09/23/2016 01:05 EDT | Updated 09/23/2016 01:44 EDT

Diversity Requires Effort For All Canadians

Rick Madonik via Getty Images
TORONTO, ON - AUGUST 21: Liberal candidate Raj Grewal works the riding by canvassing for support in Brampton East (Rick Madonik/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

In the spring of 2014, households across Brampton opened their doors to find anti-immigration flyers targeting the Sikh community. It made many in my home riding feel vulnerable and unwelcome. This, of course, was their intent.

The effect of these flyers was no different than the recent anti-Islam vandalism of the Cold Lake,Kingston or Quebec City mosques; the anti-immigrant posters spotted on York University's campus or even the anti-Asian race riots in Vancouver over 100 years ago. Each instance of discrimination was rooted in mistrust, intolerance and fear. Each instance was unacceptable then, and is unacceptable now.

The vast majority of Canadians have a long-standing tradition of rising to the occasion to denounce such acts and make diversity work for all of us.

Amid increasing praise of Canadian diversity on the global stage, this week's incident was a stark reminder that Canada is not without its challenges at home. Discrimination still exists and the racist posters that surfaced across the University of Alberta campus this week were a reminder of that fact. The posters featured a picture of a Sikh man and disparaging captions targeting Sikh values. As a turban-wearing Sikh, the hatred and ignorance that motivates such material is very close to home for me and the broader Sikh community.

This week, our prime minister spoke at the UN and stated

"Strong, diverse, resilient countries like Canada didn't happen by accident and they won't continue without effort. Every single day, we need to choose hope over fear and diversity over division."

The vast majority of Canadians have a long-standing tradition of rising to the occasion to denounce such acts and make diversity work for all of us. But diversity requires effort. It requires all of us to consciously through our words and actions, oppose discrimination, bigotry and racism in all its forms, whether based on a person's ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, or age. It requires us to take pride in our identities, and most importantly, it requires us to collectively #MakeitAwkward.

It doesn't make us any less Canadian to simply point out the unacceptable nature of any statement that lacks sensitivity. Rather, it is who we are as Canadians, because in my Canada no matter where you come from, what you believe in, who you love or what you look like, Canadians will always have your back.

It is no coincidence that over 22 years after Pritam Singh Jauhal, a turban-wearing Sikh soldier was denied the right to enter a Surrey legion hall on Remembrance Day, a turban-wearing Sikh is serving as the Minister of National Defense. Getting here required effort but anything worth having always does.

I am a proud Sikh, a proud Canadian and I am most proud that I live in a country that doesn't make me chose between the two.

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