Calgary Sikhs plan motorcycle rally in Sundre in goodwill gesture after float controversy
WARNING: This story contains images that readers may find shocking and offensive.
Members of Alberta’s Sikh community will flock to the town of Sundre this month in what they call a gesture of goodwill after a widely criticized float appeared during the weekend’s parade. end of the city’s rodeo earlier this summer.
“We would like to send a message of unity and peace,” said Amanpreet Singh Gill, president of Dashmesh Culture Centre, a Sikh temple in northeast Calgary.
“An unfortunate event happened in Sundre which portrayed a Sikh individual in a way that was not appropriate,” Gill added. “Our community was very disappointed to see the exhibit and it hurt our community.”
More than 100 Sikh and other motorcyclists will ride 120 kilometers northwest of Calgary on September 10 to make a gesture of goodwill by donating to the local food bank and religious organizations.
“This is a great opportunity for our community and the City of Sundre to come together and show people, regardless of their faith, background and beliefs, that we can work together to make the world a better place,” said Gill said.
The ride comes in response to a float that appeared during a parade through the city in June.
The float featured a white man, wearing a fake beard and turban, who sat on a manure spreader with the words ‘The Liberal’ written on the side, supposedly depicting NDP leader Jagmeet Singh.
It was pulled by a tractor with another man wearing a rubber mask, representing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Organizers said the float was never allowed to participate in the parade.
One of the participants in the Sundre Pro Rodeo parade this morning. Ouch! 😬 pic.twitter.com/g7IdkpWIuq
Videos on social media showed some in the crowd cheering and applauding the float and others took to social media to register their support, calling it political satire.
But the float has also been widely criticized as racist, including by Jason Nixon, Alberta Finance Minister and UCP MP for Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre, and George Chahal, Liberal MP for Calgary Skyview.
Gill says while some supported the float, many others in the city supported the Sikh community following the parade, reaching out with calls and emails. He says the Sikh community wants to do something positive for the city in return.
Gill says they will meet with local politicians and community leaders in the city, including the city’s mayor, Richard Warnock.
“The RCMP detachment commander contacted our administration to advise of this event and we spoke to his organizer,” Warnock said.
“They’re going to have a pretty big event and we thought it was a good idea. It’s really their gesture of friendship,” he said.
“I don’t see any negativity. Let them come and it will be great,” Warnock said.
Gill says the motorcycle ride will become an annual event.