Sikhs call for expedited pathway to Canada for Afghan refugees - New Canadian Media
Afghan Sikhs
Facebook image of Sikhs in Afghanistan. The World Sikh Organization of Canada is calling on the government to provide Afghan refugees the same type of expedited pathway to come to Canada as Ukrainians have been given. (Courtesy: TheAfghanDutchSikh)

Sikhs call for expedited pathway to Canada for Afghan refugees

The call comes as Calgary, Vancouver and Kelowna prepare to receive 98 Afghan Sikh and Hindu refugee families this month after a seven-year process for the approval of their refugee applications by Immigration Canada.

The World Sikh Organization (WSO) of Canada is calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to create an expedited pathway for Afghan Sikh and Hindu refugee families to come to Canada, like the one designed to help Ukrainians flee the Russian invasion of their homeland.

“We have seen Canada create an expedited pathway for Ukrainian refugees to come to Canada over the past several weeks. This is a welcome step that must also be expanded to include other vulnerable refugee groups, including Afghan Sikhs and Hindus,” said the WSO in a statement.

“We are…very fearful for the approximately 200 Sikhs and Hindus who remain in Afghanistan and the approximately 500 that fled to India after the March 2020 suicide attack on Kabul’s Karte Parwan gurdwara.”

In that suicide attack by Daesh militants on Guru Har Sahib Gurdwara in Kabul, 25 Sikhs were killed, including four-year-old Tania Kaur.  In July 2018, 15 Sikhs and four Hindus who were on their way to a meeting with then Afghan President Ashraf Ghani were also killed in another suicide attack by Daesh.

According to media reports from the region, Afghanistan’s Sikh population, which in the 1970s numbered 100,000, has dwindled to less than 200, with most of the community living in the eastern city of Jalalabad and in Kabul.

WSO’s call to for an expedited pathway comes as Calgary, Alberta, and Vancouver and Kelowna, both in British Columbia, prepare to receive 98 Afghan Sikh and Hindu refugee families this month.

The arriving families had fled Afghanistan to India in 2015 and were sponsored through private applications that were spearheaded by the Manmeet Singh Bhullar Foundation with support from the WSO.

The arrival of these refugees follows a seven-year long process for the approval of their refugee applications by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, said the WSO.

“We welcome the arrival of the latest group of Afghan Sikh and Hindu families to Canada. It has been a long process of over seven years for them to arrive here,” said WSO President Tejinder Singh Sidhu.

Unequal treatment 

NCM reported  that while many are applauding Canada’s outpouring of humanitarian support for the nearly two million refugees who have fled Ukraine since the Russian attack of Feb. 24, Canadians remain sharply critical of the unequal treatment given to displaced people from other war-torn lands such as Afghanistan, Syria, Palestine and Iraq.

“This is racism to the core,” said Professor Nour El Kadri, of the Telfer School of Management at the University of Ottawa.

He pointed out that while Canada promised to take in 25,000 Syrian refugees during the Syrian crisis in 2015 and 40,000 Afghans after the fall of Kabul to the Taliban, it has not set any limit for Ukrainian refugees.

A new Angus Reid Institute study also showed that when it comes to welcoming refugees, more Canadians are willing to open their hearts and homes to those fleeing the Russian invasion of Ukraine than those escaping the Syrian civil war.

The study found that four-in-five Canadians support the Liberal government’s plan to allow unlimited Ukrainian refugees into the country in the coming weeks and months, a considerably higher level of support than was shown for Syrian refugees in 2015. 

Overall support at the time for welcoming a limited number of Syrians was approximately half of the support now for bringing in an unlimited number of Ukrainians, the study found.

Eventually, more than 73,000 Syrian refugees resettled in Canada.

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A multiple-award winning journalist, Fabian Dawson is an internationally acclaimed author, filmmaker and media expert. His work over the last four decades spans the globe and he also serves as a consultant/strategic advisor to a variety of international companies. As deputy editor-in-chief of The Province, part of the Postmedia chain, Dawson led initiatives within a special publications group to provide directed content for a variety of organisations. He was named the 2019 recipient of the Bruce Hutchison Lifetime Achievement Award at Jack Webster Awards. Dawson has been invited by the governments of India, Malaysia, Taiwan, China, Hong Kong and the United States to act as a media observer/advisor on a variety of Asian-Canada issues. Dawson, now operates FD Media, which specializes in harnessing editorial assets to revenue generating opportunities.

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