Gurpreet Singh: Antiracism campaigner and South Asian broadcaster takes stand in support of Indigenous children

Shushma Datt decided not to indulge in patriotic fervour on this year's anniversary of Confederation

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      For years, Burnaby-based IT Productions has celebrated Canada Day with the rest of the Canadians without a break.  

      This year however, due to the pall of gloom that has descended over Indigenous communities following the recent discoveries of unmarked graves near the sites of residential schools, the CEO of the company has decided to abandon its annual ritual of making any hearty greetings.  

      Shushma Datt, who is an award-winning seasoned broadcaster, had this to say in a brief message that went on the air on July 1: “On this Canada Day, the staff and the management of IT Productions, IT Media Broadcasting, Spice Radio, and Radio Rim Jhim (all part of the same group) stand in solidarity with the Indigenous peoples.” 

      Although the audio message that runs in English, Hindi and Punjabi ends with customary Happy Canada Day greetings, it is in line with growing demands for cancelling Canada Day events across the country.  

      More than 1,000 unmarked graves of Indigenous people, mostly children, have been found recently, sparking such a campaign.

      The City of Victoria, Penticton, and Port Hardy cancelled the national day events to show their respect to the First Nations. 

      The residential schools were established to assimilate Indigenous Peoples into the European and Christian ways to build a nation state on their stolen lands.  

      Datt, who had started a campaign Hands Against Racism in January 2015, from her radio stations, has been vocal against systemic racism against Aboriginal people and visible minority groups in Canada.

      This campaign coincides with Holi, an Indian festival of colours that encourages its participants to dip their hands in colour and leave a palm print on white sheet alongside a message against bigotry. It's been recognized both by the federal and the provincial governments. 

      Gurpreet Singh is cofounder of Radical Desi magazine and Indians Abroad for Pluralist India. The Georgia Straight publishes opinions like this from the community to encourage constructive debate on important issues.