First Sikh officer in Canada who fought for right to wear turban honoured
Baltej Singh Dhillon, who made history after being appointed the first turbaned Sikh officer in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), was honoured at an annual event held to eradicate racism on Saturday.
Organised by Spice Radio in partnership with Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, it was second annual Raise Your Hands Against Racism campaign that was launched on the occasion of Martin Luther King’s birth anniversary last year.
Dhillon’s appointment in 1990 had stirred lot of controversy as it led to quite the racist backlash with rightwing groups openly opposing his recruitment. However, he won the fight despite many challenges and hostility.
Dhillon told HT that the RCMP will soon have turbans for commissioned Sikh officers like himself which means uniform rules are going to be amended to accommodate turbaned officials.
Dhillon is the first individual to be honoured as part of the anti-racism initiative that was started by Spice Radio CEO Shushma Datt, a seasoned broadcaster in the local South Asian community. She has announced that each year trailblazers like Dhillon will be recognised and honoured for standing up against discrimination in any form.
The campaign coincides with the festival of Holi and participants are encouraged to dip their hands in colour and leave their handprints on a sheet of white paper along with a statement against racism at different locations across Greater Vancouver.
People from different ethnicities thronged to all these locations in Vancouver, Burnaby, Surrey and White Rock to participate in the campaign. The volunteers wore t-shirts carrying slogan #HandsAgainstRacism. The campaign location in Surrey, with a sizable Punjabi population, remained a crowd puller where Indo-Canadian MLA Harry Bains also showed up.
Both Vancouver and Surrey municipalities made proclamations recognising the campaign.
At the opening event held at Roundhouse Community Centre, prominent South Asian scholar Suresh Kurl spoke about the significance of Holi and its relevance in the fight against racism. Shiamak Davar dance team and a team of drummers led by popular radio host Gurp Sian performed on the occasion.