Gurpreet Singh: Stephen Harper's Surrey barbecue speech ignores Wisconsin murders

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has left many Indo Canadians surprised after making a speech on B.C. Day in Surrey without mentioning a massacre in Wisconsin.

Six people were shot to death at a suburban Milwaukee Sikh temple on August 5 by Wade Michael Page, who also died. Although the incident sent shock waves across Canada where Sikhs have a big presence, Harper did not utter a word about the tragedy while addressing a crowd at the annual barbecue hosted by Sen. Gerry St. Germaine.

This was despite the fact that there were about two dozen turbaned Sikhs, including the minister of state for democratic reform, Tim Uppal, in attendance.

Uppal separately told Punjabi media that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had issued a statement expressing its outrage at the incident.

However, Harper missed the point by not mentioning it while addressing a public meeting in a municipality with a sizable Sikh population.

Former Surrey Sikh temple vice president Sadhu Singh Samra, who was at the barbecue, said he was shocked at Harper’s silence over the tragedy.

"At least I was expecting him to say a few words of sympathy’," Samra stated.

Jassa Grewal, another prominent member of the Sikh community, said that he brought nearly 50 Indo Canadian friends to the event. "How can Harper be so ignorant?" he declared. "He should have said something."

Gurpreet Singh is Georgia Straight contributor, and the host of a program on Radio India. He's working on a book tentatively titled Canada's 9/11: Lessons from the Air India Bombings.

Comments (12) Add New Comment
Gloria Enoch
You seem surprised...I am not.
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really?
It happened outside our borders. Does that mean then that he should apologize to every movie theatre owner, and to every university, because their were attacks there as well? Yes it was a hate crime, and it's abhorrent, but cut the PM some slack, he's busy focusing on Canada. I'm sure if someone mentioned it to him he'd have said something. He's only human.
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DavidH
This is unfortunate, but let's remember that PM Harper has been very, very busy paying tribute to British troops who died 250 years ago, in the war of 1812.

There are priorities, y'know!!
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Joseph Planta
If Harper had mentioned the massacre in his remarks at the private, invitation-only event on Sunday, he would have been accused of pandering to the Sikh community. And I don't believe the tragic events warranted a mention by the Prime Minister. Did he mention the Aurora, Colorado shooting after that occurred? I believe there was at least one Canadian who had been shot there.
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Fed Up
HE IS NOT THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT. Stop whining. Aren't we all just SO tired of the whining. Should Harper comment on every tragedy in every country at every hour of every day??????????
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akc
There are many Canadians of Chinese origin. There are atrocities being conducted every day in China to their brothers and sisters. Same with the large Iranian population here. Perhaps the Prime Minister should hire a full time spokesperson to acknowledge all the atrocities that affect our many ethnic groups.
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blueheron
"Jassa Grewal, another prominent member of the Sikh community, said that he brought nearly 50 Indo Canadian friends to the event. 'How can Harper be so ignorant?' he declared. 'He should have said something.' "

The murders happened in Wisconsin and the alleged shooter was killed. Seeing that "Uppal separately told Punjabi media that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had issued a statement expressing its outrage at the incident" I think it's ignorant to point the finger at Prime Minister, as though he has done something wrong. No matter where you're from or where your ancestors originated, you're Canadians first, no? If not, why not?

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HM
Nope the PM shouldn't comment on every tragedy that happens around the world, but when he's speaking at an event in an area that has a very high population of the community affected by the tragedy then perhaps commenting and showing sympathy for the community would have been appropriate. While these people were not involved in the tragedy their community have been impacted by the event in wisconson. The PM's job is to know who he's speaking too and know the events that are currently affecting that group of people. Clearly he failed in his duties as prime minister here.
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Fed Up
That was a very horrific event in the USA. The Prime Minister not commenting at a Sikh event does not indicate a lack of sensitivity. So many horrific things happen to different religions and cultures around the world all the time. We can't expect the PM to respond to every single one. Still, John Baird issued a statement. That's more than some groups will ever get. The government issuing a statement formally shows SENSITIVITY.
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CuriousCanadian
Interesting.

Canada has been pretty sensitive. Sikhs can wear turbans in the police. That means muslim man/woman can win the right to wear head covering too. Were the turbaned Sikhs eating meat at the barbecue? LOL!

I wonder when Canada will starting bringing in people who actually want to be Canadian.
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Awesome Dude
Jassa Grewal - 'Prominent' ??*&^%$#, Since when ??????????
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Daryl
Sikhs are allowed to eat meat CC...
What about German people who wear Oktoberfest outfits... do you hate against them too for not be Canadian?
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