A tweet by a Toronto Sun journalist on the colour of a prominent Canadian Sikh leader’s turban was deleted after it drew sharp reactions from the community, calling it “insensitive” and “inappropriate”.
While MPs questioned grocery price inflation in the House of Commons last week, political columnist Brian Lilley tweeted a picture of New Democratic Party (NDP) leader Jagmeet Singh with the caption, “Jagmeet looks like he wore his No Name turban today just to grill Galen Weston at committee”.
Galen Weston is the CEO of George Weston Limited and executive chairman and president of Loblaws. He had appeared in front of the parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture.
“I know he changes the colours for special days or occasion (sic) but didn’t expect to see No Name yellow today. Is it on purpose or a coincidence?” Lilley said.
Gurpreet Kaur Rai, a spokesperson for the World Sikh Organization, told Omni news channel that Lilley’s comments were “extremely insensitive, inappropriate, and hurtful”.
“I think there’s no room in Canadian discourse for comments like that to be disseminated,” she said, demanding an immediate action on the tweet and a public apology from Lilley and Toronto Sun.
“Our turbans, irrespective of colour, are not ‘No Name’,” tformer Ontario MPP Gurratan Singh tweeted.
“Dear Toronto Sun, please come get your guy… This is beyond offensive!” Ravi Kahlon, British Columbia’s Minister of Housing, wrote in a tweet.
Responding to Lilley’s tweet, Jagmeet Singh wrote: “I’ve had lots of great conversations about why I wear a turban and what it means. But some people try to make us feel less than… I think of how that hurts kids especially.”
While Lilley deleted the tweet and apologised, his responses to criticism of the tweet still remain.
“I have deleted a previous tweet that has caused controversy and been seen as insensitive. That was not the intent and I apologise to those who I offended. The tweet has therefore been deleted,” he wrote.
Responding to a Twitter user, he wrote: “Wanna explain what is racist about this? I’ll guess you know zero Sikhs. How is noting the colour of his turban, which changes regularly, racist?”
According to data released by Statistics Canada from the census data of 2021, there are over 7.71 lakh Sikhs in Canada.
Of these, over 2.36 lakh (30 per cent) are Canadian citizens by birth, over 4.15 lakh are immigrants (permanent residents) and over 1.19 lakh are non-permanent residents.
Between 2006 and 2016, the number of Punjabi-speaking citizens in Canada grew from 3.68 lakh to 5.02 lakh, a growth of 36.5 per cent.
Punjabi has for years been the third-most spoken language in Canada, after English and French.
Last year, the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba passed the Turban Day Act, stating that April 13 will be celebrated as Turban Day across the province every year to spread awareness against racism that Sikhs face in the country due to their articles of faith.