ONTARIO, Canada: About 75 Sikhs gathered in downtown Toronto on Saturday in what spokesman called an expression of Sikhism’s most important principles.

The signs posted along the corndor of the Manulife Centre, however, called it a Red Cross blood donor clinic.

Recently, court proceedings and demonstrations have been more often the subject of headlines concerning members of Canada’s Sikh community.

But Harbhajan Singh Pandoni, Ontario, chairman of the World Sikh Organization, said the blood donations were in accord with the “basic principle of Sikh religion: to help humanity”.

Inderjit Singh Bal, a governing council director for the World Sikh Organization, said a group blood donation has been held every six months for the past two years as a way of Sikhs to participate in the Canadian community.

Saturday’s blood donor clinic was organized to collect blood platelets for hemophiliacs, whose lives are endangered because their blood cannot clot. Mr. Bal said the organization’s members hoped their donations might have the added benefit of promoting good public relations.

“We want to show our Canadian brothers that Sikhs is not that bad”, Mr. Bal said.

He blamed “Indian Communist propaganda” for casting Sikhs as people concerned only with violence to obtain an independent homeland in the Punjab region of India.

“The Indian Government is trying to label us as terrorists. We are not,” he said,

“We like to work on humanitarian grounds for human rights”, he said. “When a man comes forward to give blood, it takes a lot of understanding to do that”.

When 75 to 80 come forward, it also takes some organization. A couple of weeks before the event, Sikhs were telephoned to set the date for their donation. Families drove in from Guelph and Hamilton, and Kitchener residents came in four carloads.

Baljeet Singh Anand, a factory worker from Kitchener, said: “We think this is our small contribution to the community at large. More and more, Sikhs want to get involved in the mainstream of Canadian life, and this is our way of contributing.

“This country’s been good to us and we want to be good to it.”

The World Sikh Organization’s senior Canadian vice-president, Gobinder Singh Randhawa, said the organization has been involved in other events, such as last year’s Terry Fox run to raise money for cancer research.

Sharon Stasiuk, the registered nurse in charge of the Red Cross clinic, said the Sikh organization’s support would be a big help in replenishing “very, very low” supplies of blood platelets.

“It is better than spilling your blood somewhere else,” Mr. Pandori said. “In India, the blood is being spilled on the ground. Innocent Sikhs have lost their lives”.

Article extracted from this publication >>  February 20, 1987