By Dr. Pritam Singh, Q.C.
IT is with this background of the Sikh people, that the world has to deal with them. They have given no cause to the people or the government of Canada to feel dissatisfied with their sojoum and performances in Canada. On the other hand, the media generally has not served! Them all well.
It is easy for people who are not affected by this insidious portrayal of the Sikh people by the media, to dismiss the mischief, either as acts of gross carelessness or even of crass ignorance. But for the Sikhs, who chose to make Canada their home and that of their children and grandchildren, it is much more serious matter. Like all the first generation migrants, they have close ties of kinship with folk whom they only recently left behind in the Punjab or other parts of India. The political upheavals, uncertainties and calamities which could likely affect their relatives are natural causes for concern to them. The spiritual roots of all Sikhs are in Amritsar, Nakana Sahib, or Anandpur Sahib. Anything that adversely affects their religious institutions is justifiably a matter of mental and physical anguish to them, individually as well as collectively.
It goes to the credit of the Canadian Sikhs that they did not let the wars of India spill over the Canadian soil. If, at all, they made only vocal protests, to do which, as Canadian citizens, they were lawfully entitled.
What irked them, and what still rankles with them, is that the media generally hunted with the hounds and ran with the hare? It swallowed hoot bait and sinker, the one sided propaganda that was so regularly gushing forth from India. Either it did not have the courage, the resources or the ability to conduct its own enquiries about happenings in India, or it was totally insensitive to the anguish which such one sided reporting would cause to its fellow citizens.
Taking the most generous view, one could say that the present generation Canadian is not a proponent of the “white man’s country” ideology; that his Sikh compatriot if the 1910 vintage has forgotten about the indignities of the past. But how is one At appreciate the present day actions of the media: tarring the Canadian Sikhs with the India government propaganda brush; failing to standby its fellow Canadians; and failing to seek verification of Indian news reports relating to the world, the Human Rights Violations of India. It is interesting to note that in its last week’s edition, the Gazette commented on countries which Amnesty 1987 named as violating human rights, but pointedly it forgot to mention that India also was one such a country.
The media, on any view, has a primary duty towards Canada and then its fellow Canadians. If foreign propaganda makes allegations that in Canada, there are Sikh terrorists, it means either that they are referring to Indian Nationals or Canadian Nationals of the Sikh faith. If they are the former, it is the job of the government of India to see that it does not ship its miscreants to Canada and for it to identify to the Canadian government those of whom it has provable evidence of terrorism. If it does not so identify, it is then the duty of the media and the Canadian government to expose the allegations for the falsity, which they are, Allowing such generalized allegations to float around unchallenged, implies that media is agreeing with the allegations and that there are Sikh terrorists in Canada who may be Indian or
The government of Canada has indeed acted docilely because when dealing with foreign governments and agencies, it has failed to identify the interests of its citizens as being its own interests as well. It may very well be for reasons of commercial or political gains that it has been playing the three wise monkeys.
To be a Sikh has been to be economically prosperous, independent and enterprising: and that is why many “bleeding hearts” are not sure whether they should bleed. With the Sikhs or not. Canadians, it is hoped, are made of better material and would understand the gripe of the Canadian Sikhs as being worthy of their careful notice and generous support.
To say the least, it is unwise to attribute a crime to anyone (e.g. a “terrorist”) without enough reliable evidence to support such an attribution. So also is the tendency to use the affix “extremist” to Canadian Nationals and about whom the Canadian government is powerless to act. This is a blatant surrender of responsibility by media which denigrates and devalues the dignity of this country and its people, including those controlling the media machine.
Sikhs, when reporting happenings concerning India. This is a meaningless attribute, which only shows the ignorance of the speaker about the Sikh beliefs and happenings in Punjab. Yet many newspapers persist in applying these attributes where they are not relevant and even when this fact has been repeatedly brought to their notice by the readers.
The effect of this confused media publication was reflected in the attitude of the government and in the spiteful utterings of many Canadians, whose prejudice against the Sikhs as such, clearly manifested itself, when 174 people came to Nova Scotia and claimed a refugee status.