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Tuesday, Oct 22, 2019

Pro-gay Canadian leader runs into an ethical wall in Punjab

Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne’s scheduled visit to Amritsar as part of her 10-day business trip to India has landed in controversy even before her arrival.

punjab Updated: Jan 30, 2016 20:32 IST
Vivek Gupta and Aseem Bassi
Vivek Gupta and Aseem Bassi
Hindustan Times
SGPC Chief Avtar Singh Makkar.
SGPC Chief Avtar Singh Makkar.(HT Photo)

Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne’s scheduled visit to Amritsar as part of her 10-day business trip to India has landed in controversy even before her arrival. The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) has decided not to honour the Canadian leader with a siropa (robe of honour) during her visit to the Golden Temple on Sunday. Reason: Wynne, a lesbian, is a supporter of same-sex marriages, a practice opposed by the Akal Takht, the highest temporal seat of the Sikhs.

The SGPC’s stand also mirrors the recent anguish of Canadian Sikhs against Wynne’s pro-gay policies. Even since joining the premier’s office in 2013, her relations with minority ethnic communities, especially Sikhs and Muslims, in Ontario have been strained. Her visit to the Golden Temple is being viewed as an attempt to gain acceptability among the Sikh community back home.

Last year, a large section of Sikhs staged a protest against her move to introduce sex education curriculum which, according to them, was not age-appropriate and promoted same-sex relationships among school students. Muslims and other communities of South-east Asian countries also criticised her for endorsing homosexuality as an acceptable way of life.

Wynne has reached Amritsar. (Gurpreet Singh/HT )

Despite numerous car-flag parades, protests at the provincial council’s doorstep and petitions handed over to her government, the curriculum was finally implemented in September. Her government also passed a law to exclude the names of mother and father from all government forms to accommodate same-sex couples.

In 2014, she did not allow turban-wearing Sikhs to ride a motorcycle without wearing a helmet, a decision the Canadian Sikhs called “deeply” disappointing.

Talking to HT, SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar said, “Offering her (Wynne) a ‘siropa’ would be against Sikh ethics.”

Akal Takht jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh said, “The SGPC’s decision is correct. Coming to the shrine and paying obeisance is everyone’s right, but while honouring dignitaries, Sikh ethics need to be taken into account.”

The Sikhs and other minority communities in Canada are opposed to same-sex marriages. Akal Takht jathedar Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti had issued an edict in 2005 against such marriages and condemned the Canadian government’s move to legalise same-sex marriages, adding that this concept had no place in the Sikh religion.

Giani Gurbachan Singh had directed gurdwaras worldwide not to solemnise same-sex marriages.

Sources said Wynne would fly to Amritsar from Delhi on Saturday evening. She will visit the Golden Temple on Sunday morning.

First Published: Jan 29, 2016 22:47 IST

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