Gurpreet Singh: South Asian activists behind pro-farmers protests to hold vigil for 215 deceased Indigenous children

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      This Friday (June 4) at 7 p.m., the people behind ongoing rallies in support of Indian farmers will gather outside Surrey City Hall to remember the victims of the Indian residential school system.

      The remains of 215 indigenous children who had died while attending a former residential school in Kamloops were found recently, sparking demonstrations of support all across Canada.

      The controversial schools were opened to assimilate First Nations into the body politic of European settlers. The children were forcibly sent there to be indoctrinated into Christianity and had to suffer physical and sexual abuse. They were frequently punished for speaking their mother languages.

      Ishwinder Singh, who was instrumental behind many protests in support of Indian farmers in B.C., is now mobilizing his Punjabi compatriots to come and show solidarity with Indigenous communities in these difficult times, which have triggered lot of pain and anger because of the racist history of Canada.

      Singh and his associates have been displaying more than 250 shoes outside various city halls in Greater Vancouver in memory of farmers who died during the six-month long struggle in India. The farmers have been campaigning outside New Delhi since November to press the right-wing government to repeal laws that will threaten their livelihoods.

      When Singh noticed that similar memorials were being created for Indigenous kids in unmarked graves, he decided to show solidarity with the First Nations on behalf of the South Asian community, which has also experienced racism and colonialism in the past.

      Another community activist, registered nurse Dupinder Kaur Saran, is also supporting the vigil where COVID 19 restrictions will be strictly followed. Participants will be displaying toys and lighting candles at the event.

      Gurpreet Singh is cofounder of Radical Desi magazine and Indians Abroad for Pluralist India. This article is based on a talk he gave at the Squamish Rotary Club. He's the author of Why Mewa Singh Killed William Hopkinson: Revisiting the Murder of a Canadian Immigration Inspector and Fighting Hatred With Love: Voices of the Air India Victims' Families. Both were published by Chetna Parkashan. The Georgia Straight publishes opinions like this from the community to encourage constructive debate on important issues.