuss the issues," said temple representative Moninder Singh.

"We look forward to working with the city to ensure that we move forward in a positive and constructive manner that benefits all parties involved."

The parade was controversial even before it started. Liberal MP Ujjal Dosanjh and B.C. Liberal MLA Dave Hayer -- outspoken opponents of Sikh extremism -- were told to stay away, or be responsible for their own safety.

The pair boycotted the parade, along with Premier Gordon Campbell, while Watts attended until made aware of the presence of the controversial float.

Watts was attacked Wednesday in writing by the Canadian Sikh Coalition, which forwarded a letter to media outlets.

"Mayor Watts has taken an issue that may have had legitimate concerns and expediently turned it into an all-out discriminatory attack against the Sikh community," reads the letter, in part.

"This clumsiness [is reflected] in her unfortunate and hurtful words."

The letter goes on to say that the floats did not contain images of terrorists.
Former Canadian Sikh Coalition member Jagdev Atwal questioned how many people the coalition actually represents.

"I don't think they represent a lot of people," said Atwal. "They always say something."

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