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Punjabi Language Education Association:

The Indo-Canadian Seniors Threatened


Richmond, BC, Canada, June 13, 2007
Balwant Sanghera

Canada is very well respected internationally for its policy of inclusion and respect / appreciation for diversity. This is a matter of great pride for every Canadian. Its model of multiculturalism promotes equal participation by people of diverse ethnic, national, religious and cultural origin. As a matter of fact, it is a source of great strength for Canadian society.

In this context, it is very unfortunate, when a bunch of spoiled brats and misguided youth become a threat to other peace loving citizens. It is even more tragic when their victims are innocent, well-respected and harmless elders of a specific ethnic minority.

Racism rears its ugly head from time to time. Guru Nanak Sikh Temple’s caretaker Nirmal Singh was savagely beaten and mortally wounded by a bunch of rowdies who were convicted of his murder. Last year’s senseless attack on two well respected Indo-Canadian seniors-Mewa Singh Bains and Shingara Singh Thandi- by two hoodlums shocked the entire community. A few days ago, the Indo-Canadian community was shocked again by the racist verbal abuse and rock throwing by some hoodlums, at a prominent member of our community and his wife, in Abbotsford. Mr. Gurmit Singh Tiwana is a prominent writer and scholar. The police have arrested and charged four young people in this connection.

All of these tragic incidents and numerous others that go unreported, point to a very serious problem.
Nearly all of the perpetrators of these heinous and senseless acts were Caucasian young men. The victims, nearly in all of these cases, were Indo-Canadian seniors. There was no provocation of any kind from the victims. They were/are all very well respected and renowned members of our community. All of them were/are simply enjoying a peaceful life.

Sometime ago, a Sun-Leger Marketing poll found that 47% of Canadians admit that they harbour racist sentiments. The poll also found that 92% of Canadians had witnessed bigotry in action. These statistics are a reminder that even a very tolerant country like Canada has to do a lot more to tackle racism. That includes awareness, education and understanding.

Why do people, especially certain youth engage in such criminal and abhorrent behaviour? The reasons can be many. First and foremost is the upbringing of the perpetrators of these crimes. Youth raised in dysfunctional families usually lack empathy and compassion. Their lack of a moral compass exacerbates their negative behaviour. Low self-esteem, ignorance, fear of the unknown, feelings of insecurity and outright contempt for cultures, other than their own, may be other contributing factors to their undesirable behaviour. Regardless, there is no justification for their despicable actions.

As a community, we must condemn such actions in the strongest possible terms and fully support the victims and their families. In this regard, the Indo-Canadian media-both print and electronic – continues to do a commendable job. However, we also need to lobby our lawmakers as well as the law enforcement agencies to deal effectively with such unsavory characters.

Our lawmakers need to wake up to the reality that some of these young people who have no respect or regard for others, do need a strong enough deterrent and face the consequences of their behavior. Our judicial system needs to deal with these miscreants more firmly and decisively . Every citizen, particularly our senior citizens, deserves a safe environment. These peace-loving citizens have every right to enjoy life free of racial slurs, harassment, abuse and violence.

Balwant Sanghera
(Balwant Sanghera is a retired School Psychologist, Community Activist and recipient of the prestigious Order of British Columbia Award. He heads the Richmond Multicultural Concerns Society and can be reached at





Balwant Sanghera
President, Punjabi Language Education Association . He is a retired School Psychologist and Community Activist in British Columbia ,Canada.