Note: In the coming days, the Sikh Activist Network will release a Questionnaire consisting of 3 questions with the responses of each leadership candidate that participated. The questionnaire focuses on 3 themes: Sikh Youth, Human Rights/1984, and Sikhi.
Jack. He won our hearts with his charisma and charm, but above all – he won it with his commitment to Social Justice and Human Rights. When he was leader, Jack Layton was the strongest ally the Sikh community had in parliament.
The dedication of Jack Layton to the Sikh community predated any serious support he had ever received from Sikhs. Yet, even with very little voting support from the community, he stood shoulder-to-shoulder when it mattered. His support was rooted not in his pursuit of votes, but in his spirit of solidarity with those oppressed and marginalized people. He stood in solidarity of our struggles, and our triumphs. It wasn’t only the Sikh community Jack Layton stood with, but various other disenfranchised communities, including Canada’s Indigenous groups.
For Sikhs, Jack’s support extended back to 2004: the 20 year anniversary of the November 1984 Sikh Genocide. The community had gathered in Nathan Phillip Square for a Candlelight Vigil as part of a North American wide remembrance. This large scale gathering was the first of its kind. For those that were there it was refreshing and emotional at the same time. The community held glow sticks, listened to the story of a survivor and paid their respects. However, for some, this remembrance was compounded by an additional accomplishment as a non-sikh joined their crowd – the attendee wasn’t very well known at the time, but he was there on his own merit, without press or looking to seek attention – his name was Jack Layton – and he was there to humbly pay his respects without interruption of the service and leave. (He didn’t even try to shake hands.)
It was from after his presences at the Candle Light Vigil, that Jack Layton began to extend his solidarity to our community in even greater ways. He would become the first and ONLY Party Leader to:
- Issue statement after statement in an Official capacity bringing attention to the 1984 Sikh Genocide, for both June and November;
- Recognize and identify the November 1984 Sikh Genocide as Pogroms;
- State that the November 1984 Sikh Genocide was organized with the complicity of Government Officials;
- Defend the right of Sikhs to talk about their pain and suffering here in Canada;
- And, stand with the Sikhs against Kamal Nath’s arrival in Canada – asking his entire Caucus to refrain from meeting with him.
As indicative of his solidarity, Jack Layton was a political ally unparalleled by possibly any politician the community had ever had, globally.
When Jack Layton passed away, the community, Canada as a nation and many marginalized communities were shocked and left grieving. But, the insensitive nature of the political system pushed for his vacancy to be filled quickly. The party was left leaderless and its interim leader was the temporary placeholder until a new leader was elected.
So today, as advance polling has opened for the NDP Leadership 2012 and the party is one week away from electing it’s new leader – many communities including our own are left asking, will the next leader of the NDP care about us like Jack did?
Only time will tell, but we can only hope that the questionnaire responses, work and commitment to our concerns before coming leader will serve as a good indicator of what is to come.