On Sunday, Aug. 5, a lone gunman entered a Sikh temple in Oak Creek Wisconsin, close to the city of Milwaukee
The gunman opened fire on unarmed worshipers during a service, killing six in the process.
While this tragic and despicable crime did not occur in Canada, there is a strong connection among Sikh’s in Canada and the United States, and the grief of the Sikh family stretches across borders.
Tragic and heartbreaking moments like this are when we must come together and reaffirm our commitment to being a welcoming nation to individuals and families from all across the world.
Many of us either came from different countries, or had family members born outside Canada. Each of us brings something unique to the makeup of our country, and each of is proud to call ourselves Canadian. My own father came here from Trinidad as a young man. He chose Canada above all other nations in which to live and pursue his dreams. He is a proud Canadian.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper forthrightly expressed this truth about our nation in the 2011 Canadian Federal Leaders Debate:
“What Canadians need to understand about multiculturalism is that people who make the hard decision to [ . . . ] come here, they first and foremost want to belong to this country [ . . . ] They also at the same time will change our country.”
“And we show through multiculturalism our willingness to accommodate their differences, so they are more comfortable.”
“That’s why we’re so successful integrating people as a country. I think we’re probably the most successful country in the world in that regard.”
It is with this in mind that we know our country is made stronger by the contributions and values of the Sikh community. At this time of grief for many Sikh’s, all of us must stand together and affirm that our nation is a welcoming and safe place.
Canadian Sikh’s have a respect for family and an entrepreneurial spirit that embody the deepest values of our country. Their peaceful faith enriches our country.
This moment is a reminder that we must stand up for religious freedom, the right of individuals and families to worship openly and safely.
This tragedy also reminds us that there are still those who are motivated by prejudice and hate. And while we cannot guarantee that hateful people will never commit terrible acts, we can ensure that we always strive to live up to the principles that have made our country the greatest nation on Earth.
One of the best way’s to do that is to go out there and meet with Canadians from many cultural communities.
I say this because I have had the opportunity to attend a service at a Sikh Temple and it was a wonderful experience. The Temple was an incredibly welcoming environment, full of beautiful colours, wonderful food, and kind-hearted people. I encourage everyone who reads this to take the time to attend a Sikh temple service, and see for yourself the positive impact the Sikh community makes in our city, our province, and our country.
Spencer Fernando is the Comment Editor for the Manitoban.