#AskCanadianSikhs is part of a growing movement to turn the page toward a brighter, more inclusive future
Many Canadian Sikhs are fed up with the way their community has been tarnished in the mainstream media ever since Justin Trudeau visited India last month.
Writing on the Canadaland website, Jaskaran Sandhu of the World Sikh Organization stated that more than 150 articles have appeared on major news websites focusing on Sikh radicalism and extremism.
"It is as if journalists and self-proclaimed Sikh 'experts' who pontificate about alleged radicalism in the Sikh community are stuck in a time warp," Sandhu wrote. "The one-dimensional story of the Canadian Sikh, with a predictable Ujjal Dosanjh quote sprinkled in, is just too easy and tempting."
But unlike in the 1980s, when Sikhs didn't respond in the mainstream media in any significant way, this time there's been a vigorous reaction from well-educated younger members of the community.
They're speaking out on Facebook, Twitter, and in opinion pieces unlike ever before.
And they're sometimes using the hashtag #AskCanadianSikhs to remind media outlets of how shockingly negligent they've been in incorporating the perspectives of Sikhs in their coverage.
A mock and often hilarious Twitter account, @TerryMilevski, takes CBC journalist Terry Milewski and others in the media to task.
And these vocal and media-savvy Canadian Sikhs have a growing number of non-Sikh allies.
Veteran journalist Andrew Mitrovica has compared NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh to baseball star Jackie Robinson, who faced tremendous abuse when he broke the colour barrier.
"In the meantime, a gaggle of petty Canadian pundits and television hosts is busy trying to define Singh by the turn he wears, not the passport he carries," Mitrovica declared in one article.
The National Observer's Sandy Garossino, Metro's Vicky Mochama, and bloggers like Sidney resident Dock Currie are speaking out forcefully against the national media coverage.
This week, I've had more notifications on my Twitter feed than I can recall ever seeing in the past.
Many were from Sikhs who were sharing or commenting on an article I wrote about the national media's one-dimensional coverage of Jagmeet Singh.
Many other notifications were slamming Milewski.
One that stood out to me questioned why the media doesn't ask Bloc Québécois politicians to publicly disavow the actions of the FLQ in 1970, yet they're quite comfortable asking this of Jagmeet Singh with regard to an airline bombing that occurred when he was six years old.
To me, there's a Dylan-esque mood in the land, which is represented in the following verse in his landmark song "The Times They Are A-Changin' ":
Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won't come again
And don't speak too soon
For the wheel's still in spin
And there's no tellin' who
That it's namin'.
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin'
I feel we're witnessing a watershed moment in the assertion of Sikh identity in Canada.
It's modern. It's smart. It's sophisticated. And to anyone paying attention, it's clear that Sikhs are not going to quietly put up with the reductionist stereotyping that their parents and grandparents endured from the media in bygone eras.
This is worth acknowledging and celebrating as we approach the annual Vaisakhi parades across the country next month, when the Sikh community puts its generosity on display for everyone to see.More