Vancouver: Baltej Singh Dhillon, who made the history after being appointed the first turbaned Sikh officer in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), was honored at an annual event held to eradicate racism on Saturday.
Organized by Spice Radio in partnership with Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, it was second annual Raise Your Hands Against Racism campaign that was launched on the occasion of Martin Luther King’s birth anniversary last year.
Dhillon’s appointment in 1990 had stirred lot of controversy as it led to quite the racist backlash with rightwing groups openly opposing his recruitment. However, he won the fight despite many challenges and hostility.
Dhillon told HT that the RCMP will soon have turbans for commissioned Sikh officers like himself which means uniform rules are going to be amended to accommodate turbaned officials.
Dhillon is the first individual to be honored as part of the anti-racism initiative that was started by Spice Radio CEO Shushma Datt, a seasoned broadcaster in the local South Asian community. She has announced that each year trailblazers like Dhillon will be recognised and honoured for standing up against discrimination in any form.
The campaign coincides with the festival of Holi and participants are encouraged to dip their hands in color and leave their handprints on a sheet of white paper along with a statement against racism at different locations across Greater Vancouver.
People from different ethnicities thronged to all these locations in Vancouver, Burnaby, Surrey and White Rock to participate in the campaign. The volunteers wore t-shirts carrying slogan #HandsAgainstRacism. The campaign location in Surrey, with a sizable Punjabi population, remained a crowd puller where Indo-Canadian MLA Harry Bains also showed up.
Both Vancouver and Surrey municipalities made proclamations recognizing the campaign.
At the opening event held at Roundhouse Community Center, prominent South Asian scholar Suresh Kurl spoke about the significance of Holi and its relevance in the fight against racism. Shiamak Davar dance team and a team of drummers led by popular radio host Gurp Sian performed on the occasion.
"Misrepresentation and fraudulent documentation are of concern. Fraudulent documentation, including photo-substituted evidence of applicants playing kabaddi, have been encountered among the supporting documentation submitted with applications," it added
Traditionally a tough, rural sport practised by ‘pehlwans’ in villages across the length and breadth of India, kabaddi has been flying high in recent years due to the money and glamour brought in by the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL).
This new-found professionalism has certainly helped the top-level players and turned this typically ‘desi’ sport into a lucrative career option.
But going by a longstanding trend in Punjab, the benefits are yet to trickle down to the average athlete at the village level in the state.
Generally considered to be one of the traditional powerhouses of kabaddi in the country, players from Punjab are making news in faraway Canada for the wrong reasons.
Nearly 47 per cent of the youth going to the country in the name of participating in Kabaddi tournaments have failed to return, a confidential report of the Canadian government has pointed out.
“In 2015, 2016 and 2017, visas were issued to 261 kabaddi players. Forty seven percent of them failed to report back to the migration office in Chandigarh, 26 per cent obtained work permits after entry to Canada and 1 per cent made refugee claims,” the internal report of Canada’s Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship (Ministry), which is with IANS, has stated.
“While the rate of return increased from 42 per cent in 2015 to 62 per cent in 2017, the rate of persons obtaining work permits unrelated to Kabaddi has also increased from 21 per cent to 30 per cent,” it pointed out.
The youth are invited to Canada by kabaddi federations based there to play matches organised by the strong Indian community residing in the country.
“The rate of players who obtained work permits after entry to Canada (26 per cent) in 2015, 2016 and 2017 suggests that they intended to enter Canada primarily for long-term work unrelated to playing Kabaddi,” the report said.
Selection by a Canada-based kabaddi federation for visa facilitation effectively allowed the players to circumvent the conventional examination of work permit applications at a migration office outside of Canada.
With an increasing number of youth applying for Canadian visa in the name of kabaddi, the Canadian ministry, in 2017, had invited kabaddi federations in Canada to participate in a pilot programme related to the sport.
Players and federations were informed of the requirement to report back to the migration office at the conclusion of the season in Canada in December 2017. That year, 78 kabaddi players’ applications were approved for the four inviting federations. Of these, only 62 per cent reported back while 30 percent stayed back and obtained a work permit by presenting themselves with a labour market impact assessment at a land port of entry as “visa exempt” clients.
Among the four federations, according to the report, players of two federations had a rate of return of 29 per cent only. Players of the other two federations had an 88 per cent rate of return.
When contacted by IANS, officials at the national kabaddi federation refused to comment on the issue.
“The federation has nothing to do with this issue. These players go abroad on their personal initiative and at the behest of tournament organisers over there,” an official said on condition of anonymity.
Earlier, rate of refusal of visa applications for Kabaddi players was as high as 65 per cent (in 2014).
Canada’s Chandigarh visa office receives the vast majority of temporary resident applications from kabaddi players wishing to play in Canada.
“Kabaddi players applying through Chandigarh are typically young, single unsalaried males with limited economic prospects in their home county. Most belong to rural agricultural families with modest land holdings which may be held in common with several persons. Most applicants play for their village club which is usually supported by local patrons. It is difficult to gauge a player’s skill or standing in the sport as there is no formal structure at this level,” the report pointed out.
“Misrepresentation and fraudulent documentation are of concern. Fraudulent documentation, including photo-substituted evidence of applicants playing kabaddi, have been encountered among the supporting documentation submitted with applications,” it added. (IANS)