Last week, I was honoured to rise in the House of Commons to speak on the issue of systemic racism and religious discrimination. This conversation is long overdue and vital to ensuring that we continue to build a nation that chooses diversity over division.
Sikhs are often confused for Muslims and are too in fact the victims of Islamophobia. Our communities share a common experience, one that I have known personally since a young age. Having grown up as a practicing Sikh who wears a turban, whose father wears a turban, whose friends wear turbans, I recognize that members of the Sikh community have always stood out for our identity. It would be easy for Sikh Canadians to say "don't attack us, we're not Muslims," but that is not the attitude that builds the greatest nation in the world.
Just like my Jewish friends who wear the kipa or my Muslim friends who wear the hijab, we are all proud of our identities, but we also recognize that our identities and articles of faith make us easy targets. Personally, I can recount being teased by my classmates because of my turban, being bullied on the playground for being different, as well as being the subject of racist taunts as a young soccer player, and I still vividly remember my dad being verbally abused shortly after 9/11. Each instance of discrimination was rooted in mistrust, intolerance and fear.
Regardless of our backgrounds or beliefs, we are all Canadians.
The number one priority of a government is to ensure that its citizens of all different backgrounds feel safe, welcome and at home here in Canada.
All of us have to have the difficult conversations at our dinner tables about treating all people with respect and compassion.
We routinely hear about the rise of anti-Semitic rhetoric on our university campuses -- including hate notes posted outside Jewish homes this past weekend. There are also many instances like the anti-Sikh flyers that were distributed last year at the University of Alberta. And while hate crimes overall are on the decline in Canada, they have more than doubled against Muslim communities from 2012 to 2015 and continue to rise at an alarming rate. In the face of these statistics, we cannot pretend discrimination is not a legitimate concern.
Canada's greatest strength is its diversity. All of these instances are unacceptable.
Last week, my constituency office received over 14,000 emails in a coordinated campaign against Motion 103. M-103 is asking the government to condemn all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination, including but not limited to Islamophobia. Additionally, it requests the further study of the issue and improved data collection. I want to make it clear that M-103 is a motion and not a bill. This distinction is an important one because a motion is not legally binding.
If some of our fellow Canadian brothers and sisters are living in fear of being attacked, verbally or physically, because of their identity, we need to do better as a nation, and M-103 is a step in the right direction.
Doing better means that all of us have to have the difficult conversations at our dinner tables about treating all people with respect and compassion, regardless of their faith, race or culture. It requires us to ask questions if we do not understand, and answer responsibly when asked difficult questions. It requires us to make it known that it is not acceptable to act in a discriminatory or hateful manner towards anyone.
I ran in 2015 to be the MP for Brampton East because I wanted to ensure future generations had the same opportunity that I did. All Canadians should have the opportunity to pursue postsecondary education, they should strive to be entrepreneurs, and pursue any career of their choosing. What I don't want for our future generations is to grow up in an atmosphere of hate which breeds fear in our fellow Canadians; I want all Canadians to be proud of their identities and contribute to our nation.
I want all of us to be able to say: I am a proud Sikh, Muslim, Hindu, Jew, Christian, believer or non-believer. At the same time, I am equally a proud Canadian. Most importantly, I am proud that I live in a nation that doesn't make me chose between my faith and my devotion to my country. This is the Canada I know and this is the Canada I love.
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