In this week’s round-up of what’s been making headlines in Canada’s ethnic media: India’s Republic Day was not a celebration for everyone, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne’s visit to a Sikh shrine was less controversial than first reported and Canada’s plan to settle 25,000 refugees faces more challenges.
Refugee resettlement strategy under scrutiny
The Canadian government’s plan to accept 25,000 Syrian refugees through immediate government and private sponsorship is facing criticism from south of the border.
Canada’s government defended its refugee plan at a U.S. Senate committee hearing on Feb. 3 titled “Canada’s Fast-Track Refugee Plan: Unanswered Questions and Implications for U.S. National Security.”
In a Canadian Press story picked up by the Epoch Times, it was reported that Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., Gary Doer, declined the Republican-controlled committee’s invitation to attend in person.
Instead, Doer sent a note outlining five security measures related to the Syrian refugee program, four of which involved regular border co-operation with the U.S.
“Rest assured that no corners, including security screening, are being cut in order to achieve the government’s objectives.”
“Rest assured that no corners, including security screening, are being cut in order to achieve the government’s objectives,” Doer wrote. “Rather, the government has devoted significant resources to this effort.”
Canada’s plan will have to stand up against testimony from border guards, anti-terrorism organizations and economic experts who argue that tightened borders affect the flow of exports from Canada to the U.S.
In related news, some of the Syrian refugees who have arrived are feeling “hopeless” as they wait in hotel rooms to be settled into homes, find work and go to school.
“Some of the 85 government sponsored refugees say they want to return to the camps in Jordan and Lebanon as opposed to staying in Canada,” reported the Epoch Times, citing a CBC report.
The Times also refers to an op-ed piece in the Toronto Sun that asks Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to allow more refugees to be accepted through private sponsorship.
India’s Republic Day marked by ceremony, criticism
Events took place in India and Canada on Jan. 26 to celebrate Republic Day, though some were not without controversy. The event marks the adoption of India’s constitution on the same day in 1950.
As the Indo-Canadian Voice reports, this year’s celebration in New Delhi was a display of pomp and military prowess for politicians and dignitaries, including French President Francois Hollande.
The Indo-Canadian Voice also reports that the Sikh Regiment was excluded from the Republic Day parade in Delhi, which Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal later called “sad and regrettable” in a letter to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Meanwhile, according to South Asian Daily, separatist leaders were put under house arrest to prevent protests at the Republic Day celebration in Srinagar, the summer capital of Kashmir state.
“[O]ur annual recognition serves as reminder to strive for [Mahatma] Gandhi’s message of unity through diversity and thriving together in harmony.”
In Canada, British Columbia Premier Christy Clark made a statement wishing a memorable Republic Day celebration to Canada’s Indo-Canadian community.
“With a proud and vibrant Indo-Canadian community, British Columbia has always had a special cultural connection with India,” said Clark, as reported in the Indo-Canadian Voice. “As we continue to expand trade and research relationships, those ties will grow stronger,” she went on to say.
In Ontario, Premier Kathleen Wynne marked the celebration at the Consulate General of India offices in Toronto, ahead of her visit to India on Jan. 27.
“Sixty-six years ago today the Constitution of India came into force signalling a new era for the entire country,” said Wynne, as quoted in Canada Wishesh. “It was a moment of great triumph and celebration for India, and our annual recognition serves as reminder to strive for [Mahatma] Gandhi’s message of unity through diversity and thriving together in harmony.”
Conflicting accounts of Wynne’s visit to Sikh temple
News sources published different reports of Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne’s stop at a Sikh shrine during her visit to India last week.
Even before her visit to the Golden Temple on Sunday, the Hindustan Times in India reported that the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) would not present the premier with a siropa (robe of honour) because of her support for same-sex marriages.
According to the Indo-Canadian Voice, SGPC President Avtar Singh Makkar told the Hindustan Times: “Offering her (Wynne) a siropa would be against Sikh ethics.”
“Offering her (Wynne) a siropa would be against Sikh ethics.”
The Times maintained that Wynne did not receive the siropa even after photos of her were published wearing the robe following the visit, reports the Voice.
“The SGPC apparently avoided mentioning the presentation of the siropa to save face after having declared that they would not honour Wynne with it. The Punjab government apparently exerted great pressure on the SGPC to present Wynne with a siropa,” reported the Voice.
An article by Indo-Asian News Service, picked up by both South Asian Daily and Darpan, reported that Wynne was honoured with the siropa, as well as a tour of the shrine’s important areas and a gold-plated photo of the site.
However, the Punjab Star noted that Wynne did not receive the siropa.
The Star also reported that a major discussion point for SGPC chief secretary Harcharan Singh was the issue of exempting Sikh men from wearing helmets while driving motorcycles in Ontario.
It is not clear whether Wynne will consider the exemption.