Surrey (June 4, 2012): The World Sikh Organization of Canada kicked off a series of national human rights events with their annual inter-community dinner in Surrey on Monday night. Several hundred guests were in attendance including several MLAs and representatives from Simon Fraser University, Fraser Health Authority, RCMP amongst others.
The night included the performance of classical Sikh music from students of the Naad Academy and a performance by artist Saint Soldier who presented songs about current social issues and challenges facing Punjab.
It was also announced at the dinner that WSO President, Prem Singh Vinning has been asked to serve on the Advisory Council of the Equitas Society. The Equitas Society was formed in September 2011 to support disabled Canadian soldiers. Amongst its activities, the Equitas Society raises awareness of issues affecting disabled soldiers, raises the funds necessary to help them to transition back into society and assists them in their legal battle against the New Veterans Charter which significantly reduces veteran benefits. The Advisory Council’s Co-chair John Fraser addressed the gathering, speaking about the Equitas Society’s mission and announcing Mr. Vinning’s membership in the Advisory Council.
WSO recognized Ishvarjot Kaur Jhaj a local soccer player and coach who helped found the organization Shooting for Hope which gives underprivileged girls in Punjab the opportunity to play soccer during a four-week long camp and teaches self-esteem and goal-setting.
WSO’s legal counsel Balpreet Singh spoke about the achievements of the past year including the announcement of accommodation guidelines for the kirpan in Toronto courthouses. WSO has also been working with human rights bodies in India to establish the Khalra Centre for Human Rights with an aim to protect human rights defenders and also focus on human rights issues in Punjab. Balpreet Singh stressed the need for young Sikhs to continue to get involved in leadership roles in the community and highlighted volunteer and internship opportunities currently offered by WSO.
The evening’s keynote speech was delivered by Prashant Bhushan, a senior advocate at the Indian Supreme Court and also a senior member of Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption campaign. The title of Mr. Bhushan’s address was “human rights: a threat to one is a threat to all.”
Mr. Bhushan spoke about his experience in Delhi in November 1984 when he worked with other lawyers to save trapped Sikh families. He also focused on the challenges India faces to defeat a culture of corruption and to ensure that politicians and judiciary are accountable to the people.
WSO’s human rights events continue with this Wednesday’s annual Parliamentary Dinner in Ottawa and intercommunity dinners in Brampton, Edmonton and Calgary.
The World Sikh Organization of Canada (WSO) is a non-profit international organization with a mandate to promote and protect the interests of the Sikh Diaspora, as well as to promote and advocate for the protection of human rights for all individuals, irrespective of race, religion, gender, ethnicity, and social and economic status.