Coretta Scott King, a great civil rights leader and the wife of Martin Luther King Junior, once said, “The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.” The Sikh-Canadian community epitomizes this value; we embrace the communities that we live and work in, through selfless acts of service and compassion.
As a result of the uniqueness of our religion and our appearance, our brave community has been bearing the brunt of racism from the Komagata Maru incident, over one hundred years ago, to present day.
The negative narrative associated with the Sikh-Canadian community recently in the media is an example of this prejudice. Sikh-Canadians have faced these acts with significant courage and continue to emerge as shining examples of resilience and humility. Through numerous free community kitchens (langars), food drives, equality initiatives, youth outreach programs, and blood donations clinics, Sikh-Canadians bespeak the Sikh character of helping and supporting fellow human beings through selfless service. Sikh-Canadians believe that service to humanity is in fact service to God.
The attributes of Sikh-Canadians that I have mentioned are already very well known throughout Canada. I write to express the sense of pain I share with my fellow members of the Sikh-Canadian community which has resulted from the baseless criticism of the Sikh-Canadian community over the course of the last month.
I have no intention of providing an opinion on the presence of Jaspal Atwal at the Canadian High Commissioner’s reception during Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s state visit to India, the presence of Talwinder Singh Parmar’s pictures at events, the individual which orchestrated the Air India attack, or the politics behind these discussions. I feel pain on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of peaceful, honest and hardworking Sikh-Canadians that have become unintentional subjects of these controversies, by no fault of their own.
I feel pain on behalf of the children that are bullied and criticized because the Sikh-Canadian community has been unfairly painted as a community of terrorists.
I feel pain for the Sikh-Canadians that volunteer to help the less fortunate by distributing free food to the homeless in downtown Toronto, that somehow are considered members of a terrorist entity, without basis. I know that countless Sikh-Canadians working in factories, offices and businesses are enduring the same emotions. This is extremely unfair to Sikh-Canadians, and counter to the values of diversity and inclusion we celebrate as Canadians.
I have no sympathy for individuals guilty of perpetrating violence against humanity; I categorically condemn all acts of violence. As a Member of Parliament and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue, I have the privilege of interacting with people from all walks of life. Each community in Canada embodies unique and distinguished characteristics that help define them as Canadians; diversity is our strength. This applies to the Sikh-Canadian community in the same way it applies to other communities of Canadians. As a Sikh-Canadian, I am particularly proud of the Sikh spiritual concept of selfless service to humanity.
We cannot deny that a deep sense of pain still exists within the Sikh community as a result of the deaths of innocent Sikhs in 1984. However, this pain is equally and genuinely felt by Hindus, Muslims, Christians, and individuals of all other faiths. Raising your voice to seek justice for the victims of senseless violence can never be termed as terrorism. This is precisely why the people from all walks of life including Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims have been asking for justice for the 1984 victims and their families. This has been my experience here in Canada. This sentiment was reinforced during my recent visit to India, particularly in Delhi.
When we think of a long spell of terrorism in the Punjab region of India, the hard and painful fact is that it was Punjabis, both Sikhs and Hindus, who endured misery the most. I have grown up listening to so many discomforting stories about how Punjabis had to bear the cost of terrorism through loss of life and property. No one would want this to happen to anyone in any segment of the world.
I feel that it is important to genuinely share the pain of the peace-loving, hard-working Sikh-Canadian community of which I am an integral part of. I will sum-up my feelings with a quote from Andrea Gibson,” You can have cold war with yourself, even in the summertime”.
About Ms. Kamal Khera – Kamal Khera is the Member of Parliament for Brampton West and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue. She is a registered nurse, community volunteer and a political activist. Ms. Khera serves on the National Finance Committee as a non-voting member.