Surrey anti-racism forum highlights discrimination against immigrants, refugees
Monday, March 26, 2018

Baltej Singh Dhillon grew up dreaming about serving in the RCMP.

But when he was finally offered a job in 1989, there were conditions: he would have to cut his hair, shave his beard and replace his turban with a traditional Mountie hat.

Rather than give in, he vigorously campaigned against the RCMP dress code, eventually becoming the first officer to wear a turban on duty.

"It sparked a large discussion on who we are as a country," said Dhillon, now an RCMP inspector.

Dhillon was one of a group of community leaders participating in an-anti racism forum in Surrey on Friday.

The event was held to stimulate ideas for a new community plan that aims to provide support for people who experience racism and discrimination.

According to a survey from Surrey's Local Immigrant Partnership, over half of the city's residents have experienced some form of racism and discrimination.

Ninu Kang, communications director for the anti-racism organization Mosaic, says the city's newest residents are among the most vulnerable.

"Surrey has been home to a lot of the refugees who are re-settling and are welcomed into Canada," she told CBC News. "[We've seen backlash] against the Muslim community, some backlash towards Syrian refugees settling here."

"It's a concern," she said, noting that the issue isn't unique to the city but rather a symptom of Islamophobic rhetoric that's been perpetuated by certain media outlets, hate groups and politicians.

Kang says the anti-racism network connects local government, charities, community support groups and non-profits to raise awareness against hate speech and crimes.

Their goal is to develop a large support network victims can turn to once they've experienced incidents of racism of discrimination.

Baltej Singh Dhillon says Canada has made strides since his efforts to wear a turban as a police officer sparked both support and outrage.

"The story ends well," he said. "We are becoming more aware. We're learning. We're educating ... we're maturing as a country as a whole."

"[But] we cannot create safe spaces for words, language, speech, voice that has hatred in it," he said.

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Source: CBC News