Monday, December 17, 2007


Oldtown News
Vancouver, BC


Well as longtime Queer writer, Kevin McKeown, has correctly stated, "it was inevitable that conflict between ethno-religious communities and gay interests would conflict" and that time is now.

A number of leaders from the Queer community are trying to work through the offensive remarks made by Balwant Singh Gill, a leader of the Sikh community, however, there appears to be an orchestrated attempt at diffusing the seriousness of his hate comments and this is causing cracks in the normally harmonious GLBT community.

What is really problematic here is that the Queer South Asian community members are claiming the Sun article to be racist. In this context, it appears they are in support of Mr. Balwant Gill. In fact, a number of individuals from this community state that the Balwant Gill remarks were made three years ago and another repeated chorus is that Mr. Gill isn't a political leader and speaks as an individual.

It isn't resonating with this group that Mr. Balwant Singh Gill is in fact a Community Leader. More so, he wields enormous influence and power since he is the official spokesperson for many Sikh Temples and his expressed viewpoints carry significant weight. He is expressing the views of thousands and thousands of members of the Sikh, Punjabi and South Asian communities.

On a personal level, really distressing for me as I'm certain it is for others, is the glossing over of the serious remarks made by Mr. Gill.

A number of community members are calling for a formal apology and complete retraction. Unfortunately, today, another Queer South Asian member claims that Mr. Gill has offerred an apology on CBC. This so-called apology was far from satisfactory and at no time did he retract his statements.

Resulting from the Sun story, is turmoil within the Gay community and after calls of racism from Queer South Asians, I decided to go back and re-read the article in the Vancouver Sun of December 15, 2007.

The story goes on to present how foreign-born residents are much more inclined than longtime residents to be strict moralists. This is especially true, the Sun claims around family values and sex. Much of the story did focus on Mr. Balwant Gill, who even went so far to say, that besides hating homosexuality, he considers it a disease, unnatural and against every major religion.

I believe the Sun story has hit a hot-button issue and I suspect this is why the piece ran. I don't think it is--as many South Asian members articulate--getting back at them for rallying against the deportation order of Mr. Laibar Singh.

Many longtime residents are talking about concerns they have over newer residents bringing to the City, a host of problems. I bring this up not as a slam against any one particular community, or to be hurtful in any way, but merely as observations.

When society learns of gangland-style shootings, we see that it involves many newer citizens. When, bad date sheets of sex trade workers are circulated, repeatedly the descriptions of alleged culprits are defined as East Indian males.

The Gay community often cites that young Sikh males are coming down to the gay village and beating on them. Why the Sikh male community, who themselves have been targeted, would in turn target a minority group is really sad.

Now along comes Balwant Gill and other religious Leaders who present their disturbing viewpoints in a very public way and hence we have serious cracks developing in the normally gentle and peaceful GLBT community.

It isn't at all helpful when Queer South Asians appear to water down the seriousness of a influential and powerful Community Leader who has taken direct aim at the gay community.

Hopefully, we can overcome these difficulties but it will take great effort. Only when we can speak openly and without fear of being branded racist, can we move forward.

I want to also make clear that the Sikh, Punjabi and South Asian Communities are peaceful people and I don't want them to feel shame or singled out for any mistreatment. Having said this, their response so far in not condemning one of their Community Leaders is not acceptable and this won't be tolerated.

Going on South Asian television or radio programs saying this man doesn't represent Sikh, Punjabi or South Asians is a terribly weak response. At times it has even been confusing.

Leaders must demand a formal apology and full retraction. Further they must demand that all Temples which Mr. Gill is spokesperson for, go on record categorically stating he doesn't represent their beliefs.

Jamie Lee Hamilton


At 9:08 AM, Anonymous A Sikh in BC said...

There are a few different dynamics going on here.

1) The Vancouver Sun has been writing racist, prejudiced, anti-Sikh crap for more than 20 years. They have not wasted any opportunity to bash the Sikh community or create a false negative perception of the community. While all of this was happening, nobody - no single minority group - ever came to defend the Sikh community or spoke against the Vancouver Sun. This might be one cause of resentment and frustration among some members of the Sikh community - that they have been repeatedly targeted by the CanWest Global media corporation for defamation, slander, and prejudiced reporting.

2) Balwant Gill is a two-time convicted drunk driver. He is not an initiated Sikh. He does not practice any spirituality. He is only an opportunist politician who happened to gain control of a Sikh temple, and through his manipulation and maneuvering of relationships, he has gained the control he currently has. He does not, however, in any way whatsoever, represent the sentiments of the mainstream Sikh community in British Columbia or anywhere else. A Sikh male is not someone who wears the iron bracelet or simply has a tattoo of a Sikh emblem. A Sikh male is a spiritual-minded individual who is initiated into the Sikh faith, wears all of the articles, practices the teachings, and protects the oppressed minorities. The people beating up on gay males in Vancouver are also, in no way whatsoever, representatives of the mainstream Sikh community in BC or anywhere else.

3) All of the above is NOT TO SAY, that what Balwant Gill did is acceptable, or what those Punjabi (NOT SIKH) males do to beat up gay males is acceptable. NO, IT IS NOT acceptable at all. YES, we should boycott them. YES, Balwant Gill should be paraded in the streets with tar on his face and a garland of dirty shoes around his neck while riding on a donkey. And a lot of mainstream initiated Sikh community would be happy to see a scene like that, considering the damage Gill has done to our community.

4) The mainstream Sikh community does not agree with homosexuality. It is not accepted in the Sikh faith. However, they will fight and even die to protect the rights of any individual. The 9th Sikh master sacrificed his own life to protect the religious freedoms of Hindu Pandits from Kashmir - people of a DIFFERENT FAITH. Sikhs will always stand up to defend the oppressed, and bring justice to the oppressor. If there is any REAL SIKH left in British Columbia, he/she will of course defend the right of gay men and women to be FREE FROM HATE & discrimination in the media.

The above four statements are the facts - not my opinion.


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