By Dr David Laing Dawson
A comment on my last blog asked what the question to Jagmeet Singh was and wondered about the relevance of his turban. Well, the question posed to him by the CBC was if there were any circumstances in which he would support violence. The background to this was his equivocation regarding the Air India mass murder, and his attendance at gatherings alongside Sikh extremists.
Canada is a wonderful experiment. So far one hundred and fifty-one years of a gradually evolving, gradually improving liberal democracy of inclusion. The world needs to watch Toronto: People from a hundred different cultures speaking dozens of different languages living and working within one large metropolis and (as a friend put it with a tone of incredulity) they are not killing one another. This is unique in our world.
There has been a recent increase in gun violence in Toronto but usually it’s young men killing other young men from the same tribe (or gang).
We struggle with, argue about, but make accommodation for religious practice and the wearing of religious and tribal symbols. As long as it does not conflict with the laws of Canada and the rights of others we usually accommodate.
These symbols (dress, hair cutting or covering, metal adornments, tattoos, markings, face coverings) are statements of separation, exclusion, and speak of membership in a specific tribe, religion or cult that may or may not want to adhere to our evolved Canadian social contract. Hence we need to be vigilant and ensure that the practices within these cults do not contravene our laws and our charter of rights and freedoms.
But there is another unspoken but clear message declared by these symbols. And it is the very message we are trying to eliminate in Canada. And that is the message of superiority, of tribal superiority.
These symbols (wearing a cross, a turban, a ceremonial dagger, ringlets and yarmulkes) are statements of membership, but also of superiority. For the unspoken, subtle message is that “I am righteous and you are not; I am going to heaven and you are not; I am favoured by God and you are not.”
I trust that by living in Canada, attending our public schools, and finding life here not too bad, after a couple of generations most will relegate the wearing of these symbols to celebrations and yearly rituals, and think of them only as historical reminders, connections to a past of struggle and sacrifice.