Surrey: The World Sikh Organization of Canada is disappointed by the Department of National Defence’s decision to reject plans of naming a Surrey cadet group the “2200 British Columbian Royal Army Cadet (Surrey Sikhs)”. The Department claims that the word “Sikh” would not be “all-inclusive”.

For the past two years, the Friends of the Sikh Cadet Corps Society and members of the Sikh community in Surrey have worked to initiate a cadet program for local children. In a meeting on September 13, the organizers were told that there was “hesitation” over including the word Sikh as it may insinuate non-Sikh youth can’t join.

The decision to disallow the term “Sikh” ignores the many existing military outfits with religious or ethnic names such as the 3012 Our Lady of Lourdes Army Cadet Corps, 2136 Canadian Scottish Regiment Army Cadet Corps or the 1st Hussars of London and Sarnia.

Sikh regiments have existed in the British and then Indian army since the mid-1800s and have included both Sikhs and non-Sikhs. The Sikh regiment was at one point, one of the highest decorated regiments in the British Empire.

WSO President Prem Singh Vinning said, “it’s unfortunate that the planned launch of the 2200 British Columbian Royal Army Cadet has been delayed over the use of the term ‘Sikh’. Being called the “Surrey Sikhs” would honour and celebrate the history of Sikh regiments and would be no different than names currently in use honouring other historic regiments such as the Highlanders, Irish or Hussars.”

WSO British Columbia Vice President Gurdit Singh Rangi said, “the decision by the Department of National Defence should be reviewed. Before making a decision on the inclusion of the term ‘Sikh’, greater consultation with the community needs to take place. The term “Sikh” shouldn’t be a bar to any Canadian who wishes to join this cadet group just as the term Highlander doesn’t bar anyone who is not of Scottish origins. This really shouldn’t be an issue.”

1 COMMENT

  1. Below are the comments I posted at Vancouver Desi which also ran this same story:

    “Let us not allow a name or religion to become a stumbling block for the greater good”

    The above applies equally to both sides in the debate.

    Would the name Surrey Punjabi cadets not work for both sides as the Punjab is a region/state in India, and anyone wanting to join this regiment would know that Sikhism is the predominant religion of this region.

    I say Punjabi instead of Punjab only because Punjab, unfortunately, has such a negative/racist connotation attached to it.

    Or, Punjab in the name could be used to help overcome this as we move/progress forward.

    Would it then not be an honour to have this regiment named the Surrey Punjab regiment?

    In response to my replies, people commented on the fact that the lands of shere Punjab had been taken away from the Sikhs and that I needed to learn my history. In response I posted the following thoughts:

    The people of the Punjab may not like being part of India. What has happened in the past may not be right (just like the fact that you, me, and every other immigrant is here because someone’s land was conquered).

    The people in the Punjab must live with the reality that geography dictates. The
    Punjab is a region with a population of 28 million people. India is a country with a population of 1.3 billion people. So, like it or not, if the rest of India does wants to keep the Punjab (and its fertile lands) as part of India, there isn’t much that the people of the Punjab can do.

    The Punjabi people may not like this, but they understand their reality. I think the problem they face is people who are once-removed from that reality (have escaped to the richness of developed countries), are still trying to fight for something they believe in, but the fight itself does not affect them in their daily lives (or the wealth and leisure they get to enjoy in their new “home” countries.
    If the aboriginal people asked everyone in Canada to go back to their country of origin, would you leave?

    Would you fight on the side of the aboriginals to kick out every non-aboriginal (including your own family)?

    Sounds ridiculous right?

    “The strong do as they wish, while the weak suffer as they must.” – Thucydides
    It isn’t right, but that is the geopolitical reality we live with in this world.

    But, back to the original issue, would it not be an honour to shere punjab if the cadets used the name, Surrey Punjab cadets?

    And if that works for both sides, is that not an acceptable win-win?

    In response to a comment:

    Mike, do you believe that Sikhs are better than Hindus?

    And if so, why do you believe this?

    Is this something that is taught in the Sikh religion? Because I don’t think that is what Sikhism is about.

    If anything I have said is completely off base, I would greatly appreciate anyone’s insight on things I have failed to comprehend.

    My responses are in no way meant to offend. They are only meant to share my understanding of reality. Everyone has their own interpretation.

    I think much can be accomplished through dialogue. T he original issue has been expanded quite a bit in this discussion, but I appreciate the back and forth this issue has generated.

    One last off-topic thought:

    If shere punjab were to win its freedom back from India, then what?

    From what I can see, this region would be land-locked.

    How would goods get in and out of shere punjab?

    Would that really be better for the people to be isolated from the rest of the world, unable to trade?

    Would this new border-enforced isolation not give India the leverage to negotiate economic issues to India’s advantage?

    Would the average person in shere punjab really be better off?

    For example, how would oil get into shere punjab?

    Or new cars, trucks, appliances, tv’s, etc.

    And how would the goods produced in shere punjab be exported to the rest of the world?

    Also, how would farm equipment and tractors get into shere punjab?

    Flying all this stuff in and out of shere punjab would be excessively expensive.

    And that would still not solve the most important issue in regards to the local economy, which would be the lack of access to oil.

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