Baltej Singh Dhillon, who made the history after being appointed as first turbaned Sikh officer in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, was honoured at an annual event held to eradicate racism on Saturday (March 19).
Organized by Spice Radio in partnership with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, it was the second annual Raise Your Hands Against Racism, which was launched last year on the occasion of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday.
Dhillon's appointment in 1990 stirred controversy and led to racist backlash, with right-wing groups openly opposing his recruitment. However, the Malaysian-born Mountie won his fight despite many challenges and hostility.
He told Straight that the RCMP will soon have a turban for commissioned Sikh officers like himself. This means that uniform rules are going to be amended to accommodate turbaned officials.
Dhillon is the first individual to be honoured as part of the antiracism initiative started by Spice Radio CEO Shushma Datt, a seasoned broadcaster in the local South Asian community.
Datt has announced that each year, trailblazers like Dhillon will be recognized and honoured for standing up against discrimination in any form.
The campaign coincides with Holi, an Indian festival of colours. Participants are encouraged to dip their hands in colour and leave their hand prints on a sheet of white paper along with a statement against racism at different locations across Greater Vancouver.
People from different ethnic and racial backgrounds thronged to sites in Vancouver, Burnaby, Surrey, and White Rock to participate in the campaign. Volunteers wore T-shirts carrying slogan #HandsAgainstRacism. Vancouver and Surrey have issued proclamations recognizing the campaign.
At the opening event held at Roundhouse Community Centre, prominent South Asian scholar Suresh Kurl spoke about the significance of Holi and its relevance in the fight against racism. He noted that Holi brings people of all castes and races together, causing these differences to become immaterial.