Sundre, Alta., Float maligned as racist was ‘political satire,’ claims local rancher
WARNING: This story contains images that readers may find shocking and offensive.
A woman associated with a parade float that appeared at a southern Alberta rodeo over the weekend that featured a man with a fake beard and turban says the display had “absolutely nothing to do with it.” to do with racism” – but the head of a local Sikh cultural center disagrees.
Over the weekend at the Sundre Pro Rodeo, two men riding a float with the words ‘The Liberal’ taped to the side were photographed. The men on the float appear to represent Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, who is Sikh.
The man driving the tractor wore a mask apparently intended to represent Trudeau, while the white man in the manure spreader behind wore a fake beard and turban, worn by Sikhs around the world as part of their religious practice .
The float has been widely criticized as racist, including by Jason Nixon, Alberta Finance Minister and UCP MP for Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre, George Chahal, Liberal MP for Calgary Skyview, and the Dashmesh Culture Center in Calgary, a Sikh community center. .
CBC News called out Bio Equine, a Sundre, Alta.-based horse and pet supplement company listed as being run by someone named B. Lynne Hoff.
The woman who responded did not identify herself and only said she was a breeder from Sundre, adding that she provided a piece of equipment to the float.
She did not respond to multiple questions posed by CBC News, but provided a statement.
“The Sundre parade float had absolutely nothing to do with racism and everything to do with laughter after two years of lockdown by the NDP-backed Liberal government,” the woman said. “It was political satire, as you see in newspapers and publications.
“If Mr. Singh wasn’t the leader of the NDP party, he wouldn’t be portrayed as the leader of the NPD party. If it was someone else, they would have been dressed a different way.”
Dashmesh Culture Center President Amanpreet Singh Gill, however, said the depictions in the float were disappointing.
“The undertones of racism against Jagmeet and the Sikh community are unacceptable,” he said.
“Children face these issues every day. At a public event where all levels of government, even the local township and people are asked to watch and make fun of the community, it hurts… It must stop. This kind of storytelling is not good for the community.”
Sundre Mayor Richard Warnock said the images that have gone viral are drawing negativity to the town.
“Sundre City Council does not tolerate any form of racism in our community. We are extremely disappointed to learn that an unauthorized tank, and their attempted political statement, gained access last weekend at an event that our community has celebrated for years,” Warnock said.
“We are confident that the parade community will review its procedures and make the necessary changes to prevent such issues from occurring in the future.”
Rodeo organizers had previously released a statement on its Facebook page, writing that they were unfamiliar with the float and would never have endorsed it.
“We send our sincere apologies and something like this will never happen again,” the message read.
However, as of 12:15 p.m. Monday, the rodeo’s statement had been deleted. No subsequent statement was released replacing it, and Sundre Pro Rodeo organizers did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
In a statement On the parade organizers’ Facebook page, officials said they were unaware the float was going to be in the parade.
“The registration was not approved and after further investigation, she joined the parade without going through any registration,” the statement said.
Gill, of the Dashmesh Culture Centre, said now might be the time to start a dialogue between the Sikh community and smaller communities in Alberta.
“These kinds of things happen in rural Alberta, and we still face racism. It’s very hard to explain to your kids,” he said.