Calgary

Sikh temple in Calgary overwhelmed with support after racist graffiti appears

The leader of a Sikh temple in southwest Calgary says he’s been overwhelmed with messages of support after racist graffiti was sprayed on a road outside the temple grounds.

Police investigate incident as a hate-motivated crime

The Sikh temple in West Springs beefed up security following a similar incident in 2016, when the temple itself was targeted. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

The president of a Sikh temple in southwest Calgary says he's been overwhelmed with messages of support after racist graffiti was sprayed on a road outside the temple grounds.

Slurs targeting the Sikh faith were spray painted on Old Banff Coach Road on Sunday night along with arrows pointing at the entrance to the temple.

The incident was reported to police Monday morning. They say it's being investigated as a hate-motivated crime and are asking for witnesses or anyone with information to come forward.

Hate-motivated crimes don't carry any extra charges, but applying that label can sometimes lead to stiffer sentences if someone is convicted.

"It's done out of ignorance," said Balihar Singh Dhillon, president of the Sikh Society of Calgary.

"People are ignorant and have no knowledge. I don't blame them, maybe they are just in a rut in life," said Dhillon. 

Dhillon says the city was quick to remove the graffiti from the road, but the pain from the hurtful words can last much longer.

"Every word of hatred, hate upsets the people who got hated. We want love around us, we want to live together, and when someone tries to disconnect you from the community, it hurts," said Dhillon.

Balihar Singh Dhillon, president of the Sikh Society of Calgary, says when people are targeted by hateful messages, they can feel disconnected from their community. He says he hopes the incident can lead to conversations about stopping racism. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

Dhillon says he hopes they can use the incident to talk about racism and bring people together.

"Closing your eyes will not solve the problem. We have to wake up and get together as a community and solve this problem together," he said.

Dhillon says the temple, at 719 81st St. S.W., has always been supported by the local community and he has been inundated with messages for the past 24 hours.

"Since yesterday, I don't have time to do anything. My phone is ringing constantly with people saying, 'don't worry, we are behind you,'" he said.

Politicians and others have taken to social media to register their support and to condemn those responsible.

"I am the child of Sikh parents. I know what it was like for my dad to be profiled because he wore a turban and to see that kind of thing happening all these years later is incredibly disappointing," said Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek at a press conference Wednesday.

The incident has also been condemned by the World Sikh Organization of Canada.

"It's ironic that the incident comes the same day Alberta saw two Sikhs, Jyoti Gondek and Amarjeet Sohi, become the mayors of its two largest cities," said WSO president Tejinder Singh Sidhu.

It's the second time the southwest temple has been targeted by racist graffiti.

Swastikas and profanity were spray painted on the temple in 2016.

Since then, the temple has installed security fencing, gates and surveillance cameras.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dan McGarvey

Journalist

Dan McGarvey is a mobile journalist focused on filing stories remotely for CBC Calgary’s web, radio, TV and social media platforms, only using an iPhone and mobile tech. You can email story ideas and tips to Dan at: dan.mcgarvey@cbc.ca or tweet him @DanMcGarvey

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