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An Indigenous woman named Jackie Andrew from Mount Currie created custom vests for the local Sikh motorcycle club. The vests are beige in colour and feature two badges: one for the club and another with an Indigenous circle of life design, which incorporates four colours that represent different races.

The vests were presented to Malkiat Singh Hoonjan and other members of the Legendary Sikh Riders. Recently, the club rode all the way to Kamloops to pay respects to the 215 Indigenous children whose remains were discovered at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. Hoonjan explained that Andrew wanted to show her appreciation for the club's gesture. The vests were well received."They thought they were so cool,”he said.

Outrageous acts against Canadian Indigenous people

In Canada, churches and colonists established Indian residential schools to implement a government policy of assimilation and eradicate Indigenous culture. This policy was harmful, as evidenced by the many Indigenous children who died due to disease, malnutrition, and abuse in these schools. Although the Canadian government has acknowledged the harm done, it is unclear exactly how many Indigenous children lost their lives.

Indigenous children were taken from their families and sent to these schools, where they were not allowed to use their traditional names or speak their mother tongue. Any defiance was met with brutal punishment, creating an environment of fear and trauma.

Sikhs stand in solidarity with First Nations in Canada 

As ground-penetrating radar continues to uncover more unmarked graves, the Sikh community has shown solidarity with the grieving First Nations. The Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara in Surrey organized special prayers for the Indigenous children who died. Temple officials invited guest speakers to educate the congregation on the issue, including Indigenous educator Jennifer Sherif and antiracism educator Annie Ohana. 

One of the speakers, Gurmeet Singh Toor, emphasized the importance of understanding and empathizing with the pain of oppressed communities. The Sikh community has been very vocal about their opposition to the repression of minorities, including Sikhs in India. 

Indigenous activist Rhiannon Bennett was also scheduled to speak, but sent a note of thanks to the Sikh community instead, explaining that she was overwhelmed by the recent news about unmarked graves from Kuper Island where some of her relatives were taken. Ohana read her statement at the temple. Sherif has also started a petition for a statutory holiday on Indigenous People’s Day on June 21.

 

*Based on an article by Gurpreet Singh, published in Georgia Straight on 24th July 2021

 

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