Canadian Organization Apologizes After Sikh Man is Asked to Remove Turban
The incident occurred at a center of the Royal Canadian Legion, a non-profit organization for veterans.
The Royal Canadian Legion, a decades-old non-profit organization for Canadian veterans, apologized to a Sikh man on Jan 19. for allegedly subjecting him to racist remarks and asking him to remove his turban. The incident happened on Jan. 17.
Stephen Gallant, the president of Tignish Branch No. 6, said that the branch’s policy is to ask people to remove all headwear in the building, and that the staff was simply caught off-guard since it was the first time someone came to the bar wearing a religious headdress.
“He was asked by a staff member to remove his headdress, which he didn’t. And at that time, he didn’t clarify it was a religious headdress,” Gallant was quoted as saying. “He was asked again the second time by our manager who had entered the building. And at that time, he described that it was his religious belief with his headdress, and that he wasn’t about to take it off. And at this time, things escalated a little bit.”
Gallant apologized and said he would like to welcome the two men back to the bar.
The incident happened when Jaswinder Singh and Sunny Pannu went to play pool at a Legion center with their co-worker Annemarie Blanchard. They say they were told to remove their winter hats once they are inside, which they obliged to as the Legion observes a policy of not allowing headgear as a mark of respect to the veterans “who fought for freedoms they enjoy today”. However, about 45 minutes later, a staff member asked Singh to take off his turban.
“I was like no man, it’s my religion, and in my religion, I always cover my hair,” Singh told CBC. “And I can’t do that.”
Pannu added: “They told us you have to remove your turban, because this is our rules. We said, OK we remove our winter hats because we respect your rules, but you should understand our thing also. They said no, it’s not about your religion, you have to follow our rules.”
Blanchard told the media that she tried standing up for the men, but to no avail. The incident was captured on video, as Singh used his cellphone to tape it after he refused to take off his turban. The video, which was viewed by CBC News, featured the manager of the Legion saying to Singh: “If you don’t stop taping me … cause you know what, I’ll rip your headpiece off.”
The manager later told the publication that she didn’t realize it was a religious head covering. She said she only said what can be heard on the video after the two men got upset and started recording her with the phone.
In the video, another man at the Legion bar threatened to fight the two men. He was seen swearing at them and making obscene hand gestures, saying, “Take your f–king hat off in the Legion. It’s the f–king law here. It’s the law.”
The men also said they were told by the patrons to “go back to your country.”
“They were told to leave our Island, they’re not welcome here, to go back to their country, that they’re not welcome in Canada at all,” Blanchard added. “Outraged, I was absolutely outraged. I was totally ashamed.”
Blanchard said that the Legion staff ensured that the three were out of the premises. “They don’t even know about their own Canadian history — there are a lot of Sikh people in the army, they wear the turbans. The defence minister is also Sikh,” Pannu said.
The Royal Canadian police refused to get involved, saying it was an issue between the Legion and patrons, the report added.