Stephen Harper felt the anger and scorn of the South Asian Community this past weekend as he was loudly booed off a stage - along with his friend, Nina Grewal - in Surrey, BC. At an event arranged by the Komagata Maru Memorial Society - the annual Gadhri Babian da Mela (Festival) - Harper was to speak on the apology that the Canadian Government had promised to give to the Indian Community regarding the chartered Japanese ship full of Indian immigrants the Canadian government had turned back from our waters in the early 1900s - resulting in the deaths of dozens of passengers. Months prior to the event a Conservative Cabinet Minister had brought the message of an apology in Parliament to the group.
After Harper fled the stage with Ms. Nina Grewal, South Asian Community leaders, and members of the Komagata Maru Societies took the stage. They asked the thousands in the audience if they accepted Mr. Harper's apology. In a pretty much unanimous show of hands the crowd rejected the joke of an apology. Mr. Sahib Thind (organizer of the memorial festival) told Mr. Harper "we reject your apology" if it wasn't made in Parliament, and done earnestly in front of the people of this land. Mr. Thind also asked Ms. Grewal, "Bhenji (sister), how do you feel about this? Do you not think there should be an apology in Parliament?"
The events of last Sunday were certainly under-reported in the media. They did, however, catch the eye of the Globe and Mail, and Kady O'Malley... Kady's write-up is very insightful, and only misses a few details. I may "repost" this story a few times - just to get it the attention it deserves. It is important, considering the urban ridings which may be held in the balance - impacted by this issue.
The simple fact is, Harper's group have once again angered the South Asian community in Canada - particularly Sikhs. Harper MPs and Conservatives have long made comments against the community: PC MLAs in Sask. talking about the "food odors" coming from certain houses in his neighborhood; Jason Kenney's comments about "hot-headed" Sikhs; Reform MPs backing the anti-turbans in the RCMP campaigns; Harper's own comments about the "ghetto homes" of minorities in the West.
Why don't Conservatives just own up to the fact that they don't care about minorities (or women, or the poor, or the environment, or world peace, or balanced budgets, or income trusts, or seniors, or First Nations, etc., etc.)? One thing that has murkied politics in this age is NOT voter disinterest, but the politicians chasing the voters off, and hiding their true intentions. It is tough to vote for the party that best reflects your interests if both the party of the left, and the party of the right make their election rhetoric match the promises of the party of the center. The Cons in particular have done a good job at making people think they are something they are not. If voters were given better information about parties, and where they really stand, and who really makes the policy for each party, they would find it easier to vote. THIS is what is causing voter disinterest - not Parliamentary antics, or scandals.
If the Conservatives manage to win over any ethnic blocs in the next election, it will simply be because of a very successful disinformation campaign on their part.
Sad isn't it?
Oh yeah... Being South Asian myself, "Mr. Harper, I too do not accept your ridiculous mockery of an apology".