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Canada’s Honorary Sikh: Justin ‘Singh’ Trudeau


Vancouver: Long before Justin Trudeau became Canada’s Prime Minister and sprang to the limelight as the world’s latest political heartthrob, a video circulated on the “Youbiqutous” YouTube of him dancing the bhangra at an Indian community event in Canada, jocularly referred among accent snobs by its Punjabi name “Kannedda”. The dance, to the song “Dil Bole Hadappa”, at an event organized by the India-Canada Association of Montreal when the young politician was still an MP, also earned him the moniker “Justin Singh Trudeau”.

So it came as no surprise when Prime Minister Trudeau inducted four Sikhs in his 30-member cabinet soon after coming to office last year given his comfort level with the community. This week, the affable Canadian leader pointedly mentioned the fact at a public engagement in Washington DC during a state visit, going as far as boasting (in a playful way), “I have more Sikhs in my cabinet than Modi does.”

Indeed, the Modi cabinet currently has only two Sikh ministers — Maneka Gandhi (who is Sikh by birth) and Harsimrat Kaur Badal. But India has done one better overall — with a Sikh Prime Minister among the 15 who have occupied the office so far. Sikhs constitute about 2 per cent of India’s population; Canada is about the same, but in an overall population of 36 million.

Whether it was intended to tease India or twit the United States, which has had a spotty record with Sikhs in the post 9/11 days, Trudeau succeeded in reminding the world that he has managed to compose the almost perfectly representative cabinet, notwithstanding the (over) weightage of Sikhs: one that he says “looks just like Canada.” As much as the Sikh element in the cabinet is the gender balance — it has 15 men and 15 women. Arguably, no country in the world has managed that.

“It’s 2015 (that’s why),” Trudeau replied crisply when he was asked about it, earning him universal admiration, particularly from women.

Sikhs in the Trudeau cabinet include Harjit Singh Sajjan, who is the defense minister; Amarjeet Sohi, minister of infrastructure and communities; Bardish Chagger, minister of small business and tourism and Navdeep Bains, minister of science and economic development.

Sajjan and Bains are turbaned Sikhs, and the fact that a bearded, turbaned Sikh heads the military of a western country, an ally and neighbor of the United States, is a matter of pride for many Sikhs, who are having a rough time South of the border.

A Sikh heading the Canadian military should be of no surprise either. The first Sikh settler in Canada is said to be Kesur Singh, a Risaldar Major in the British India Army, who arrived in Vancouver on board Empress of India in 1897.


  • Shriya Katoch

    Trudeau is the ideal prime minister . His forward looking approach should be an inspiration to all .

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Ethnic Indian Jai Sears responds to complaint against the statue of Gandhi in Grenada

Jai Sears wrote in response to a letter on Mahatma Gandhi entitled “Dustbin of history” written by Josiah Rougier

Mahatama Gandhi, leader of non violence

Jai Sears from Grenada, Caribbean has written a letter to editor in response to complaints against the statue of Gandhi in Grenada. Here is the text:

I write in response to a letter on Mahatma Gandhi entitled “Dustbin of history” written by Josiah Rougier and published in the Grenada newspaper, The New Today (Nov 3, 2017). In his letter, Rougier is asking the Government to remove the bust-statue of Gandhi which overlooks Sauteurs Bay in Grenada where East Indians arrived 160 years ago. Rougier’s opinion is based on the false notion that Gandhi was racist because the Mahatma reportedly considered Indians to be superior to black Africans when he referred to the latter as “kaffirs.”

Gandhi was only 27 years old when he made that contextual statement. If Rougier had done his research, he would have found that Nelson Mandela said: “Gandhi must be forgiven for these prejudices in the context of the time and the circumstances.” The quote can be found in “Gandhi the Prisoner” by Nelson Mandela published in 1995. Gandhi was a man; he was not god. And even god made mistakes.

In favour of Mahatama Gandhi
Photo of Jai Sears

Rougier must instead focus on the Gandhi’s vision of non-violent protest and his belief in satyagraha which inspired rebels and revolutionaries around the world. Gandhi’s ideas influenced leaders of the African National Congress and the struggle by Indians and blacks against white apartheid rule in South Africa. From as early as 1956 when he was 27 years old, Martin Luther King, Jr. referred to Gandhi as “the guiding light of our technique of nonviolent social change.”

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Following the success of his boycott, King contemplated traveling to India to deepen his understanding of Gandhian principles. The fact is that Gandhi saw people of all races, castes, colours and creeds as equal which led to his assassination by a Hindu fanatic in 1948. So who is this unknown Josiah Rougier? Is he as illustrious as the great Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King? And is he disagreeing with his possible heroes?

A friend to all.
Jai Sears
Grenada, Caribbean