EDMONTON — Arundeep Singh Sandhu says he felt a flash of anger when he heard that someone had put up racist posters at the University of Alberta that target turban-wearing Sikhs.
But instead of giving in to rage, the former student decided to help organize a gathering to be held next week to raise awareness about what a turban is and its importance to Sikhs.
Sandhu, 28, said volunteers will tie turbans on to students at the main Edmonton campus and answer questions during an event he is calling Turban 101.
"I thought this would be a really good way to turn the conversation around,'' Sandhu said Tuesday.
"You had your say and put your poster up. The response was people tore it down. Now we are going to give our views and see what people think of that.''
Racist posters found around campus
The University of Alberta said it removed 12 of the posters found on the Edmonton campus on Monday, including one at the university's main library.
The posters feature a picture of a Sikh man, profanity about turbans and a statement calling on people from third-world cultures to leave Canada.
Messaging on the poster included the caption "F--K YOUR TURBAN'' and "If you are so obsessed with your third-world culture, go the f--k back to where you came from.''
The posters included the hashtags "non-integrative'' and "invasion.''
— Ted Bauer (@tedgbauer) September 20, 2016
University president David Turpin said campus police are investigating who is behind the disturbing posters.
"The University of Alberta is a space that is open to all people and we take pride in the strength of our diverse community,'' Turpin said.
Malinda Smith, a political science professor, said on social media the university needs a program to combat racism and xenophobia.
The World Sikh Organization of Canada also condemned the racist message.
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan — who is Sikh — weighed into the issue on social media Tuesday.
"Proud to be Canadian, proud of my service to Canada, proud of my turban,'' he wrote on Twitter.
— Harjit Sajjan (@HarjitSajjan) September 20, 2016
Sandhu said he can't believe that there are still people making an issue of turbans in Canada.
He remembers the debate among some people over whether RCMP officers should be allowed to wear turbans when he was a little boy.
The posters put up on campus show that individuals and the community must always be ready to stand up to ignorance, he said.
"I will admit I was angry that someone would say this,'' Sandhu said.
"It is never productive to respond to hate with anger and hate. We can turn this around.''
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