By Sunil Narula

Completely rejecting the immigration policies of the Federal Conservative Government, a massive forum in Surrey on Sunday slammed the government for indulging in “discriminatory” tactics targeting South Asian immigrants.

The big gathering of more than 300 people at the Forum organized by the Indo Canadian Workers’ Association (ICWA) rejected the present “biased” immigration policies.

The forum paid homage to the memory of Bhai Bhaag Singh and sent a strong message to the minister of citizenship and immigration, Jason Kenney with speaker after speaker voicing concern over his “discriminatory” policies targeting the South Asian immigrants.

ICWA leader, Surinder Sangha told the gathering at the Bear Creek Gurdwara Hall that Bhag Singh had laid down his life fighting racist immigration policies in Canada in 1914 and a fitting tribute to him would be that “we do not take this injustice lying down”.

“That’s the reason we have organized this forum to denounce the policies of the government,” he said.

Radio India Managing Director Maninder Singh Gill said it’s a shame that the government continues to have its blatantly discriminatory policies despite the presence of Indo Canadians in the House of Commons. “Imagine how people like Bhaag Singh mobilized our pioneers without anyone representing us in parliament back then? We got our rights in this country because of men like him.”

Most speakers criticized delay in family reunification, tightening of visa rules and citizenship tests besides, lack of recognition of foreign credentials.

Some individuals also shared their own stories. Among them was Paramjeet Sandhu, who literally broke down in tears while narrating his hardships. His Canadian born daughter is married to a man in India.

“Please help me, my son-in-law is not getting a visa, although it’s a genuine marriage”, he pleaded with a choked voice. This is despite the fact that his daughter has become a mother.

Anne Murphy, a UBC professor who is married to a man of Indian origin was also in attendance. Although she did not speak, her husband had faced difficulty in getting a visa recently. A few more individuals shared their stories.

Manjeet Deol, a former teacher in India and a freelance Punjabi columnist questioned why the Canadian government is not recognizing their foreign credentials.

Irfan Malik, a local Pakistani leader alleged that his compatriots are suffering doubly than the Indian immigrants for being Muslims in a post 9/11 scenario because of racial profiling by the immigration authorities.

The ICWA organizer Kulwant Dhesi said that the government is making excuses by accusing the South Asian community of indulging in immigration frauds. “Only a small percentage of people do illegal things, why the government is punishing everyone in our community for this?”

Dhesi said that though the forum was open to all the political parties, only those belonging to the NDP showed up. Among the prominent NDP politicians who spoke on the occasion were MPs, Jinny Sims and Jasbir Sandhu, MLA Harry Bains, besides NDP candidate Raj Hundal.

‘No One Is Illegal’ activists also showed up and distributed flyers critical of the Conservative policies.

Other who spoke on the occasion were moderate Sikh leader, Balwant Singh Gill, Surrey Hindu temple leader, Vinay Sharma, Punjabi writer, Sadhu Binning, Coop Radio Host, Imtiaz Popat, another ICWA leader, Surinder Dhesi, Miracle Newsgroup editor, Naseer Peerzada, journalist Sukhminder Singh Cheema, Communist Party of Canada member, Paul Bilga, poet and activist, Devinder Takhar.