Currently Browsing: Canada
The Roar of a Lioness: Sikh Women in the Diaspora

Our mothers and grandmothers would be proud. If we take a moment to pause, we’ll see the amazing mobilization that is occurring in the diaspora around Sikh women’s issues, particularly by youth. I’m not quite sure if it is a legit rise in websites or events or whether we are simply paying more attention to the topic. Regardless, it is clear that there are now more forums and platforms for discussion cultivating the need for women (and men!) to come together and address issues affecting Half the Sky. This post will give a round-up of some amazing work that is happening in our community, bringing together our qaum to discuss important issues affecting Sikh women.

logo300.jpg{Kaurista} It is clear that Sikh women, like all women around the world, value an open space to discuss issues that directly impact us. Whether it is conversations about clothes, hair, identity or our activism – there needs to exist a space that is catered to providing Sikh girls and women with a sense of unity. This type of comraderie cannot be understated – it impacts an individual’s self esteem and confidence in a substantial way. With the launch of and the immediate posting of the link all over Facebook, it is hard not to notice how much support there is for this type of forum. Kaurista provides conversations on six different topics including, Lifestyle, Style & Beauty, Family, Inspiration and Health & Wellness. One of my favourite sections of the website is “Ask Kaurista” where questions related to wanting to marry a sardar, going to prom, or overcoming alcohol abuse are answered. The site is not only aimed at Sikh girls. In fact, it actively includes Sikh men in discussions – and perhaps the hope is that through these types of discussions, Sikh men will value how truly dynamic Sikh women are!


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Sikh Vatavaran Diwas Di Vadhaiyan

If you haven’t heard yet, March 14th, the First of the month of Chet in the Nanakshahi Calendar is being commemorated by Sikhs across six continents as Sikh Vatavaran Diwas, or Sikh Environment Day.

Following an official statement from the Akal Takht, this week over 250 Gurdwaras, schools, and Sikh organizations around the world, along with Takht Sri Kesgarh Sahib and Takht Sri Hazur Sahib, will focus kirtan and katha on kudrat, host tree plantings, clean ups, nagar kirtans, children’s art displays, and Khalsa school lessons on the theme of the environment.

Heres a video taken of the British Columbia sangat during an entire weekend of successful events organized by the Sikh Green Team, in conjunction with the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara and Sukh Sagar Gurdwara Sahib. Sarya Nu Sri Guru Har Rai Sahib Ji de Gurgaddi Diwas Di Lakh Lakh Vadhaiyan Hove!

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Canadas House Sikhs on the front lines defending colonization and promoting ethnic cleansing.

Malcom X once designated the term house negro to describe the African American slaves that were unwilling to leave their marginally comfortable lives subjugated by their white slave owners and very likely to support the oppressive system of slavery. These house negros continued to exist throughout history helping perpetuate atrocities against their fellow African Americans, conspiring to no end to keep oppressive systems in place. Nowadays, we have a house Negro as a president, and in Canada, we have house Sikhs.

The last few years have been vital for the right wing in Canada. Canada has taken an unprecedented role in the international stage in upholding oppressive regimes and systems and continuing its role in the war on terror and the war in Afghanistan. Two wars which have produced over a million dead bodies, tens of millions more displaced and dispossessed, and countless lives traumatized. But we all know this; we all have been witness to the horrors of these wars and theres no need to continue on exploring their horrors, but what is important is to see where our own Sikh leaders have been while millions of innocent lives were destroyed. What we find, surprisingly, is a lack of concern or at the extreme, complicity and support.

Being a Canadian and being sensitive to our communities suffering and that of other communities, I find myself pitted against a majority that is suffering from apathy. I see a Panjabi, Sikh community consistently disenfranchised from Canadian polity yet being consistently utilized as a major voting bank by exploitative politicians who invest in our communities apathetic and introverted nature. They see a community willing to throw support to any tom, dick and harry that greets them with a sat-sri-akal and a half assed smile and we all too willingly welcome them in our homes and institutions. This is a narrative we find almost universally everywhere and though it does not necessarily imply a problem relative to only our community, it is a systemic problem that has to be recognized and corrected. But even with these corrective measures, we, in Canada, have begun to see these house Sikhs prop up and this is going to be a struggle onto itself.


Letter to Community from Seva Food Bank

seva.jpgI received an email from a friend and wanted to share it with the rest of the Langar-ites.Congratulationsto the whole team of Seva Food Bank from all of us at the Langar Hall.

Monumental events usually flash by at such a speed that those involved rarely have a chance to appreciate what has just taken place. Wednesday September 1st, 2010 was just such a day. The opening of the Seva Food Bank to clients was, of course, a big day in the lives of those who have worked to make it a reality and those families being served. What made yesterday even more significant is what it means to Sikh-Canadians across the country. We believe the Seva Food Bank provides us with a template on how we engage with the rest of Canada and how we develop our next generation of leaders.

To our knowledge, this is the first permanent physical Sikh institution designed solely to serve the greater non-Sikh Canadian community. Serving families in need provides us with an opportunity to demonstrate our Sikh values on a daily basis – not through a PR campaign, but through personal displays of charity, humility and service. Every interaction with client families allows volunteers to demonstrate the best of Sikhi, not just with kind words, but with loving meaningful actions. Canada has given us so much and we need to give back in a visible, impactful way. This is why the parent organization of the Seva Food Bank is simply named Sikhs Serving Canada.


The Turban and The Crown: Hoodini & KinG!

37921_138174189545669_120944144602007_277614_3529312_n.jpgHere on TLH, we’ve covered a variety of talented musicians includingSikh Knowledge, Mandeep Sethi and Humble the Poet. We’ve been following these individuals, their music, new collaborations and of course new albums. I am a huge believer that youth (yes, we have a particular interest in Sikh youth here in TLH) should be encouraged to pursue their talents regardless of what may be expected of us. These musicians are doing just that – and they are creating incredible music that speaks to the masses.

This post is for Hoodini & KinG. I have to say Hoodini is one my favourites. Not only is he extremely talented (listen to track 6/Keep it Rollin’ and track 10/Til I’m Through of the mixtape) but he’s a nice guy (a really nice guy)… and the kid has serious style. It’s like he knows he’s going to make a mark on the world, and is dressed for the occasion…

So i didn’t mean to just mention this mixtape in passing – you really have to download and listen to it yourself. It is a really dynamic piece of work. Hoodini & KinG! Present: A California Classic, is available here. While Hoodini is the emcee, the album was produced by KinG! nKeith Rice – a 21 year old producer from the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles (he’s really really talented). Even though the two went to different high schools, their mutual love of hip-hop was destined to bring their forces together so that they could make music that would “make people fall in love again.”

I asked Hoodini what inspires him and what he told me was this,


When Lions Roar II

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28687_877972245001_58005300_51463204_3062881_n.jpgLast year, Maple Leaf Sikh highlighted a revolutionary event which occurred in Toronto and brought together young Sikhs to pay homage to 1984. The event, hosted by the Sikh Activist Network, returns this year and brings together artists such as Hoodini, Mandeep Sethi, Selena Dhillon and Yudh Gatka Akhara and more. For those of you who are dealing with post-Sikh-conference-bluesWhen Lions Roar II promises to be yet another excellent event bringing together Sikh youth in an impactful way.

A Night of Hip Hop, Poetry, Spoken Word, Gatka and More

To Remember 1984

Friday June 25

Mirage Banquet Hall

Admission: Pay What You Can

All Ages Doors Open at 6pm

A Sad Chapter

ragi.jpegAs many Sikhs throughout the world are gearing up to celebrate Vaisakhi, we continuously get disheartening news as well. In Toronto there was a shameful incident this weekend.

From the Toronto Star:
A former judge, now a prominent Brampton lawyer, is in hospital with serious stab wounds when a mob turned deadly at a Sikh temple on Friday evening.
Manjit Mangat, 53, is in hospital with multiple stab wounds to his abdomen, thighs and legs and cuts on his face after he was attacked inside the Sikh Lehar Centre, a temple at Bramsteele Rd. near Steeles Ave. and Hwy. 410.[link]
The event came about as some Sikhs went to protest a talk being given by former Akal Takht Jathedar, Professor Darshan Singh. Professor Darshan Singh has become the center of controversy due to his views on the Dasam Granth. Recently he has been declared tankhaiya by Jathedar Gurbachan Singh. I will not discuss the issue in all of its context here, due to a lack of time, but have raised some issues prior. However, in that post I expressed:
The worst exhibit I saw ..and I know BOTH sides are guilty of this, was the declaration that the other side are not Sikhs. Both sides need to mature and grow up. I hope the Sikh youth can provide a better example for our elders.[link]
Unfortunately it has now led to bloodshed.
Fraser Health Authority Apologizes (Again) For Cutting Sikh Patient’s Beard

Just over a year ago we read about a Canadian health organization’sapology for accidently shaving off a Sikh patient’s beard. In that case, a 70-year-old patient was admitted into the intensive care unit after a shooting and while under the care of the hospital, had his beard removed by a nurse. At the time of the incident, Fraser Health Authority acknowledged their mistake in not understanding the importance of the beard for the Sikh faith and assured the community that awareness was raised across the organization.

Fraser Health Authority is now apologizing again for a similar incident which occurred at one of their nursing homes, where an elderly Sikh man’s beard was cut.

B.C.’s Fraser Health Authority is investigating why staff at a seniors care facility made the “terribly unfortunate human error” of cutting the beard off an elderly Sikh patient, the second time such an incident has occurred in the past two years. A nurse cut the man’s beard out of what she thought was medical necessity. [link]

The “medical necessity” has not been disclosed. Fraser Health Authority’s CEO, Nigel Murray, appeared on a Punjabi radio station yesterday to apologize for the incident.


URGENT ACTION NOW – Kamal Nath, Murderer of Sikhs

san.jpgIn some countries, those that perpetrate crimes against humanity are punished. In India, too often (depending on the political party), the perpetrators are awarded at the ballot boxes or are decorated with cabinet positions. This is the story of Kamal Nath.

Kamal Nath is Indias current Union Cabinet Minister of Road Transport and Highways. It was on many of those same roadways in Delhi that Kamal Nath in 1984 personally led thousands of paid goons in the government-sponsored pogroms against the Sikhs. Thousands were bloodily massacred; thousands were raped; many lives destroyed and devastated. Many eyewitnesses have testified that Kamal Nath lead groups to attack the Sikhs seeking shelter at Gurdwara Rakab Ganj (the historic site where the body of Guru Tegh Bahadur was cremated after his shaheedi), killing many Sikhs and destroying the grounds of the Gurdwara.

Ensaafs report provides detailed information on Kamal Naths leadership and involvement during those dark nights in Delhi. The Sikh Activist Network in Canada (one of the spearhead groups in the coalition) has also prepared a short report, highlighting specific sections written by lead human rights attorney for the Delhi widows HS Phoolka in regards to the role of Kamal Nath.

Now, this month he has been invited to Toronto to lecture. As Sikhs, as Canadians, as people of conscious, as humans – we must act now.


Darker Side of the Vancouver Olympic Games

Just as I posted the previous picture, I came upon this interview of Am Johal on Democracy Now!

About Am Johal – Chair of the Impact on Communities Coalition, an Olympic watchdog group. He also initiated Canadas 2010 Homelessness Hunger Strike, a rolling, nationwide hunger strike calling for a national housing program in Canada. He has worked on inner-city issues and has completed a human rights internship in Israel in international advocacy with the Mossawa Center, the Advocacy Center for Arab Citizens of Israel. He is currently working on the book The Grand Dissonance about the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict.

A brief excerpt:

Social activists who have been critical of the Olympic Games have been visited at their homes by the Integrated Security Unit, which is the unit responsible for security around the Games. Chris Shaw, a prominent anti-Olympics activist, was visited at a coffee shop near where he works at UBC. People that he knows, friends, acquaintances of his, were also visited and asked to do background on him. So I think this kind of thing that you would never suspect would exist in Canada is happening under this exception around the Games.

Vancouver Olympics 2010

The Olympics in Vancouver are in full swing. This context of this particular picture was well-advertised via Facebook. Still it is worth posting (pagh salute jag): Click here to enjoy others

The caption reads:

Jarnail Sahota carries the torch across a bridge in Ashcroft, British Columbia on Day 100 of the relay, February 6th, 2010.


One Step Forward

dixie_gurdwara.jpgWe often lament the state of our gurdwaras but we should just as often stop and think about how much we have accomplished.

Tonight I had a chance to visit the famous Ontario Khalsa Darbar (aka Dixie) Gurdwara in Mississauga/Brampton, Ontario.On a frigid Friday night in December, the place was packed with sangat and programs.

In one hall, a Hindu Panjabi family was having a bhog for a deceased elder. On the other side agurmat sangeet teacher was having a kirtan for her daughter with beautiful kirtan being sung in raag by her many young students. In the adjoining halls, the United Sikhs organization was having their 2nd Annual Global Sikh Civil Rights Conference with tonight’s opening session focusing exclusivelywomen’sissues. Upstairs, Harmeet Singh was holding his usual Friday session with hundreds of youth and their families. And to top this off Bhai (no longer Sant) Niranjan Singh Jawadi Kalan was performing kirtan to a packed hall in the main hall. Almost every program was in English or being translated into English on the screens.

So while we can (and should) continue to critically analyze the hardware (physical structures) and software (programs/initiatives) of our Sikh institutions, we need to simultaneously recognize when progress is being made.

Growing up I would have killed to have been a part of each of those individual programs happening at Dixie Gurdwara tonight (well maybe not the bhog) and today all of those functions were happening on the same day under the same roof.

On many days, it seems like we’re moving two steps back, but tonight I saw at least one step forward.


Gurdwaras Join Efforts to Address Alcohol Abuse

GlassyJunction1.JPGA charity based in Southall, called the Drug and Alcohol Action Programme (DAAP) will be joining forces with local Gurdwaras to address high rates of alcohol abuse taking place at Asian, particularly Punjabi Sikh, weddings. Perminder Dhillon, CEO of the charity states that “it is no longer acceptable to ignore the dangerous levels of alcohol drinking at these events.”

There is a mistaken view in Asian communities that religious and cultural backgrounds act as a barrier to the kind of drunken scenes so often seen in so many town centres all over the country. She said: “Many parents feel pressurized to provide a huge quantity of alcohol at weddings even if they themselves are non-drinkers”. [link]

She goes onto say that there are huge expectations on families to provide alcohol at weddings – often demanded by the groom’s side. This problem has become so extensive now that it is likened to demanding dowry and by partaking, “we end up supporting users with alcohol-related health problems during the binge-drinking period”.

Research published in the British Medical Journal suggests that men of South Asian origin in Britain are four times more likely to die of alcohol-related liver problems than other ethnic groups. Eighty percent of those South Asians who are vulnerable to alcohol-related mortality are Sikhs.

The charity has stated that the strategy they will use to combat this issue is simple – they will “name and shame” those involved and publicly condemn individuals on their website.


Begin the New Year By Reflecting On Sikhi

In the coming New Year spend January attending two Sikh events-one in Canada and the other in the United States. The Toronto Sikh Retreat and Surat Sikh Conference will be taking place during the first half of January 2010.

Toronto Sikh Retreat is a 4-day retreat in the outskirts of Toronto in a winter wonderland. It will take place from January 7-10, 2010. Sikhs of various ages from around the world come together to learn, discuss 15F.jpgand reflect on various Sikh issues to better understand ourselves and the world around us from a Sikh perspective. With a limit of 65 spaces, the retreat provides an intimate environment for intellectual and spiritual growth through small group discussions, lectures, kirtan diwans, and creative projects (in-door and outdoor). Visit the retreat website and watch the video for more information. Registration is NOW open- take advantage of the early bird special!

The Surat Sikh Conference will bring together 180 Sikh professionals in New York City & New Jersey during Martin Luther Kingn2211948217_9438.jpg Jr. long weekend (January 15-18, 2010) to share, learn, and reflect on the theme “A Journey Through Ardas”. Through guest speakers, workshops, and a nonprofit poster session, the goal of the conference is to provide a space of introspection for participants on how to view the world through a Sikh perspective. Participants attend kirtan diwans, have intellectual conversations and enjoy outdoor activities. Visit the conference website and watch the video under the “About” section for more information. Registration will open on December 5th!

Stephen Harper Visits Harmandir Sahib

Many politicians in America and Canada appeal to their Sikh constituents by visiting local Gurdwaras. Sometimes these visits include a brief speech and other times just a saroopa. Regardless, it’s usually an ask for votes.

What I particularly find powerful about Canadian politicians is that they will walk along side their Sikh constituency during Nagar Kirtans and visit the Harmandir Sahib. To me that is representative of the political power the Sikh community has in Canada. Politicians are not only appearing to give a “vote for me” speech or state a “thank you” for the saropoa. They need to do more to get the Sikh vote.

Sam Grewal of the Toronto Star writes:

“The Liberal party took us for granted and is now paying the price,” Gill says. “It would be a mistake for the Conservatives to think that simply appearing at functions is enough to win votes.”

An appearance by the Prime Minister, at the place most revered by Sikhs, may be the exception.


Holiday Brides in Punjab

Almost two years ago I blogged about an NPR story that highlighted the issue of Runaway Grooms. Today, I once again write about the same issue – this time the media terms it “Holiday Brides” – a different name telling the same story. We should be outraged that years after we first heard about this issue, we are still having the same conversation. We are told that about 20,000 women have been deserted by men in the UK, US and Canada who promise to return to India and never do. The most recent questions is then, why are Punjabi women still falling for this obvious scam?

_46764969_280720094871.jpgIn a dusty village in the Jagraon district of Punjab, northern India, 35-year-old Suman (which is not her real name), lives with her widowed mother in a small room in a crumbling building. Four years ago, the secondary school teacher married a British man in a wedding arranged by relatives. Shortly after the ceremony, her husband, who is in his 50s, left for London with the promise he would send for her. At first all appeared to go well. “He would visit two to three times a year. “Whenever he came to India, we had a good time,” she said. However, on one visit he claimed her application for a spousal visa to the UK had been refused. It was like being a prostitute you take along and have a good time with and then leave behind ‘Suman’, 35”He told me he had applied for an appeal. “But he has never shown me a copy of that appeal. He’s never shown me any documents.” The visits and calls ended, and for the past six months Suman has had no contact with her husband. “In hindsight, it was like being a prostitute you take along and have a good time with and then leave behind. [link]


25 Seconds Could Raise $25,000 for the Sikh Youth

jakara.jpg3 clicks are all it takes. JPMorgan Chase Bank partnered up with Facebook to have sort of an American Idol of charity giving. The 100 charities with the most votes by December 10th will receive $25,000.

CLICK HERE to vote for the Jakara Movement.

There are a great number of Sikh charities that are participating. The Jakara Movement has the most votes for the Sikh groups and needs your support to bring $25,000 to our community to support projects by the Sikh youth. This weekend alone, the Jakara Movement had 6 events. There were 5 camps, titled, A Nation Never Forgets that were hosted in Los Angeles, Turlock, Stockton, Yuba City, and Orange County. Here are some pictures from just one.

In the Bay Area, the Jakara Movement helped host the forum Women and 1984, bringing scholars and activists such as Cynthia Keppley Mahmood (author of Fighting for Faith and Nation and a champion for human rights), Navkiran Kaur Khalra (daughter of the late Shaheed for human rights, Jaswant Singh Khalra), and Jasmine Kaur (a human rights lawyer and member of ENSAAF).

To keep programs, like this going WE NEED YOUR HELP. We are asking for ALL Sikhs whether in the US, UK, Canada, India, Punjab, Malaysia, Australia, Africa, and beyond to rally around the Sikh organizations and provide your support. Get your non-Sikh friends to vote too!

Log into Facebook and click HERE to vote for the JAKARA MOVEMENT. And with your 20 votes, do not forget to vote for other great Sikh organizations (ENSAAF, SALDEF, and many others) too. Inspire and be inspired; together, we are the movement.

Please forward and circulate this widely. We Need the Entire Community to Rally Behind the Sikh Youth!

Youth Slate Victory in Surrey: Beyond Media Interference

we_are_all_sikhs.jpgAlthough Gurdwara elections are usually not celebratory topics, the news surrounding the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara in Surrey is especially noteworthy. We have covered the topic in the past a few times and the results seem to be in (again). The Youth Slate wins (again).

An overwhelming reason the story is worthy of discussion is due to the Canadian national media own interference and frequently call for Sikhs to vote against the fundamentalist/conservative slate. Statements such as these were far too common:

If elected, a slate of Sikh youth fundamentalist candidates could overturn a long moderate tradition of using tables and chairs for temple mealtimes.[link]

Well the community decided again and returned the fundamentalist candidates. I wonder if the Canadian media has ever delved and chose sides and support in church elections in the past? For some reason, I have a feeling this is rather a unique scenario. Although the media may not like the results the community speaks for itself.

The new committee under Bikramjit Singhwill have a lot of work to do. They hardly built confidence after the last election, when it was discovered there were irregularities in their nomination processes. Still their agenda is broad and may have long-term ramifications in Surrey.

Regardless a victory of the community over the Canadian media’s portrayals and desire for specific results. Now we wait and see. The real work is about to begin.

Night of the Demons – Sikhs Remembering the Delhi Pogroms of 1984

20,000 Butchered in Delhi
25,000 Made “Disappeared” in Punjab
A Community Bruised
A Diaspora Tarnished
A Nation Never Forgets
Remember 1984

On The Langar Hall, the fight for justice is rarely far from our minds. While justice remains elusive and mass-murderers promoted, the community suffers, but not in silence. In this 25th year of the Indian Government-sponsored pogroms, we bear witness to that genocide. We remember not only the lives lost, but call for accountability so that events such as Delhi 1984, Gujarat 2002, and the numerous human rights abuses that occur everyday in the territory that is India are not forgotten. The Indian elite may see the country as a rising economic star, but without political rights, freedoms, and a genuine commitment to justice, slogans such as “Indian Shining” fall on deaf ears.

Here is one such event that inspires us to remember:

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Below the fold, see a list of upcoming events in your community. Participate, contribute, stand in solidarity – Remember 1984.


Every Time We’ve Had Our Babies, People Have Almost… Commiserated
Star reporter Raveena Aulakh, posing as an expectant mother, is handed bags of pills in an industrial area in Mississauga by Kanwar Bains, news editor of a Punjabi-language newspaper.

Toronto Star reporter Raveena Aulakh, posing as an expectant mother, is handed bags of pills in an industrial area in Mississauga by Kanwar Bains, news editor of a Punjabi-language newspaper.

Just in case the rest of the world didn’t know what a sorry state Punjab was in with respect to its gender imbalance, there has been two headline reports from Canada’s biggest newspapers in recent weeks. The first deals with the problem in India and the second talks about how the problem has been exported to Canada.

The first from the Globe and Mail entitled “Land of the Rising Son”, examines how India has responded to the decline of female births. There’s two sad learnings from the article. One is that Punjab is still in the worst position with respect to male-female gender ration and the second is that an individual’s level education has does little to reverse generations of discrimination.


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