Honourable Members of the Adjudicating Committee, I thank you on behalf of the Sikh community of Canada for the opportunity to appear before you in order to help explain our feelings in response to the headlines printed by The Ottawa Citizen that are pertinent to the Sikh community at large and that are totally meaningless and inflammatory in capturing the elements of the story which that headline describes.
How could a newspaper, representing the Capital of Canada, be SO insensitive as to print biased headlines, including many other biased news articles fed by the government controlled media from India, and malign their own? Country’s citizens,
Although The Citizen has been active in reporting news events about Sikhs by using sensational headlines, a few months ago it printed an advertisement to promote the the sale of the newspaper by showing various visible ethnic groups. Since a Sikh was not featured in that advertisement which represented Canadian ethnic groups, a strong bias against the Sikhs in Canada was clearly shown. The Citizen deliberately chose to ignore the presence of 200.000 Canadian citizens.
The following are examples of some of the headlines published in just one month by The Ottawa Citizen. In all these cases, the individual’s religion was headlined in the article,
(1) “British Police Arrest Sikh for Airport Bombing”, Feb. 5
(2) “Sikh Could be Extradited to Canada”, Feb. 6
“Sikh Bride Wins $117,500 But Misses Marital Bliss”, Feb. 8 ‘These few headlines identify the religion of the persons as “Sikh” therefore implying guilt by association to a specific religion. Here, The Citizen may argue that in the headline they did not include all Sikhs, but without a doubt they are affected. In a high profile, visible minority like Sikhs or Blacks, many people imply guilt by association. When Clifford Olsen was convicted of killing dozens of children in British Columbia a few years ago, “a Christian…” was not seen as the headline on the front pages of the newspapers. Similarly, when a Hindu, “Daliwari”, was charged in a fraud case in the bankruptcy of his auto sale business, we never read that “a Hindu” was convicted. Also, The Citizen would not refer to Minister Cote as a dishonest Quebecker or a native as a drunken Indian. I wonder if there has ever been a case of a Catholic being either charged or convicted in any of the thousands of stories published by The Citizen during It he past years where the religion of the person was pertinent to those stories. If The Ottawa Citizen can produce a single instance where they had published “Christian”, “Jew”, “Muslim”, or “Catholic” in any one of their articles in past publications, the [ present complaint may be considered as withdrawn, In the absence of any such instance forthcoming from The Citizen, we shall fully abide by the decision taken by the Council on this matter.
We submit that the stereotype of the Sikh terrorist is one of the most harmful and dangerous racial slurs to threaten our multicultural society in recent years. It is as false as the Italian who is a member of the Mafia, the stingy Scotsman, the lazy Black, the dumb Polish, or the fanatic Arab. It may even be more dangerous than some of these since it makes other citizens suspicious. And fearful as well as making they feel threatened. This stereotype of Sikh violence and terrorism should never be fed, even inadvertently, by the media, the media has a special responsibility: to be sensitive to prevailing and insulting stereotypes of ethnic minorities and to speak out against them. The Racist stereotyping of ethnic Minorities as extremists, terrorists, fanatics or raquaeteers too often provides an apparent excuse for curbing the lawful freedom and opportunities for that ethnic minority. Stereotyping makes these types of abuses more likely to erode the freedoms of us all, to promote feelings of discrimination and prejudice, and to promote discord and ill will between our communities. No one can feel pride in media which even inadvertently provides impetus for so much social injustice.
On behalf of Sikhs of Canada, I would like to thank this Committee for this very important opportunity to present our views. For your patience and attention, I thank you.
Article extracted from this publication >> July 22, 1988