"if you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen
the side of the oppressor." - Desmond Tutu.

History maker Harjit Singh Sajjan joins campaign against racism Featured

 

On the 550th birth anniversary of the founder of Sikhism, Canada’s first turbaned Sikh Defence Minister joined Hands Against Racism – a campaign started by Spice Radio in 2015.

Harjit Singh Sajjan dipped his palm in colours and left a handprint on a sheet of paper alongside a message that read, “All of us must do our part to stop racism!"

As part of the campaign initiated on Martin Luther King’s birthday several years ago by the Burnaby-based radio station, participants are encouraged to colour their hands and put handprints on paper, and write down a message against racial discrimination.

It was a special occasion for Sikhs, including Sajjan, who were celebrating the birthday of Guru Nanak Devji on Tuesday, November 12. Nanak established the Sikh religion, denounced discrimination on basis of caste, colour and gender, and stood up for human rights.  

On that morning Sajjan went on Spice Radio to to share his own story of the fight against racism as a young child. But he also cautioned  listeners about growing bigotry in Canada, insisting that there is a need to be vigilant about divisive politics and polarization. 

A day before, Sajjan had attended Remembrance Day events that coincided with a controversy stirred by hockey commentator Don Cherry, who questioned the nationalism of immigrants. According to Cherry, immigrants weren’t wearing poppies on the day to show respect to fallen soldiers. Deeply disturbed by those remarks, Sajjan said that this was uncalled for, since not only do immigrants wear poppies, but the Sikhs had also participated in World War II and gave their lives.

Ironically, Sajjan, who served in the Canadian forces before jumping into politics, earlier headed a regiment that was responsible for forcing  the Komagata Maru to leave in 1914. The Japanese vessel, carrying more than 300 South Asian passengers who were not allowed to disembark in Vancouver, was forcibly returned under a discriminatory immigration law. The Canadian authorities back then wanted to keep this country as a "white man’s land". As a result, the Komagata Maru ship driven out under the shadow of guns. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has officially apologized in Parliament for that racist incident. Sajjan explained to Spice Radio how emotional it was for him to know that he headed the same regiment that drove away the ship with Sikh elders aboard.

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