UNITED SIKHS
January 21 2010
9th Maagh (Samvat 541 Nanakshahi)
Press Release

2nd Global Sikh Civil Rights Conference Highlights Challenges and Progress of the Global Sikh Community

Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Meeting for three days from December 18-20th, Sikhs from all over the world gathered in Toronto at the 2nd Global Sikh Civil Rights Conference: Preserving Our Past and Investing in Our Future, to discuss three topics of current concern: Sikh Civil and Human Rights, Women's Rights, and Sikh Leadership. Speakers and participants had lively debates resulting in a plethora of suggestions for guiding advocates and leaders on the way forward.

Commenting on the conference, Almas Jiwani, President, CCUNIFEM stated, “It was a pleasure and a privilege attending the 2nd Global Sikh Civil Rights Conference. In the climate of our times, it is important that issues pertaining to religious freedom and civil rights do not go ignored. Although, I, myself am not a Sikh, my plight as a Muslim is similar as well and we must unify and make sure the small differences amongst us are not overshadowed by that fact that we are all human beings. Being the President of the Canadian Committee for the United Nations Fund for Women, it touched my heart that so many woman in the conference identified with the various issues and the forms of discrimination discussed, most importantly they wanted to get involved and eradicate this discrimination. The Sikh religion gives the avenue for this change to occur, as equality is a pillar of the religion, and I hope that these women rise up and bring change in their communities.”
 

Almas Jiwani, President, CC-UNIFEM

   

Day 1 - Women's Rights:

Focusing on the rich history of Sikh women in leadership and on the Sikh teachings of gender equality, speakers highlighted concerns around current roles of Sikh women, how marginalized Sikh women interact with Canadian law, and female infanticide in Panjab. Attendees were also treated to a self-defense workshop by Sarabjeet Singh of Yudh Gatka Akhara, specializing in Sikh martial arts.
 

The Audience Engaged the Speakers in a Lively Discussion on Civil Rights Concerns

 

UNITED SIKHS Releases 2009 Global Sikh Civil
Rights Report; from L to R: Jaspreet Singh, Ondray Harris, Shanaaz Gokool, Almas Jiwani, Barbara Hall, and Kuldip Singh

   

Diljot Kaur

  Amrinder Kaur   Parminder Kaur

Speakers included: Dr. Harshinder Kaur, the recipient of the UN Laadli Media Award and author of “Female Feticide, a Curse;” Parminder Kaur, a settlement worker who often works with women suffering domestic abuse, Amrinder Kaur, a Sikh activist and teacher in Ontario, awarded for her leadership of an environmental project in Ludhiana, and Manprit Kaur, a graduate student at York University in Socio-Legal Studies.

Day 2 - Sikh Civil and Human Rights:

In a day packed with esteemed speakers, participants were able to learn and engage experts in the field of civil and human rights with questions ranging from the lack of justice for atrocities committed against Sikhs in India in 1984 and recent events in Ludhiana, to engaging the Sikh community on issues of global concern and changing perceptions of the Sikh identity in the post 9/11 world. Highlighting in the importance of civil and human rights engagement by the Sikh community, Bob Rae, ex-Premier of Ontario and MP for Toronto Centre stated in his speech that equal protection for all Canadians is paramount, but that Sikhs must continue to advocate for their rights and the rights of others, for a just and inclusive society.
 

Panelists Engaged in Lively Question Answer Sessions with the Audience

 

From L to R: Ondray Harris, Shanaaz Gokool, Almas Jiwani, Barbara Harris, and Kuldip Singh

Bob Rae, Kulvir Singh Gill, Prof. Manjit Singh, Shanaaz Gokool

Speakers included: Bob Rae, the 21st Premier of Ontario; Barbara Hall, Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission; Ondray Harris, Director of the United States Department of Justice Community Relations Service; Almas Jiwani, President of the Canadian Committee for UNIFEM; Shanaaz Gokool, Chair of Amnesty International Toronto; Jagmohan Singh, Executive Director of Voices for Freedom; Manjit Singh, Director Chaplaincy Service, McGill University; Dabinderjit Singh, Sikh Federation UK; and Balpreet Singh, Attorney, World Sikh Organization.

Following the Sikh Civil and Human Rights Day, attendees were treated to a special concert held as a benefit for UNITED SIKHS international humanitarian relief and advocacy, where world-renowned musician Rabbi Shergill, aspiring Sikh hip-hop group GNE, and other Sikh poets and musicians performed.
 

Attorney Sartaj Singh Dhillon

 

S. Gurdial Singh of France

 

Artist and Activist Rabbi Shergill Performs

  GNE Performs

Day 3 – Sikh Leadership – Past, Present, and Future:

Focusing on dynamic leaders of the past and the current challenges faced by the Sikh community, politicians and community leaders shared their views on great Sikh leaders of the past and what is required for the present and future leadership in the Sikh community. Certain speakers were very well received when they spoke to bringing more women and youth into leadership positions, and Bikramjit Singh, newly-elected President of the largest Gurdwara in greater Vancouver was able to express key points in changing Gurdwara leadership and returning to core Sikh values. Attendees were also moved by the famed shoe-throwing journalist Jarnail Singh, who spoke at length of the issues faced by Sikhs in India and on the continuing lack of justice for the atrocities committed against Sikhs in India in 1984.
 

MP Kirsty Duncan

 

MP Gurbax Singh Mahli

   

Bikramjit Singh, President of
Guru Nanak Sikh Gurudwara, Surrey, BC

  Jarnail Singh, Activist and Journalist   Dabinderjit Singh, Sikh Federation
Speakers included: Member of Parliament Gurbax Singh Mahli; Member of Parliament  ; Harpreet Singh, US Department of Justice Community Relations Service Director for Region III; Kulbir Colin Singh Dhillon (Maharajahs
the Legacy), Co-Founder Maharajahs the Legacy & Spirit Born Foundation; Sukhminder Singh Virk, Member, Sikh Youth Guru Nanak Sikh Temple, Surrey, B.C.; and Dr. Inderpal Kaur, Former Professor, Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, India.

Harpreet Singh Sandhu, California Sikh Leader, Speaks on Acting Locally and Political Action

Kuldip Singh, Director, UNITED SIKHS  commented, “The conference was a major success. We were able to hear from some of the best civil rights advocates and leaders who contemplated Sikh issues and gave excellent input on our way forward. Despite massive challenges faced by the Sikh community, we are confident in our struggle.”
 

World Sikh Council is honored for their continuing efforts in engaging the Akal Takht Sahib

 

 

Kiran Kaur

You may read a previous press release on the Global Sikh Civil Rights Conference at: http://www.unitedsikhs.org/rtt/sikhconf/

Issued by:
Jaspreet Singh
Staff Attorney
UNITED SIKHS
law-usa@unitedsikhs.org
646-315-3909

UNITED SIKHS encourages the Sikh community to wear their kakaars, fearlessly exercise their freedom of religion, and to contact us with any problems, concerns, or incidents of discrimination.

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