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A Soldier's Uniform: A Canadian Sikh Perspective

By Mukhbir Singh (WSO VP for Quebec and Eastern Canada)

Remembrance Day has particular significance for Canadians this year as we remember not only the sacrifices of soldiers who died in the World Wars but also those soldiers who recently died in the line of duty.  Canadians were shocked by the attacks last month on Canadian Forces members Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent who died after being struck by a vehicle in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu and Cpl. Nathan Cirillo who was gunned down while standing guard at the National War Memorial in Ottawa.

But as a Sikh, what struck a nerve with me was that the two Canadian soldiers who were attacked and killed, were targeted due to their uniforms.  Canadian soldiers as a result, were encouraged not to wear their uniforms in public. 

First Turbaned Sikh Woman in Canadian Navy a Milestone: WSO

MS Wanda McDonaldMS Wanda McDonaldOttawa (October 29, 2014):  The World Sikh Organization of Canada has helped Master Seaman Wanda McDonald become the first Sikh woman to wear the turban while serving in the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN). 

McDonald, a Sonar operator based out of Halifax Nova Scotia, joined the RCN in 1997 and became interested in the Sikh faith three years ago.  After deciding to become an initiated or amritdhari Sikh, she requested permission to wear the turban on duty. 

The WSO regularly provides information to the Canadian Forces with respect to Sikh practices and articles of faith. When McDonald made her request to wear the turban, the WSO was once again consulted and provided information and advice on the significance of the turban to both Sikh men and women. 

The Canadian Forces now allow both Sikh men and women to wear turbans and the Sikh articles of faith while serving. 

WSO Statement on Ottawa Shootings

Sgt. at Arms Kevin Vickers being recognized by WSOSgt. at Arms Kevin Vickers being recognized by WSOOttawa (October 23, 2014):  The World Sikh Organization of Canada is saddened and shocked by yesterday's terrorist attacks in Ottawa.  Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, a 24 year old reservist with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders regiment lost his life in the shooting at the Ottawa War Memorial. The attack was stopped in the Parliament Building by Parliament’s Sgt. at Arms, Kevin Vickers and other members of the Canadian security forces. 

Vickers had been recognized by the WSO in 2011 for upholding the right of Sikhs to wear kirpans in the Canadian Parliament. 

WSO Welcomes the Opening of the CMHR

Winnipeg (September 19, 2014):  The World Sikh Organization of Canada welcomes the opening of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights(CMHR) here today. 

WSO legal counsel Balpreet Singh attended the inauguration on behalf of the organization.

The museum was the vision of Israel Asper who wished for a place where students could come to learn about human rights.  In 2008 the CMHR was designated a national museum.  

Several exhibits in the CMHR feature the story of Sikhs in Canada including the voyage of the Komagata Maru and the landmark decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in the Multani decision, allowing the wearing of kirpans in schools. 

WSO Announces New Director of Development

Jaskaran Singh SandhuJaskaran Singh SandhuToronto (September 17, 2014): The World Sikh Organization of Canada is pleased to announce the hiring of Jaskaran Singh Sandhu as Director of Development. Jaskaran is a Toronto area lawyer and community activist who earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of Toronto in 2008, and received his Juris Doctorate from the University of Windsor Law School in 2011.

Jaskaran is a proven consensus builder, and has been successful in managing and executing several successful collaborative projects. Among his numerous achievements, Jaskaran is the President and co-founder of KarmaGrow, a charity which builds community farms and gardens in order to provide food banks with a sustainable source of fresh produce. The initiative has donated more than 1 ton of vegetables this year to Seva Food Bank, Knight's Table and Good Food Brampton, helping to combat food insecurity in the Peel Region.

Refusal to Exempt Ontario Sikhs From Motorcycle Helmet Law Disappointing: WSO

courtesy thestar.cacourtesy thestar.caToronto (August 21, 2014):  The World Sikh Organization of Canada is disappointed by the recent decision of Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne to not provide an exemption from helmet requirements for Sikh motorcyclists in the province.  

WSO Ontario Vice President Prabmeet Singh Sarkaria said today, “Sikhs in Ontario have been calling for a helmet exemption for turbaned Sikh motorcyclists for several years now.  The wearing of the turban is an essential part of the Sikh identity and is a public demonstration of the Sikh values of equality and spirituality.  Exemptions for Sikhs who maintain unshorn hair and habitually wear the turban have been successfully implemented in other provinces in Canada and across the world including the United Kingdom, India and elsewhere.  Carving out a narrow exception for Sikh motorcyclists would not compromise the objective of ensuring the reasonable safety of motorcyclists.   We would note that exemptions for turbaned Sikh motorcyclists in British Columbia, Manitoba and elsewhere have had no actual impact on road safety or resulted in any significant additional costs.  Without any evidence to the contrary, it is difficult to justify why a similar exemption cannot be provided in Ontario.  We would encourage Premier Wynne to reconsider her decision.”

Inaugural Khalsa Cup Tournament a Success!

Maple Leafs- Winners Coed TierMaple Leafs- Winners Coed TierMississauga (August 11, 2014):  The first annual Khalsa Cup concluded on Sunday with Team Malton being crowned Competitive Tier champions and the Maple Leafs winning the Co-Ed Tier.  The tournament raised over $6,000 for the Khalra Centre for Human Rights Defenders in Delhi. 

The Khalsa Cup, organized to implement the concepts of seva and sarbat da bhalla into sports, was organized through collaborative effort between the Sikh Youth Federation (SYF), the Champions Ball Hockey League (CBHL)World Sikh Organization of Canada (WSO), and Toronto Singh’s Camp.

A total of 12 teams and over 180 players registered for the three-day tournament, which included a competitive and co-ed tier.  The tournament took place at the Huron Park Arena in Mississauga.

Charges Against Brookside Gurdwara President a Call to Action: WSO

Baldev KalsiBaldev KalsiSurrey (July 16, 2014):  In the wake of the tragic assault on Narinder Kaur Kalsi, the World Sikh Organization of Canada is offering access to a network of psychologists and counselors who can assist with family dispute resolution issues. 

The WSO is shocked and saddened by the tragic assault against Narinder Kaur Kalsi.  While Ms. Kalsi remains on life support, her husband, Baldev Singh Kalsi has been charged with attempted murder.  Kalsi is the president of the Brookside Gurdwara in Surrey.

Jasbir Kaur Randhawa, WSO Vice President of British Columbia said today, “the entire community is shocked by this incident.  Violence against women is a serious problem that needs to be addressed by the South Asian community, including Sikhs.  Early intervention and role modeling are key to making a difference.  The WSO has been involved in several initiatives to put violence against women on the agenda in the community and a lot more work needs to be done.”

WSO Saddened By Violence at Darbar Sahib Complex

Ottawa (June 6, 2014):  The World Sikh Organization of Canada is saddened by the clash today at Sri Darbar Sahib (The Golden Temple) in Amritsar where several individuals were injured.

Sikhs around the world are marking the 30th anniversary of the Indian army’s brutal assault on the Sri Darbar Sahib in June 1984. According to reports, the clash occurred during a memorial service for the innocent victims of the attack and several individuals were injured by large swords used in the melee. It remains unclear what prompted the violence. 

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Upcoming WSO June Events- Remembering 1984

WSO will be holding events across Canada in commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the 1984 Indian Army assault on Sri Darbar Sahib (Golden Temple) in Amritsar. This year, we will be sharing video presentations on 1984 and having a photo exhibit of the tragic assault.

We will be joined by Dr. Colin Gonsalves of the Human Rights Law Network (India) who will speak about the legacy of 1984 and how it has impacted human rights across India.  Dr. Gonsalves is a senior advocate at the Supreme Court of India and has recently worked on several cased involving the Sikh community such as the cases of 1984 Sikh genocide victims, the lifiting of the ban on the film 'Sada Haq' and the death penalty of Prof. Davinderpal Singh Bhullar.

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